Spotlight Album Review

 

Abracadabra
by Milana Zilnik

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Abracadabra by Milana Zilkik

The cool breezes have already started to blow in the northeastern U.S. and the leaves are starting to let go their grip on the limbs they have clung to since the spring and slowly drift to the ground in ever increasing numbers. As we enter October, we know that come the 31st is a holiday that many of us look forward to every year but this year thereís another reason to look forward to October 31st and thatís the release of Abracadabra by Milana Zilnik. As you might remember we reviewed Milanaís last album called Notte here on CEV back in May of 2019. We are pleased to see that she will soon be releasing another an enchanting album and what more appropriate time to release an album called Abracadabra than on Halloween 2020.

About a year and half ago Milana bought a Hang drum and started to work with it to get a feel for how it would fit into the overall flow of her musical compositions. At first Milana was going to do a whole album based around the Hang drum but at a suggestion of her husband they decided instead to build the new compositions around the Hang drum, Milanaís piano playing, vocals and a cello and thus was Abracadabra born.  I must say that the combination of these particular instruments creates a unique sound palette that shifts and swirls around you as the compositions beckon you to let go of your mundane surroundings for the remainder of the album and find the magic within yourself.

From the very first chords of the song called Time which marks the beginning of the album a door is opened in front of the listener and the listener is beckoned to walk into a world of shadows, softly glowing candles and mystery. With each subsequent composition on this album Milana escorts the listener through this strange and haunting environment as the songs add form & substance to this mysterious world.

 

Before long the listener will find themselves fully immersed in this environment while the music is continually compelling them forward. Step further into the darkness. 

Fittingly the album consists of 13 tracks with titles that certainly fit the time of year when it will be released. Abracadabra, Behind the Mirror, Enchantment, Spirito Incantato, Witchcraft and Alchemy.

 

I very much enjoyed the flow of this album and it was apparent that much thought had been put into keeping the theme flowing from one track to the next. For the most part the music is dark and shadowy in keeping with the overall theme of the album but in a comforting way rather than a feeling of dread. Sort of like walking through the woods and enjoying the diffused tones of light that reach the forest floor and the silence that seems to surround you while you are there. In that same way the music never creates a feeling of anxiousness about being alone but instead allows you to reach out with your senses to connect with the darkness and receive its message. Milanaís music gives you that same feeling. As you begin to listen you know at once that the compositions are slower moving and firmly set in a darker space but itís a space that charms the listener as it creates a sonic landscape that goes beyond the boundaries of light and wraps the listener in a warm blanket of nighttime shadows.

Oftentimes music leads you in new directions and this album certainly does that. Milana is able to move from doing an album that is relatively ambient piano work (Notte) to creating this wonderful album of darkness and shadows with a touch of mystery that evokes images that are at once both mystical and haunting. It is so very obvious that the music flows out of Milanaís heart as she musically explores the shadows that make up all of our lives in one way or another. Abracadabra isan exceptional album that will take the listener off the beaten path on a journey of exploration into shadow-encased realms that will leave them wondering about the things lurking at the edges of their vision around midnight.  But donít worry youíll be perfectly safe. I hope. 

The album is an impressive effort from Milana who composed and produced the album along with Arty Sandler and the recording quality is top notch. This collection of songs has allowed Milana to explore her new Hang drum and it has also allowed her to create a collection of songs that makes for some great listening regardless of what season you may find yourself in. Itís a perfect blending of the instruments that were chosen for this project and it shines a very bright spotlight on the talents of Milanaís piano playing & her voice which can be heard solo on four of the tracks with one track featuring her in unison with Alexa Rayís vocals.

 

I very much enjoyed the flow of this album and it was apparent that much thought had been put into keeping the theme flowing from one track to the next. For the most part the music is dark and shadowy in keeping with the overall theme of the album but in a comforting way rather than a feeling of dread. Sort of like walking through the woods and enjoying the diffused tones of light that reach the forest floor and the silence that seems to surround you while you are there. In that same way the music never creates a feeling of anxiousness about being alone but instead allows you to reach out with your senses to connect with the darkness and receive its message. Milanaís music gives you that same feeling. As you begin to listen you know at once that the compositions are slower moving and firmly set in a darker space but itís a space that charms the listener as it creates a sonic landscape that goes beyond the boundaries of light and wraps the listener in a warm blanket of nighttime shadows.

The album also features vocalist Alexa Rayís voice which creates an ethereal atmosphere that adds a richness to the already interesting storytelling of these 13 songs. Phil DiMercurioís (aka PdubJamz) skilled handling of drums and percussion acts as a foundation for the music to grow from and becomes a sonic delight that should please most listeners. And finally, what better way to explore the some of the dark undercurrents of this music than through the cello.

Cellist Yoed Nir bringshis obvious talents to bear on this task through his emotional playing and adds his sonic brushstrokes to the sound palette of Abracadabra making it that much more enjoyable.   

Albums like Abracadabra show that unless a musician is doing everything from start to finish themselves the project requires some help to take an artistic vision and bring it fully realized into a form that eventually we all can enjoy. Besides the artists themselves there are others who played a role in making this album possible like Erik Fredriksen who mixed it, Steven Vagovics who mastered it and the first thing you see about any new album is the cover which in this case was done by Anastasia Frenkel. And when everyone is in sync and works together then something like Abracadabra comes about which would not be the same if any of the foundational components were left out or changed. So, this Halloween why not put some Abracadabra in your trick or treat bag and enjoy the shadowy images that these songs evoke in your mind over and over again throughout the year. Turn the lights down low. Light a candle and let the adventure begin. Recommended by Cutting Edge Voices. 

 Reviewed by Michael Foster, editor Cutting Edge Voices