There’s something genuinely fascinating about a hidden flower. Perhaps it is the element of surprise or the fact that we are used to flowers being highly visible. “Hidden Flowers” is the name of Masako’s new album. At first, her music seems uncomplicated and straightforward. But give it a little more time, and you’ll discover that “Hidden Flowers” is a symbol of the beauty that you’ll find while listening. It is a phenomenal album, and yet another confirmation that Masako is one of the finest New Age music artists of our time.
Masako was born and raised in Japan and started piano lessons at age four. She worked for Yamaha Music Foundation as a certified instructor. Years after Masako moved to the US with her family, she asked Will Ackerman to produce her first album, “Masako (2012). She has since released the albums “Call of the Mountains, (2013), “Piano Sanctuary” (2017), and “Underwater Whisperer” (2019), all to great acclaim.
Masako doesn’t need more than eight chords to establish the atmosphere that shapes and illuminates “Hidden Flowers”. “Harajuku Memoir” takes the listener down memory lane, to the colorful Harajuku district in Tokyo – or to a place that is dear to you. “Harajuku Memoir” is, in many ways, a perfect album opener. It is the kind of piece that every Solo Piano artists dream of composing; light and delicate, yet rich and filled to the brim with emotions. If this were the opening track on “a billion streams playlist” on Spotify or Pandora, there would be one billion happy listeners too.
After such a grand opening, “Age of Flowers” gives time to contemplate. Here we get an introduction to three of the talented artists who participate on the album; Premik Russell Tubbs on wind synth, Eugene Friesen on cello, and percussion by Jeff Haynes. Before our inner eye, we can see incredible flowers, first hidden, then growing and blooming, every flower a tiny miracle.
“Acadia” is another winner. It is as if Masako has taken her piano – and Jeff Oster his flugelhorn – to the beach. The slow melody seems to develop organically, as natural as the waves and the wind. It is a breathtakingly, beautiful tableau. When it is over, you cannot believe that the piece is only 3 minutes and 11 seconds long. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out yourself:
“Remember the Rainy Day” is not only an excellent financial advise, but a superb Solo Piano piece! When it comes to bare, honest, and delicate compositions, Masako is on par with George Winston, David Lanz, and Liz Story. First, there’s a gentle opening. Then out of the gray day comes an exhilarating, rapid change. Yes, it is raining, literally flowing, but that’s not what this is about. There in the rain something life-changing is taking place. The build-up up is incredible. Like Yiruma’s masterpiece “The River Flows In You”, “Remember the Rainy Day” tells us something existential; It is the small, seemingly insignificant moments that matter.
“Hidden Flowers” is a very well-balanced album. I’m sure Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton, and their crew have given expert advice along the way. “Blossom River” is a thoughtful piece with flute and cello. Its satisfying conclusion leaves a lasting impression.
Moving on, the playful and fast “Observing M31” makes us appreciate city life with all its lights and movements. The wind synth sounds divine, and the piano has a subtle hint of jazz. There’s also a heavenly female vocal (Noah
Wilding) in the background, adding a human touch.
“Forgiving” is a nice contrast. The melody is heavy with melancholy and seems to underline that forgiving sometimes is very hard, impossible even. Yet it is necessary. It can also be a healing experience.
I love this part of the album! “Eternal Bliss” is a thoughtful and dreamy piece with Charlie Bisharat’s violin, before we are back on solid ground with “Southbound Flyaway”. Even Oster’s flugelhorn can’t outshine Masako’s brilliant playing.
“Suddenly Cherry Blossom” has a beautiful duality; it captures the beauty of cherry blossom, while at the same time describing how short it is. It is there; then it is gone, a symbol of life itself. Nearer the end, we meet the “Winter People”. It is a positive piece, perfect for an afternoon in front of the fireplace – before “Central Part Retreat” rounds off the album magnificently. The song has many elements; flute, cello, vocal, percussion, a nice bell-like synth – and, most importantly – Masako’s piano. It is a winner from start to finish.
In conclusion: “Hidden Flowers” by Masako is her best album to date, and easily one of 2020’s best New Age music releases. “Harajuku Memoir” and “Remember the Rainy Day” are destined to become Solo Piano hits. If you only add one album to your playlist this year, “Hidden Flowers” is an excellent choice. You will find yourself looking for the replay button every time it comes on, guaranteed.
Score: 96/100 – See our scoring policy
For more information and music samples, visit masako-music.com