Mikhail

Orphica

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Having partially made his name with an appearance on a Björk remix album project, Mikhail Karikis, who goes by only his first name, creates an often-astonishing debut album with Orphica -- at once a reinterpretation of Greek mythic tropes and the kind of elegantly unsettled art rock that draws less on well-known male artists and more on strong female performers. That may seem obvious given the Björk connection, but Orphica quite strikingly acts as a model for how a male artist can interpret the fluid, unique arrangements of musicians such as Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson, not to mention any number of their artistic descendants worldwide. As a result, Mikhail's work is hard to draw an exact bead on, with his work suggesting the soundtrack to a movie that ranges from Balkan medieval dances to crumbling technological overload, often within the space of the same song. His equally theatrical vocals, with gasps, sudden aggression, and a mournful keen rarely heard outside of performers such as Eyeless in Gaza's Martyn Bates, add to the unsettling effect, and as a result Orphica is an album that rewards careful attention and repeated listening -- what seems to make sense at one point later seems strange and alien again in context. Songs such as "Maenads," with its sudden rhythm shift and shivering string interjections, and the swirling glitch attack of the almost aptly titled "Mythical Laboratory" are fine highlights, but the album is best appreciated as a whole. If a song has to be picked, though, then "Argonautica," with its overdubbed choirs, swooping notes, and strong rhythmic hits -- all designed to maximize the drama of an already melodramatic piece -- might have to be it. Orphica is a singular debut by a talented performer, and the future looks promising.

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