Marihiko Hara’s Flora is a collection of calming and ambient sounds that evoke images of his native Japan. Inspired by nature, this is music to relax to and be carried away by.
Far from being bold or provocative, Flora sits very much at the other end of the musical spectrum; providing a reflective and transporting experience that forces you to stop for a while and step away from the stresses and frustrations of everyday life.
Recorded in Kyoto and Takashima City, Hara’s elegant piano and electronic compositions are combined with field recordings to produce a seamless selection of tracks that aim to transport listeners through forests, lakes and oceans, and even all the way up to the moon.
More than anything else, Flora highlights Hara’s talents as a composer and musician; with tracks like ‘Camera’ and ‘Curtain’, in particular, demonstrating his abilities as a classical-style pianist. Occasional electronic touches add a bit of an edge, but the overall feeling remains that of serenity and placidity; like a rippling lake or gentle summer breeze.
The ambient sounds, including twittering birds and buzzing insects, simply provide a subtle background to the Kyoto-based artist’s compositions. In fact, the whole CD almost feels like a soundtrack to nature. Only on one track, ‘Ocean’, does the drone take over from the piano; providing a slight shift in mood and ambience.
On some level, Flora might have benefited from the inclusion of more ambient field recordings (especially on the water-themed tracks), but as Hara himself states, the sounds he has chosen are ones that are close to his heart; and this certainly comes across.
For sheer beauty, ‘Ocean’ and ‘Eclipse’ are probably the standout tracks, but there’s no weak link here, as they all glide effortlessly into one another; each distinct, but no one track overpowering or diminishing the next.
Overall, Flora is an unchallenging, gentle and tranquil experience that allows the listener the chance to experience nature, reinterpreted and enhanced. It is a piece of work very much rooted in Japanese culture and conjures up images of the country’s landscape away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
As such, the best way to appreciate Flora is to lie down, close your eyes and let yourself drift off into Marihiko Hara’s world. Once there, you might find you want to hang around for a while.