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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Mike Majkowski - Days and Other Days (Astral Spirits, 2017) ***½

By Eyal Hareuveni

Australian, Berlin-based double bass player Mike Majkowski is known as a resourceful and varied improviser. His musical spectrum includes collaborations with Ethiopian keyboards player Hailu Mergia, free improvised sessions with fellow-Australian drummer Tony Buck, pianist Chris Abrahams (both of The Necks) and violinist Jon Rose, and his trio Lotto (with Polish guitarist Lukasz Rychlicki and drummer Pawel Szpura) which explores the outer borders of free-improv, country music and noise rock.

Majkowski is also known for his love for the the solo format. The limited-edition Days and Other Days - a run of 300 LPs plus download option, is his seventh solo release since 2009. It was recorded in Berlin throughout four months at the beginning of 2016 and mastered by Australian sound artist Lawrence English, and like Majkowski's other recent solo projects it is no longer focused on the double bass. Majkowski alternates here on analog synthesizer, percussion, piano, vibes - none of these instruments are played - or, more accurately, employed - in any conventional manner, rather they are samples and field recordings. This album deepens Majkowski's exploration of the intersection between the acoustic instruments and the electronic sounds.

Days and Other Days, like Majkowski's other solo projects, suggests a distinct ambiance. It is divided between four dark and chilly electro-acoustic drones, all insisting on investigating methodically repetitive patterns, the subtle sculpting of fragile textures with only minute oscillations and mutations of the frequencies, as well as an exploration of the resonant timbral qualities of the acoustic instruments.

These detailed soundscapes have an enigmatic, disarming quality. Patiently they alter your sense of time and space and embrace you with their modest, minimalist textures, dissonant sounds and quiet noises. This sensation is experienced better on the second side, with the part meditative, part cinematic “Matter”, and the last, short “Growth”, that offers some rays of hope beyond the dark atmosphere.

These soundscapes may sound as a comment about our daily soundtracks, busy with countless distracting noises and rarely, if ever, deriving pleasure from silence, total silence. Days and Other Days just deconstructs these daily sonic phenomena into slow and sustained, microscopic practicals. It allows us to experience these elements anew and appreciate again the way we listen and sense sounds at all.