A Guide to Maria Chiara Argiró’s Forest City

The multi-instrumentalist walks us track-by-track through the world of her new record.

The main music idea between all these tracks was trying to find a balance between the organic, natural environment and the industrial city to give an optimistic vision of the dialogue between these two contrasting worlds. It’s a concept record, about the duality of nature and city. I was trying to make a place for my music to be able to live and to get to. As an artist, I always try to imagine and “create” a world that I would like to see, or I would like to spend some time in. An ideal world where, perhaps, nature and technology can coexist in peace. 


I wanted to create a looped theme to evoke both the industrial, repetitive elements of the city and the organic, textural sounds of nature. I imagined the beginning of this journey and experience from an intimate space like a home, starting from a piano loop and background sounds. It felt like a natural choice to start the album with this track. 

“Forest City”

This is one of the first tracks I wrote for the album. Since the beginning of the writing process, I wanted to split the song into two connected worlds. In the first part, I tried to recreate the pulsating beats of the city and its lights, while in the second part I explored the dreamy and open landscape of the forest. Lyrically, I imagined a story about the human observations of the city and of nature. How would living in a forest with its roots inside the buildings of a city, or in a city surrounded by a forest, affect us physically and mentally? With Daniel Gadd, the lyricist, we played with this concept in a stream of consciousness: “Eyes closed, say what you see… Follow just what you see..” And then, “Eyes wide say what you see…. Rain clouds unbroken line…” It’s almost suggesting to the listeners to embrace the natural world. I clearly remember that, during the production process, I had a dream of living in a Forest City. 

In the intro, I’ve played a minimal chord progression on a prophet synth while creating a gritty soundscape. Working in the studio with my longtime collaborators In a Sleeping Mood, I then added a sort of trap-beat to remind of the sounds heard from cars driving through the city. In the outro, I opted for more sparse synth chords, layering an arpeggiator to give a sense of circular breath to the music and a warped trumpet melody repeating over and over like a mantra on a constant acoustic drum beat.


This song is quite an emotional one. It’s about experiencing a beautiful natural scene and a reoccurring dream of being in nature. The dream is blurred together with the reality of waking up, almost, at the end of the song — not knowing what’s real. I wrote the instrumental part mainly on my organelle arpeggio synth, as I wanted to create an abstract sound layered with detuned synths into the production, in order to create a blurred and uncertain dreamlike soundscape.


I had a lot of fun composing and producing this one. Overall, it came very spontaneously. 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, focusing on having a playful time rather than being too worried about and conscious of the outcome. 

I wanted to create a playful dance floor track, but I also needed a drastic drop to happen at a certain point, like a wake-up call. The trumpet sounded like the best choice to get this “shouting” moment with a the drop, like falling. The original beat took a deeper level of sound design during the mixing sessions with In a Sleeping Mood and my engineer Alex Killpartrick. 


This track is a pure observation of the world that I pictured where the clouds, sky, and dreamy movement of the synths and vocal samples meet with the earth and roots of the electronic drum. All the elements evolve and come back, like in a circular movement. In order to create this effect and this mood, I needed to mix the acoustic drums with the electronic beats, having the trumpet improvising over the odd time signature and creating a circled sound effect on the chords and harmony of the prophet.


The idea behind the song was: What does it really mean to grow in this world? As a human being or as a plant? I was inspired by this photo I took of an orange Dahlia, which made me think of the beauty and perfection of nature. For the lyrics I had an exchange of ideas with Daniel Gadd about the song concept. It turned out to be a fairytale scene: a girl wakes up in the night, looks out of the window and sees someone she loves leaving, probably for good. She wants to call out and say, “don’t go,” but the words don’t come out, and instead, a little flower drops out of her mouth. The flower represents growing and moving on from something, or a deeper understanding of the situation. The flower comes out instead of the words that are holding you back.

I really wanted to have a vocal track in the album with harmonies, and have an outro section where I wanted to feel vocally as free as possible, singing the melody over and over loudly on the piano. I’ve tried different recording techniques on this track  in order to experiment a bit and to get different layers. At the beginning of the song you can hear some faint road noises.  


This track is inspired by the blue sky and murmurations happening in my hometown Rome. I really wanted to create an interlude track for the album, reiterating the idea of circular movements. I initially looped a sample I created with a mellotron sound, adding reverb to highlight the airy feel. Then, I added the electronic beat and a few more layers on my organelle synth. 


I first wrote and arranged this entire tune on the piano and tried various arrangements for each instrument. It worked well with piano and acoustic drums, but I felt that I needed to add more body to it. I switched fully to electronics, adding various synths, trying to process any acoustic sound (such as the snare drums) to create a different impact on the overall sound. I imagined a pulsating rhythm for the entire track and wanted to create a grainier, angrier, busier first part, having a big relief in the coda section with more spacious chords instead. It felt natural to close the album with this one, almost as if the journey had been experienced from a treehouse. It ends on a big meditative, dark low-end drone, like if you finally entered the forest and you’ve been completely embraced by it, or like if you finally found a balance between the two worlds.

(Artwork and photography by Alexandra Waespi)

Maria Chiara Argiró is a multi-instrumentalist and jazz trained pianist who has been weaving her way throughout the UK jazz, classical, and electronic worlds since she moved to London from Rome. Her latest record, Forest City, is out now on Innovative Leisure.