Miho Hatori / Miho


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Considering that Miho Hatori named her solo album Ecdysis after the molting process arthropods must undergo to grow and survive, it's not surprising that this set of songs feels like the cumulation of all of her previous work -- but on her own terms. In the six years between the end of Cibo Matto and this album, Hatori has been an in-demand collaborator, working with Smokey Hormel in Smokey & Miho, Damon Albarn and Dan the Automator in Gorillaz, and her former bandmate Yuka Honda on her album Eucademix. Shades of all these projects can be heard here, but in a way that's all Hatori. Ecdysis is a gentle, feminine, sophisticated album full of well-traveled sounds -- pop, electronica, world, and jazz -- delivered with a personal twist. This may be the most organic-sounding work of Hatori's career; songs like the title track, which pairs an undulating bassline with ruminations on "sentimental candies," start out small and gradually unfurl into something bigger without losing their intimacy. A surprisingly meditative feel prevails on Ecdysis, whether it's from the close harmonies and luminous keyboards on "In Your Arms" or the dreamy "Spirit of Juliet," adding to the feeling that Hatori needed to create this music on her own. But even though this album sounds all grown up, it's still in touch with the whimsy that has been a part of Hatori's music since the days of Viva! La Woman. "A Song for Kids" is a bright bossa nova number that states youth is not wasted on the young; "Walking City" delves into sci-fi, a vignette from a future where everything is orderly, but not necessarily harmonious; and "Barracuda" is a slinky, yet strong, manifesto about facing fears. At times, the album's subtly exotic atmosphere -- which sounds particularly striking on "Sweet Samsara, Pt. 1" and "Amazona" -- is more compelling than any particular track. But, even if Ecdysis isn't as immediate as some of Hatori's other work, it reveals more layers with each listen.

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