mizu forest scenes electronic music review

Forest Scenes



Dom Lepore

July 3, 2024

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

A profound classically-tinged traversal through a vulnerable, variegated woodland, emboldened to embrace notions of change

Behold – the dense, cerebral, and visceral woodland that New York-based composer MIZU has propagated on Forest Scenes. Describing anything rooted in growing greenery as “blossoming” is perhaps a tried platitude, but her naturalistic, deconstructive cello-based spectacle is a marvel in the act of self-discovery that genuinely unfurls over time. MIZU forgoes the classic methodology of using her voice to give sound to her feelings, the stretching, brooding tonal range of her cello delivers all the lilting emotion. During the intensely evocative trek of Forest Scenes, field recordings, digitised glitchy skitters, and brooding spiccatos uniformly grapple with transformation and comprehension of one's physical presence. MIZU’s is skilled with her instrument, but here, moreso than ever the classical harmonic soundscapes discordantly clashing with electronic manipulation is her incredibly earnest portrayal of self. This confluence of styles, especially through a queer lens, invites others to make those interrogations.

MIZU’s 2023 debut, Distant Intervals, might’ve been a very deliberate engagement in classical conventions that she reveres, as if to say, “this is what I know”. Meanwhile, Forest Scenes is the staggering inversion of that: “this is who I am”. It is the mind in motion, as we first hear the arousing, pastoral tones of Enter – hums of decadent strings beam shinily between the gaps of towering forestry, catalysing a surge of glowing introspection. Pump rings solidly with steady, meditative strings, but its gleam is unsuspectingly hit with the low-slung, monolithic blankets of bellowing noise on Rinse. The gut-wrenching, void-like drones mirror the unexplainable unease of scrutinising our soul's bare bones, punching down our notion of security with a barrage of existential questions about our identity.

On Pavane, musically evoking her personal relationship with performance, the song is titled after a processional dance originating within Europe aristocracy in the 16th and 17th century, flowing like a regal peacock. Movement remains at the crux of her material. Amalgamating classical Western instrumentation, distinct Eastern melodies, and modern digital modulation, a feeling of trepidation is conveyed, warmed by a swelling earthly beauty. MIZU takes a leap, dissociating in order to embrace the serenity of the natural world.

The standout prphtbrd, a collaboration with experimental electronic musician Concrete Husband, dissolves any recognisability of MIZU’s cello and entirely engulfs it in bloated glitch; a spellbinding but calamitous voyage. With every kinetic drum kick that flirts with techno sensibilities, there is a suffocating struggle to understand oneself. For those fully adrift in the album at this point, this is an especially harrowing sequence, with no recognisable end to the dizzying confrontation – like the arduous journey of self-discovery. It is Forest Scenes’ most chilling, vulnerable, and grounding piece. The conclusive, 10-minute Realms of Possibility returns to the introductory greenwood palette of Enter with a buoyant cello groove. Throughout the unfolding runtime, the hyperventilating listener – struggling to recognise themselves as MIZU perfectly illustrates a transitory state amid all the change – is perpetually reassured: “everything is going to be okay, things will fall into place”.

As MIZU’s wondrous performance ends, we are brought back to reality and its expectations. Speaking on her transition, she has stated that the new possibilities have been freeing, endless, and a dream – the once-rigid constraints of classical music have vanished. Arthur Russell’s music is a sturdy example of a classical crossover, an innovative Iowan who bridged pop, folk, and minimalism with his principal voice: the cello. The appropriation of these elements into something different is no new phenomenon, but whereas Russell kookily slotted into New York’s dancefloors and queer spaces, displaying a tendency towards goofy contemporary eccentricity, MIZU cultivates a rich and illustrious home for herself in a completely different way. That esoteric excellence seems impossible to succinctly depict, but as the marked parallels of these cellists’ music and queerness do not restrain either of them from prospering, there is hope when being at your most authentic, as difficult as that can be to grasp. 

This lush spectral forest encompasses a new identity, deftly combining impassioned strings with murmuring electronics. MIZU’s exploration of change and growth into femininity with such a variegated, intellectual execution is an inspiring mantra to always be yourself – because it is the best version of you.