Matmos and Hauschka had a baby.
Returning with his new album ‘Surrender’, Dmitry Evgrafov expands his musical palette wider and more obscurer than ever before. This, his fourth album to date takes the initial trapping of a piano – or indeed a prepared piano – and places it alongside all manner of synths, sound samples, drums and an eight-piece string orchestra. The beauty is in its boundful journey and Dmitry covers ground at speed with large leaps between tracks.
‘Splinter’ opens the album placing the piano into a kind of modulated arpeggio setting. It spirals and contorts in a beautiful and elegant manner before drums, glockenspiel and strings leap in. It sounds closer to a GoGo Penguin or Glass Museum piece than contemporary classical at times and it is sumptuous. That elegance turns to icy cold precision with the Russian flavoured ‘Sparkle’. It is the same instruments but giving a more militant and blazing rendition with some clever chord changes to give it a curious feel. After the subdued and warm ‘Whirl’ – we spiral off into the world of crazed synths.
‘Context’ is a maddening experimental play on stretching bass notes over thudding electronic noise bursts and clipped drums. It feels like space and time are collapsing in on itself and is both cinematic and evocative. This crashes into the eerie ‘Anthropocene’ that brings out choral sci-fi drones from both voice and synth. After the song rubberbands back on itself, it switches gears to a tech-noir cyberpunk synth soundscape before breaking back into its creepy choral setting. It sounds barmy but it makes absolute sense as the soft prepared piano returns to soak up the drones.
‘Stymie’ shift gears again by playing with Asian instruments and letting them bend and twist back and forth. Vinyl spits and radio frequencies scatter around behind it as creepy electric pianos channel music boxes chimes tiny notes. Then on occasion, like a tape chewing up – the track speeds up like a harp glissando and then returns. It is utterly captivating in how creepy and beautiful it is. ‘Humble in Heart’ switches out the instruments for piano and chopped up vocal samples for similar but sadder feel. Then in bounds strings and marimba’s to create a euphoric yet ever curious finale that lifts you up.
The final third of the album transitions into much more melancholy and tranquil pieces. ‘Rural Song’ reminds me of Rural Japan with its string sheen. The up-close microphones on ‘N.510’ lets you hear the velvet of the piano in its glory. ‘Endless’ is a soothing ripple of piano, xylophone, strings, harp and synths. Not quite a drone but not quite a tune either, it truly does sound like its name. Its understated epic nature is beautiful and you could pair it up with footage of the animal kingdom and nature for a powerful documentary. In a similar vein ‘Serene Air’ is light and breezy (pun intended) and reminds me of the fantastic game soundtrack of ‘The Gardens Between’ which carries the same nostalgic and whimsical quality. ‘Far and Close’ is a meditative ticking piano piece where the lower notes are played from a distance and singular higher octave notes are played closer to the ear.
Dmitry Evgrafov created ‘Surrender’ is many different ways. The early part of the album asks you to surrender to the beauty and wonder of it all. The middle section is more of a menacing surrender. The final third is more of a peaceful surrender. It is an excellent journey and easily my favourite Evgrafov album to date. This is the kind of journey that should be a poster child for expressive contemporary classical music.
Recommended track: Anthropocene
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