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Manos Milonakis – “Festen” Review

Moody textures from the cutting room floor
Manos Milonakis

Manos Milonakis blasted onto my audio radar with his 2016 release Solfar which combined some gorgeous string and piano soundscapes with sci-fi elements. “Festen”, his new album, takes the idea of the organic and the ambient and merges them together beautifully.

The opening rumbles of “Rise” lay the foundation of trembling synths and spacious strings to create a mood piece that allows the beautifully melodic “Dressing” to take you over with its piano and string arrangement. Key to everything is the layering of lots of small motifs that make each track swirl and chime with you. “Lobster Soup” is a great way of describing this as each four bars something is added or altered – be it a new piano line, some plucked strings or just simply the mood of the track itself. It feels like home, but it also feels quite lonely too. However, like a good soup, all the instruments feel warm and wholesome. The piano is thick and soft on each mallet hit, and the strings lush and evoking. Nothing annoys me more than a thin string production of a cosy track and Manos’ production is top-notch.

The album itself is like a palette of sounds and as such are quite varied. “Hide and Seek” is a plucked string and electronica beat piece with some glockenspiel thrown in too – very cinematic. “The Rooms” is cinematic for its suspicious pulsing bass line and clashing string echoes. It’s the perfect tense heist music, where as “Father’s Theme” feels equally cinematic as a patriarchal march to doom. It’s dark chords and sine wave synthesizers play excellently off each other, with the synth sounding like a heart monitor that’s slowly giving up. “Kim – Kristian”  and “The Scoulding” are a quiet duo that work like two sides of a page with the same backing noises and piano structures and along with the xylophone led “Gbatokai” are more mood pieces as they are quite short.

The only track over four minutes long is “Scrubber” and it’s more thriller and horror music with a slight kooky twist as it lumbers, shivers and chills its way into your psyche. It’s a slow burner, as it revolves around a single held shimmering note – but it’s create for creating a mood. “Teddy Bear” keeps that tensions cranked up before “Festen Theme” lets the wrench unwind with a beautiful piece that reminds me of Venice. It’s like a waltzing madness as the strings dance out their tune and the phasing synths switch patterns and octaves in your ear.

Whilst far less immediate than Solfar, this feels like an untold film soundtrack full of mood pieces that can hold your attention. There’s a few pieces that feel like they end too quickly here, or that don’t evolve beyond their initial sequence. As a result, I think people whom enjoy ambient, or minimalist classical music will find more here than those whom are looking for stand out melodies and rich arrangements. However – if you’re looking for some mildly spooky mood pieces – Festen will do you well.

Recommended Track : Dressing

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