From the eastern corners of the continent, Russia's Misha Mishenko's neo-classical touch is a sound, while reminds me of many artists previous, I'll never lack in looking towards for as much experience as a means of interraction. More-so, to the man's admittance, the fond personal interest in Northern territorial sounds - specifically, the Icelandic confine of instrumental demographic and chilly, wintry soundscapes - is a sound I can attest to loving in equal fashion. It's something that has spawned many a great listening moments for any intrigued fan of the lesser energetic but still overly atmospheric musical languages of sound. Mishenko's 2013 release is as much born from that interest in its track titles as it is its musical influences, the album title Strákur Sem Spilar Með Vindi a clear distinction away from the Russian musician's native linguals. But of course, Russian music - classical instrumentation especially - has always been one of emotive captivation and atmospheric conjures, so the initial aspect of merging both nations' respective aesthetics is already one I look towards with both high expectation and higher mounds of anticipation.
Mishenko appears to be one not to hold his measure of depth back. The delicate tread of piano keys and sweeping strings on Kvöld í Borginni show an understanding of the effectiveness to melody and rhythm. But the surprising presence and intertwining of instrumentation here not only adds some affectionate opportunity to open out this music's visuals, but it's potential too for how neo-classical mean to approach the idea of unity, even from different corners of sound, in order to meet a given target. Fundi Með Vindi doesn't hold as much the same variety in instrumentation, but it's desire without compromise lies in the space and pause for opportunity the main piano leads present to the listener. And with a violin accompaniment that is neither too soft nor intense, there's plenty of support to a piece more stationary yet involved in its own emotion.
It's a welcoming, as much a comforting, time when music such as this does not intentionally set itself out to be as drastic or as dynamically involved with the flow or rhythm of a track. Sometimes the best moments are those that take a few steps back from this; those that, ultimately, decide on not setting out on some great yonder of a journey, but rather decide to keep to themselves. It's not exactly isolating or kept entirely from the listener, but taking to a track like Skilningi or the near six-minute phase of awakening that Móðir Náttúra comes off as, feels as much like greeting someone whom has shut themselves away from the World for some time. The latter track - which houses some interesting tweets and twitches here and there along with some depth of percussion - could be defined as the music's (characterized as a person perhaps?) dealing with possible tension as much with the concept of isolation. But as we enter the second half of the album, there's a definite change in tone as to how the music perceives itself in regards to the surroundings. And more importantly, it's the delicacy of the sounds that play a more important role because of it.
While Öndun Fiðrildi performs to be the gentler, if at times troubled, dynamic of the album, tracks like þjóðarmorð offer a focus on the balance between intensities, even if the instrumentation of piano and violins is not something we haven't already been cast towards on previous tracks. Mishenko's skill then, for this track specifically, lies in his focus on the non-classical elements of his composition; the broken-like, deteriorated qualities and textures that sneak up in parts, turn out to be the better focus rather than the instrumentation itself. And while closing track Á þeim Tíma is not without its emphasis on the lead of piano keys, it's the electronic synthesizers and the relationship they have with the low tremble of violins that brings about a much more engaging interraction with its listeners. For certain this is the best track Mishenko offers here, and that's not because it's the track that offers synths into the mix. Sure, that is partially the reason for my attention deviating directly towards this piece. But further to that, it's the way Mishenko not only uses the electronic toning, but works it in and around the orchestral sounds, that gives the track its grand and engaging reach outwards. As if, going back to my take on this music being of that of a singular person's placement, this is the moment when the curtains are drawn and the outside World, rather than the lone figure, is the one to meet with eyebrow-raising surprise.
In simple terms, this album is a sound of confidence, but a confidence that makes sure it holds onto the importance of humanity in its emotion, its scale and its means to expel such stimuli. But it's the singularity and the independence of Mishenko's compositions that strikes such a chord with me. Not only is this music that expels itself with reason, on a wider scale it's an orchestral sound that shows maturity by deliberately limiting its content. Whether that be the piano leads, the violin support or even the minute textural accompaniments that criss-cross from time to time, such simplicity still holds itself because of the potential atmospherics that lie in half-light in peripheral view. Like the Arnalds' and the Einaudi's of this World, Misha Mishenko is a musician, and a composer, that plays to the light/dark palette. And though this may not be the warmest or summertime of albums (some may consider this more winter-orientated if a seasonal preference is required), such comparisons only end up irrelevant in contrast to the level of focus and manner of direction music like this keenly aims to present for its listener. The knowledgeable Strákur Sem Spilar Með Vindi is available now through the artist's bandcamp.