Somewhere in the mid-point between electronic, ambient and classical, composer Hinako Omori creates potent “therapeutic frequencies”. Deploying analogue synths and binaural sound, her second long-player is  an experimental and deeply enchanting patchwork

Talking to London-based electronic musician Hinako Omori is a calming and transcendent experience, not dissimilar to an especially resonant guided meditation. Omori speaks in a measured and soothing way, her  words hanging lightly in the air of the conversation before being replaced by something filled with the  same quiet and understated profoundness. Her delivery is purposeful and uncluttered and is accompanied by a gentle inquisitiveness and deeply contemplative pauses.

This same minimalist aesthetic pervades ‘A Journey…’, her 2022 debut album and its follow-up, ‘Stillness, Softness’. Although Omori admits that restraint is often a deliberate means of addressing her over-excited brain, she also feels she works best with limitations. 

‘Stillness, Softness’ was made with just three synths, each of which she explored until she knew them deeply, using them to create light, airy soundscapes and fragile, searching melodies. Omori, who was born in  Japan, partly attributes this to the culture she grew up with.

“Honouring each thing and the idea of space are important to Japanese people,” she says. “Similarly, when I write a song, I don’t have lots happening  at the same time. I’ll turn a synth on and see what comes out of experimenting. I’m always thinking about what notes sound right, or what little tweaks to the envelopes feel relevant, in that specific moment.”

‘Stillness, Softness’ is ultimately concerned with memories.

“I saw each song as a memory room,” says Omori. “The idea was to  have a continuous album where we can access all these different memories of our lives.”

Omori’s vision for the album was a lot like following the randomised way we think, where one remembrance opens a door to another, and where there is no single route to a thought. She compares the effect to the myriad dualities of an MC Escher woodcut, where objects often appear both connected and separate, where you can become completely entrapped  and can’t tell which way round the image should be.

The recollections these pieces are concerned with are Omori’s own, though they are hidden beneath a veil that obscures their true sentiments –  an effect that keeps each one resolutely personal. Unlike ‘A Journey…’, where her voice was often employed primarily as a textural device, on ‘Stillness, Softness’ we hear her delicate intonation much more clearly.  These pieces envelop the listener with a warm and reassuring positivity, rather like Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s ‘Keyboard Fantasies’.

photo: Luca Crawford-Bailey

“Making this album was a really vulnerable process,” confesses Omori. “However, the words are often not very literal, so it’s down to the listener to create their own perception of what I’m singing about. It leaves an open air  of vulnerability. In the end, even though it was sometimes uncomfortable  for me, it felt right to explore that with the songs on this album.”

‘Stillness, Softness’ was partly written while Omori was staying in Yokohama with her grandmother, who she visits with her mother each winter. The proximity to her loved ones prompted the album’s focus on family and childhood reminiscences. The songs were written using a small synth Omori packed into her luggage, and wearing headphones – something she reveals makes her creative process feel “safer”. The album’s title can be seen as  a reference to the environment in which the pieces were conceived, usually late at night when everyone else in the apartment was sleeping.

“I generally feel more creative at night,” she explains. “Working in my grandmother’s apartment, I needed to be very quiet and careful of how much sound I was making. Yokohama is a fairly busy city, and my grandmother’s apartment is quite high up. You can hear the faint sounds of life below – the ambulances going past or the chatter of people – but it’s very muted, filtered and quiet. The stillness was really inspiring. It felt like I was floating above everything happening below. I found that very comforting.”

The remainder of the album was written in Omori’s London studio, where she works for most of the year. However, it was the experience of recording  in Yokohama that imprinted itself most on ‘Stillness, Softness’.

“The place is obviously very familiar to me, because it’s my grandmother’s home, but it’s a space I’m not particularly used to creating in,” she says.  “I found that very inspirational. It opened a lot of doors in my mind.”

Throughout our interview, Omori makes known her admiration for art and artists. She expresses a fondness for Surrealism, reinforced by the image of Salvador Dalí’s ‘Lobster Telephone’ on the T-shirt she is wearing and the oblique images employed on the album’s sleeve alongside the track titles. 

The attraction is once more linked to the mind.

“I have been curious about the Surrealists for quite a long time,” she  says. “To me, their art is about perception and the subconscious. The idea  of using everyday objects in art can change our view of how they appear, or what we think they are, and what they actually could be. It very much becomes an expression of ourselves.”

‘Stillness, Softness’ is as much about what we choose to remember as  it is about the memories we elect to hide.

“When I was thinking about the artwork for the album, I found this trick lock – a fake lock, basically – on a Japanese antiques website,” says Omori. “It was from an old Japanese storehouse where people kept their valuable possessions. The person it used to belong to had all these precious things in storage, but they’d put a fake lock on the door. Isn’t that really interesting? It’s like a metaphor for our minds – what we consider to be locks are actually just tricks we’re playing on ourselves with our brains. The only barriers we have are our own perceptions. There’s nothing stopping us from accessing those rooms we thought impossible to get into.

“The term ‘shadow sides’ really sums up the record for me,” she concludes. “It’s about diving into things we suppress. Those are the things we need to address in order to be able to heal them. Only when we do that can we come to a sense of peace within ourselves.”

‘Stillness, Softness’ is out on Houndstooth

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