Maria Chiara Argirò is releasing a deluxe version of her acclaimed concept album Forest City, which includes brand new track "Unreal."
Something of a palette cleanser ahead of Maria's new album - which she is laying finishing touches to now - Unreal is a reworking of a track that found its way into Maria's live set whilst supporting Emma-Jean Thackray last year. It quickly became a crowd favourite and was recorded in the summer of 2022, beautifully merging hypnotic beats with swelling synths and a soaring brass section.
On the track, Maria offers: ‘This song is inspired by a tune I wrote a few years back. I explored the concept of real and unreal, blending and pushing both organic and electronic sounds. I wanted to create a steady rhythm blurred together with looped vocals and a synthy dreamlike soundscape.’
"Unreal" arrives alongside a mesmerising video, with AI generated visuals synchronising the timing and intensity of the noise in the animation to the rhythm and dynamics of the music using over 15,000 different images. Directed by Edoardo Ottone.
Forest City has graced Italian end of year polls, with radio support from BBC 6 Music, BBC Radio 1, KCRW, KEXP, RAI 2, FiP, and has been featured in Vogue, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, The Fader and Pitchfork. With fans like Four-Tet, as well as album track Greenarp being featured on Netflix series Elite, Maria had an amazing 2022 and there is only more to come this year. She will be supporting Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith at Kings Place in April, and playing The Great Escape in May. Earlier this year, Forest City remixes dropped from Byron The Aquarius, Salami Rose Joe Louis and Terracassette.
"New song 'Bonsai' is - appropriately, given the title - a microcosm of her work, with the billowing house elements carrying a unique physicality. Heady, other-worldly stuff, 'Bonsai' grows organically, the lush horn elements augmented by the percussive rattle." - CLASH
"a clubby departure for Argirò, trading in clever chord changes for a hypnotic beat and swelling synth pads." - The FADER
On Forest City, Maria finds a glistening thread between these movements: where jazz meets Kelly Lee Owens, Jon Hopkins and Radiohead. It’s a concept record, about the “duality of nature and city”, where organic sounds and textures seem to flow above the urban sprawl.
Maria had finished writing the album before the first lockdown but the enforced isolation helped to give the music a sense of urgency, a longing to be immersed in the natural world and the buzz of the city at the same time. The songs always start as something she can play acoustically, that would work without the bells and whistles, and then she layers the atmosphere around them.
Though the album has dark undertones, it’s not all doom and gloom: in her earthy metropolis, a certain optimism glows through. “It’s about being conscious of the world we live in and how careful we need to be,” Maria explains. “At the end of the day, there is hope”.
Her new, warm and house-inflected single “Bonsai” came spontaneously. Maria reveals, “The main theme and melodies came out of an improvisation I had on my Yamaha CS reface over the first rhythmic synth idea. I remember trying many different sounds playing on my laptop, on Ableton and some VST, focussing on having a playful time rather than being too worried and conscious of the outcome. I wanted to create a playful dance floor track, but I also needed a drastic and big drop to happen at a certain point, like a wake-up call: the trumpet sounded like the best choice to get this “shouting” moment and drop. Like falling.”
Forest City was recorded and self-produced between her bedroom and her studio with the precious help of her longtime collaborators and electronic producers, In a Sleeping Mood and mixing engineer Alex Killpartrick. And, crucially, she is singing for the first time, too – her airy, otherworldly vocals on “Blossom” and “Clouds” especially resemble Emiliana Torrini or a singer in a smoky, late-night club, alone under the spotlight on the stage.
Opening track “Home” sets up the shadowy textural claustrophobia of the city, its melancholic piano evoking raindrops on crowded pavement; then the album evolves into a mesmeric journey spanning downbeat trip-hop, all skittering drums and warped trumpet (“Forest City”), dream-like, folkier songwriting (“Greenarp”, which was named after the arpeggios she created on her beloved Organelle synth), shoegazey alt-pop, punctured by poignant brass solos (“Blossom”) and beguiling jazztronica that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Jamie XX set (“Clouds”).
Forest City sees its release via Innovative Leisure on May 6th. To pre-order / pre-save the album, go here.
This month, Maria is wrapping up a UK tour with Emma-Jean Thackery - more dates to be announced.