A very discreet musician, Daigo Hanada is a young Tokyo-based pianist and composer sharing his time between his native Japan and Berlin. Apart from two Nils Frahm reworks and a one track contribution (“Again”) to the Piano Cloud Series – Volume One compilation released last year on the 1631 Recordings, Daigo Hanada has spent a lot of time maturing and perfecting his art away from the public eye. But when the first notes of “Silhouette” start playing, there is little doubt that Daigo Hanada is a very talented musician. His full-length solo début album Ichiru was released on 27 February 2017 last on the Montréal-based label Moderna Records.

Daigo Hanada - Ichiru (2017) - Artwork © Kevin Townsend
Daigo Hanada – Ichiru (2017) – Artwork © Kevin Townsend

“Equipped with only an upright piano, a pair of microphones and his two hands” read the official press release, “Hanada worked for the better part of a year on these pieces in bringing them to their final form”. As a result, Ichiru is a stripped-down and concise recording, going straight to the essential core of the compositions with the carefully placed microphones scrupulously capturing the live mechanics of the piano.

Apart from the last two concluding tracks, all pieces are very short, averaging two minutes each. There is no lengthy introduction, very little ornamentation or variations. At the same time, having prepared the upright piano with damper felt sheets achieves an eerie and muted music-box effect.

Like one would spontaneously rewind the mechanism of a wind-up music box at the end of a song, the brevity of the pieces magically urges the listener to play “Silhouette”, “Butterfly” and “Weak me” on repeat. Clocking at 57’’, “Portrait” could have been elaborated upon a lot further, but the musician chose not to, in a meticulous “less is more” approach.

Nils Frahm is an obvious influence, and so is the classical music from late Romantic pianists like Chopin. The musician quotes his grandmother – a koto player – as a significant source of inspiration too.

“It was raining heavily but a very quiet day – I was just sitting by the window and looking outside, watching the rain fall continuously but randomly. That’s when I got this idea of falling ambient sound in the back”.

The last two tracks on the album, both much longer than the rest, draw the music towards a more electro-acoustic and ambient texture with their layering and slightly saturated meandering notes.

Almost coming out of the blue, Daigo Hanada’s Ichiru is a subtle, very expressive and captivating début.