Hinako Omori
Stillness, Softness…




Hinako Omori’s astounding debut album found much of its intrigue in bringing the outsides inwards; through sound therapy and the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (“forest-bathing”), even the most passive encounter with A Journey… became an incidental exercise in deep listening. The most menial, background tasks – water running from the tap, the mechanical purr of a laptop – elicited a strange kind of presence when locked into Omori’s ambient meanderings. The same domestic apparitions continue into Stillness, Softness… – Omori’s second album on the Houndstooth label – but this time with a whole new emphasis on the introspective potential of her soundscapes.

With barely a second’s silence in its 40 minutes, her streams of consciousness carry the dizzying semblance of a book written in one sentence. Centring her voice for the first time, tracks alternate from binaural bleep-bloop instrumental to experimental, even subterranean, pop. By ‘In Limbo’, the two states have become indiscernible. “You close the door and here I am waiting, holding the key,” she sings on ‘Ember’, and it’s unclear whether her lowly theatrical, chiffon vocal will launch into power-pop or blend into the record’s ambient lining. The Jungian image of shadow selves and human repression repeat throughout; for a record concerned with self-healing, Omori realises it’s a state only possible after sincere self-knowledge.

‘Foundation’ is the record in microcosm, perfectly illustrated by the single artwork adorned with a trick-lock found in a Japanese antique store, which would have protected its owner’s most valuable possessions. The possessions Omori wants to interrogate aren’t material (but “my foundation is stable,” she assures herself). Further affirmations atonally unravel in ‘Stalactites’, then consume ‘A Structure’, whispered like an automated therapy tape over bright-light waiting-room arpeggios: “here’s the key to your door.” It makes an opulent metaphor for the sub-ego blind-spots she swallowtails into.

Recorded between her bedroom in London and grandmother’s house in Yokohama, Stillness, Softness… is a record filled with familial abstracts, so textured you can touch it. Maximalist but bare – and wholly considered – every gut-wrench is left in, smoothed out and stronger for it.