Everything about Resonance, the 1987 debut album by pianist Yumiko Morikoa, exudes atmosphere. The album arrived during a musical movement in Japan known as “kankyō ongaku”—which translates to “environmental music”—on a label called Green & Water. Trained in the 1970’s at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Morioka had by the late 1980’s fallen under the spell of Brian Eno’s Ambient series, inspiring her to seek “sound floating in the air, blending into space and time,” as she recently said.
Resonance delivers on Morioka’s goal. Consisting almost wholly of her tranquil, mellifluous, piano playing, the album glistens like a slow waterfall, with patient notes gently drizzling into soft melodies. On “Ever Green,” Morioka’s beaming chords evoke a sunrise, while the bright bounce of “Round and Round” sounds like the soundtrack of happy life in a small town. Resonance is too thoughtful to be saccharine and at times it’s even melancholy. Take the heavy strains of “Moon Road” and “Moon Ring”—both as melodramatic as Angelo Badalamenti’s piano themes for Twin Peaks.
Still, Resonance is primarily about calm and relaxation, about reducing stress through sound. Though the album was not a commercial success, it often served as background music in New Age shops and hospital wards. It’s not hard to hear why: from the very first listen, Morioka’s music can make worries melt away like ice trickling into a river.