MIZU, “Forest Scenes”
By James Gui · March 28, 2024 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Cassette

On a chilly autumn night in November last year, Brooklyn-based cellist MIZU stood on a platform amidst an enraptured audience at Pioneer Works. Although she was opening for Tim Hecker, MIZU held her own with a transcendent performance, her intricate cello-based compositions serving as the pretext for an audiovisual spectacle. There, she debuted “prphtbrd,” a collaboration with techno producer Concrete Husband. She put the cello down, convulsing on stage amidst the explosion of muslin on her Phương Nguyễn-designed dress, seemingly acting out the deconstruction of her relationship to entrained structures—classical music education, gender binaries—in the intimate space of a Red Hook warehouse. On Forest Scenes, MIZU finally brings into the world the magic she teased on that night in November, crafting an ambient idyll in which we might safely interrogate the connections between ourselves, our bodies, and the world around us.

Citing Paul Hindemith as an early inspiration to experiment with technique, MIZU squeezes an astonishing array of sounds from the cello that she layers, overdubs, and filters with finesse. Diaphanous tremolos, woody claps, clean harmonics, pastoral glides, ephemeral spiccatos: these mingle with field recordings, glitched-out noise, and warm synths throughout the record in a display of both cello virtuosity and DAW magicking. On “Pavane” and “Flutter,” these varied techniques are rounded out by pentatonic melodies and atmospheric percussion, in a nod to MIZU’s Japanese heritage.

But “prphtbrd” contains MIZU’s most astonishing experiments yet. She takes inspiration from Robert Schumann’s “Vogel als Prophet” (Bird as Prophet), the seventh movement of the composition Forest Scenes is named for, in a chaotic showdown between nature and industrialization. Stitching together classical recordings, drum samples, and other electronic detritus, MIZU creates a digital forest without her cello to guide her; the result is a collage of sound that shifts from industrial ambient to skittish IDM. The cello, as it’s said, encompasses the tonal range of the human voice, regardless of gender. So it’s fitting that the instrument has stuck with Brooklyn-based composer MIZU as a palette from which to construct her sonic forests as she began transitioning; yet the experiments here also show an artist who’s not afraid to go beyond the human to get at a better future. Concluding with a pulsating kick reminiscent of a beating heart on “Realms of Possibility” that persists through swelling and swaying cello lines, Forest Scenes is an oasis of queer hope and vitality in a ruthless world.

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