Released: 27 September 2019
Album Rating: 4/5
Live Potential: 4/5
Diversity in Songs: 4/5
Favourite Songs: ‘Nautilus’ (track 2), ‘Watery Universe’ (track 7), ‘Wandering Iceberg’ (track 9)
“Open, dreamy and honest”, these are the three words which London-based Italian pianist and composer Maria Chiara Argirò chose to describe her second album, Hidden Seas. Deviating away from her 2016 debut The Fall Dance, Hidden Seas sees the musician create a more conceptual styled album filled with original compositions, relying on “whatever my imagination brought to me thinking about the sea”.
Maria is a well-known name in the London scene. Being a pianist and keyboardist, she is very much in high demand – being involved in musical outfits including Liran Donin, Kinkajous, Teotima, Rosie Turton and Jamie Leeming. During Maria’s career, she has extensively performed and recorded with a whole variety of groups which has naturally flowed and fed into her compositional style. A lifelong fascination with the sea helped form Maria’s initial impetus for the album, but when a copy of Edward MacDowell’s Sea Pieces fell at Maria’s feet at a bookstore in Camden, the idea was sealed. With Hidden Seas, the talented keyboardist has composed a charming concept album, swelling with sea-themed soundscapes and ingenuity.
For Hidden Seas, Maria returns to the same line-up as The Fall Down, being accompanied by French singer Leïla Martial, Sam Rapley (Tenor Sax/Clarinet), Tal Janes (Guitar/Effects), Andrea Di Biase (Double Bass) and Gaspar Sena (Drums). The album reveals the keyboardist elegantly experimenting with electronics, not losing sight of her vision. After all, it’s Maria “taking the picture”, sonically capturing her oceanic soundscapes. This assuredness and clear direction is reinforced by Maria's balance of the band. It is clear that Maria knows each players full capabilities, using their unique sounds to become one with her imagination. Each member equally plays their part, none (not even Maria) greedily stealing the limelight of the record.
What is apparent is Maria’s obsession to recreate the “sound” of the sea, which is cleverly accomplished with musical metaphors. From the outset with ‘Beneath the Surface’, the listener is exposed to the swell of the sea, as the song builds and grows, typified by Sam Rapley’s saxophone building and growing before the song retracts as the tide pulls back. In ‘Nautilus’ we are exposed to the haunting and mysterious singing of Leïla Martial as we are sat onboard Jules Verne’s submarine, transported into the mystical deep Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. This level of detail is carried throughout, as Maria plays with instrumentation as Andrea Di Biase’s bass becomes the sound of a whale in ‘Sea Song’ (track 3) or Leïla’s vocals being mimicking the calls of Grecian sirens in the introduction of ‘Starlight’ (track 8). Every time you listen to the album, you become ever more immersed among Maria’s watery world, swimming among its vivid details. These thoughtful elements guide us through Maria’s imaginative world, acting not as gimmicks but as integral parts of the canvas.
Maria claimed that for Hidden Seas, she wanted to push her “creativity as much as possible”. In doing so, she has managed to mould and sculpt a beautiful artwork, one which is expansive, thoughtful and gracious. In a time of ecological disaster and the declining health of our oceans, it is so wonderful for someone like Maria to remind why fighting for the survival of our natural world is so integral – as the seas are awe-inspiring sources of beauty.
You can read our interview with Maria Chiara Argirò here:
Maria will be playing live on the 15th of November at The Crypt (London), as part of EFG London Jazz Festival.
You can also see Maria at the following dates:
28 September – Lucca Jazz Donna Festival, Lucca, Italy
23 October – Peggy's Skylight, Nottingham
24 October – Seven Arts, Leeds
25 October – Gosforth Civic Theatre, Newcastle
15 November – The Crypt, London (part of the EFG London Jazz Festival)
You can keep up to date with Maria via her socials here: