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I Bloom
(2019 - Street Furniture Records - UK)

Japanese composer, lyricist, producer, vocalist, and musical artist Mieko Shimizu has released this enlightened kaleidoscope of amazement. A true labor of dedication and love, working on and off over a 5 year period, through 2 major medical operations, and often remixing and re-recording songs, creating a painstakingly supreme album. Cunning compositions, full of alluring, kingly, slightly off center (a great thing) and elevated levels of luscious music. With an additional draw, the ever so brilliant William D. Drake collaborates on two of the 9 tunes, performing his personalized style piano on both.

So how did Mieko (also goes under Mico on past recordings) meet Drake? I asked and her answer was "I was playing at Soif  Soirée which is a very magical monthly  event in Clerkenwell in London, not only  musicians, poets, actors, writers, film  makers and dancers all sort of artist  gather and perform there. William was one  of them. I saw him playing piano and  singing. I thought ‘Wow, who is this  guy!’ I loved his strange chords and sad  and funny singing. So I approached him if  he could collaborate with me. Apparently  he thought the same. “Wow, who is this  strange foreign person!’ That’s how we  started writing songs together". Needless to say the pairing is a dream come true for both artists and all the fans.

The first two cuts on 'I Bloom' made me imagine a mature Bjork with Philip Glass and Brian Eno at the reigns. Much of the beautifully executed piano work also has a Wim Mertens feel, at his most relaxed and dynamic moments. This is created by Mieko as she plays all instruments except what guests perform, and on the two songs William D. Drake co -wrote with her ('Lazy Light' - track 4, and ' I'm Coming Up In My Submarine' - track 8), where he adds piano, and sings on those as well, giving further reward to the project. The entire recording is stately, with shifting parts making movement in flawless timing. With the inclusion of musicians: Kieko Kitamura on koto (who works with her on some live shows), J. S. Morris on harp (did harp arrangement on 'Snake of Summer' - track 5), Peter Morris on ARP synthesizer (Lazy Light), Liam Donin on bass ('Aleilla' - track 6, and 'My Shell' - track 3), and the ever so talented Mieko Shimizu on piano, vocals and synthesizers on all tracks, accordion on 'Butterfly' (track 2), and xaphone on 'The Change is Coming' (track 7). She also wrote all songs (except noted 2 songs with William D. Drake), produced it and recorded it. The story goes that when she was in the hospital for one of her surgeries, a drug addict was moved into the same room with her, and was causing horrendous grief to the entire ward, but a Scottish lady began singing old Irish Airs, and that calmed him, and put him to sleep. Mieko realized the power of music beyond what she had known before. This promoted her to continue working on this album, as she has lost the will and focus to do so otherwise. We are the lucky ones for this follow through.

There is a distinct touch of Japanese traditional included, but not in an overt way. The drifting pace and the dreamy aura, lend more to classical ambient/undefined otherworldliness, dreamtime utopia. 'The Change Is Coming' picks up the pace, and brings in a more eastern vibe, a more trippy jazzy and psychedelic vein, that appears in just the ideal place. A grand selection to proceed 'I'm Coming Up In My Submarine', with Drake doing co-vocals, and sliding a more haunting aquatic and fragile beauty to the album, shines like a full moon in a crisp clear sky. What a stand out among an already incredible set of songs.

The last piece 'Bridge Beyond' with more of the gossamer fruition, features Drake on piano, and Shimizu with breathy vocals (some layered and choir-like). The atmosphere is heavenly. 'I Bloom' is a deep, personal, and gorgeous project, with unreal amounts of love, patience, insight, introspection, and strength. The fact that Mieko even started her own label (which this is the first full length released on) speaks volumes along with her talents through the years, with members of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Japan (Mick Karn), David Cunningham, and too many to even list. She has also been part of multi media works with dance theatres, symphonies, and supporting other acts (such as Kraftwerk, and Massive Attack). The skills are endless, and 'I Bloom' is yet another great accomplishment, full of  treasures, captured moments of delicate consciousness, flotation into metaphysics, and a few peeks at existence in darkness, yet recovery in light. FULLY RECOMMENDED.

  ©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 5 - 23 - 2019      

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