Japanese pianist and composer Daigo Hanada discreetly joined the modern classical scene in 2017 with Ichiru, a superb collection of melodic and concise vignettes for the upright piano. Expanding slightly on his sonic approach, the musician makes a welcome return with Ouka, his new EP for Montreal-based label Moderna Records released on 21st June 2019 as a digital download and CD.

Daigo Hanada - Ouka (2019) - Artwork © Katy Schmader
Daigo Hanada – Ouka (2019) – Artwork © Katy Schmader

A quiet musician, Daigo Hanada says very little about his music, leaving it almost entirely to the listener to decide. His seven new short compositions play like a collage of sonic textures, feelings, fleeting moments or memories, as illustrated by the artwork of visual artist Katy Schmader adorning the EP cover. Several song titles are in Japanese – “Rin” is a first name, so is “Ouka”, meaning cherry blossom.

By preparing the piano with damper felt sheets and integrating the softened clicking of the key action mechanism into the final mix, Daigo Hanada originally achieved a remarkable signature sound that immediately captured the attention of many. On the new EP, the pianist adopts a slightly different approach by adding additional layers to his sound and altering his piano preparation.

Opening the record, “Two Birds” and “Ouka” feature layers of fluttering and cascading notes. On some tracks, the felt dampening is maintained for the left hand, but a few notes on the higher octaves feature a soft metallic resonance – and even dissonance – which was probably achieved by placing hardware against the piano strings. On the title track, “En” or “Follow Me to the Moon” for instance, this process somewhat emulates the sound of a wire strung harp or a hammered dulcimer.

London-based analogue videographer Adrian Cousins offers a moving visual meditation on Daigo Hanada’s minimal composition “Under the Starry Sky”. Shot with Super 8 film and processed “using DIY chemistry”, the short film captures random light effects illustrating to perfection the inherent floating quality of Daigo Hanada’s music – feelings, fleeting moments, memories … and cherry blossoms.