Set in the heart of Bristol, the Trinity Centre is a wonderful venue that simply drips history. A decommissioned church (originally functioning between 1832 and 1976) that now serves the community in a different way, its high ceiling and absorbant walls are conducive to a good sound, it makes the perfect frame for a concert by two of Japan’s most unique artists.
Live Report: Ichiko Aoba + Hinako Omori
Trinity Community Arts, Bristol, 09.05.2023
Born in Yokohama, but now based in London, Hinako Omori is a crossover artist in the purest definition. Having supported more mainstream artists such as Beth Orton and Anna Meredith, and also performed with the prestigious BBC Now Orchestra, Hinako is a pleasantly hard to categorise artist, and tonight’s show doesn’t make that classification any easier. Everything about Hinako’s show suggests a minimalism; from her black outfit to her slow and deliberate stage moves, via the parred back electronic beats, this deliberate fading of the artist into the background has the benefit of bringing the music to the fore, and, subsequently, the sound fills the entire venue. The motorik beats could be construed as bleak, yet Hinako’s vocals add a human touch, and she employs her voice like an instrument, complimenting the music by hitting the high and low registers, then holding those notes for an impossibly long time. The songs comprising this set flow into each other like a river of silk, and as we reach the conclusion we are left with a strange sensation that we have arrived at an unbeknownst destination. A unique show by a unique artist, and one that makes a fine precursor to Hinako’s forthcoming show at London’s prestigious Southbank Centre.
While some gigs have an air of danger, the good vibes are radiating through the venue as we await the arrival of Ichiko Aoba. Mentored by singer/songwriter Anmi Yamada, and drawing inspiration from Disney and Ghibli animation, there’s something so very uplifting about Ichiko’s music, and that carries over into the live environment. There’s an embargo on cameras and mobile phones tonight, and I must say it’s only added to the ambience; there’s perhaps nothing worse than watching a live show through someone else’s screen (only marginally less annoying than having your view obscured by a mobile phone held aloft), and the lack of light emanating the crowd allows the stage-lighting to work its magic. Just like Hinako’s set, Ichiko’s is very minimalist, there’s no extraneous distractions to detract from the music and this places our focus centre stage, and the crowd’s attention is honed into a laser beam. As Ichiko plucks her guitar and coos like a dove, the crowd is held in a trance and you can almost hear a pin drop as she whistles like a caged bird that has had its first taste of freedom. However, for all of Ichiko’s litheness, there can also be a dark, spellbinding aspect to her vocal performance. It’s as if she’s removed the veil that separates this world from the next, and her voice occasionally wafts throughout the venue, a ghostly spectre singing a song to the living. It’s these tension of opposites between light and shade which make Ichiko Aoba’s concert such a rewarding experience, and the respectful silence that has reigned throughout turns to thunderous applause at the show’s finale.