CD (ltd. 500)
The debut CD by Mira Drevo "Heavens of Lakes" is composed after journeys around the Ladoga Lake on the shore of which lives the author of this project - Skald, a philosophy teacher and master of handmade ceramics of medieval design. Skald has been seriously involved in making music since 2003 and after long musical and ideological transformations he came up with the balanced combination of tradition, contemplativeness and rituality in his compositions. Using a vast palette of electronic and acoustic instruments - synthesizers, field recordings, samples, winds, mouth harp and guitar - he draws the atmosphere of this beautiful place of power.
Views of Ladoga are also captured in the graphic illustrations of Valentina Mustajarvi accompanying the audio recordings. Peering into the vast of the lake and skerries, listening to musical pictures, one can almost feel the breath of free Ladoga winds, as sounds of its waters reflect in one's mind with shimmering images of Karelian nature… Unvaried are seas and oceans in their appearance therefore their view is always archaic. And Ladoga is called a freshwater sea for a good reason, as like a sea it can be severe and stormy. The Nevo Sea, it was called by ancient traveling merchants. Mira Drevo echoes through time with age-old observers of smooth waterscapes, it sings its heart-felt song, and Skald, imbued by Ladoga water, narrates these sonorous tales to us…
I thought for a while before typing the word ‘Folk’ into the genre list for this album for two reasons. First, the genre description is always elusive and vague (unless a certain project is 100% into one specific genre only), and second – There are no folk songs in this album, no songs at all, to be precise and no folk music as well. But there is a reason for my decision, of course, and I will explain it.
Mira Drevo is a project by Skald, a philosophy teacher which centered “Heavens of lakes” on the Ladoga Lake which lies near to his home. The eight tracks, all instrumental and rich with a wide variety of building blocks, from field recordings to winds, harps and synthesizers, stretch out a soundtrack for the exact place and frame of mind of the artist. As the archaic spirit of the geographic place itself mixes with the ambient sounds and different musical compositions by the different instruments, a wonderful phenomenon occurs as new unexpected sounds and feelings surface. Through the almost new age music on ‘Spaces’, for instance, there is a sudden realization of ancient and traditional feeling to the music and I can imagine how I am actually hearing, from the music compositions by Skald, a traditional urfolk ceremony. I can imagine I am actually visiting that lake by the sound waves, and it’s a touching feeling.
Zhelezobeton never misses with the albums it releases, and Mira Drevo is certainly another great album in its arsenal of justified, well made music. And let me just say that this album is limited to 500 copies, so those who run in the fields of this sort of musical stories should act fast.
Mira Drevo aka: Skald composed this release after becoming inspired on his many travels around Ladoga Lake where he resides. Utilising a varying degree of instrumentation from field recordings to synthesizers and organic instrumentation, he has produced breathing and melodic interpretations of naturist intent.
‘Heavens of Lakes’ pretty much is what it says on the tin so to speak. Skald has a formula and stuck to it religiously. Thing is, whilst seven minutes is an appropriate time for a good ambient track, this opening gambit felt like it was going on for an eternity, with a tendency to linger too much on the same tack.
The rest of this album, whilst effectively produced lacks variety. The same synth sound is used throughout, with varying degrees of tantric intersections that do little to vary the overall mix enough. This is a real shame because initial ideas that the artist seemed to utilise on track one (I can’t understand the track titles as they’re not in English-no biggy though) seems to have been replayed over and over again. I understand that this is Skald’s own personal utopia to dwell in and I can feel his catharsis. However, there is little on this release to let others in and in turn this becomes a solitary journey where you feel you are the invader, as opposed to the invited.
Mira Drevo is a project set up by Skald, a philosophy teacher, master of handmade ceramics of medieval design and a musician as well. The title of this 1st album directly refers to the concept of the work. Skald spent a lot of time on the shores of Ladoga Lake where this artist of this project lives.
The main theme all over the album is water. Every single track features water noises, which also indicates a part of Mira Drevo’s formula of using field recordings. Next to this experimental-minded way of working, he also used an arsenal of electronic and acoustic instruments.
The aquatic noises emerging from the work are joined by mysterious atmospheres of darkness, and can also walk on more relaxing paths that sometimes are quite new-age minded. Skald added a multitude of sounds, which don’t necessary have anything in common with water and lakes. Seagulls are more appropriated to the theme, but church bells are not exactly the kind of sound you would expect in front of a lake. The use of enigmatic sounds like a didgeridoo simply accentuates the mysterious side of this work. This way the theme of the album becomes quite enigmatic and sometimes a bit scary.
A few more songs move closer to pure experimental fields, but always surrounded by aquatic noises. “Heaven Of Lakes” often sounds as the right soundtrack for a thriller or even horror movie. The work is fully accomplished and reveals an interesting artist.
Conclusion: “Heaven Of Lakes” is a fascinating experience featuring a different kind of ambient music.
The debut of Mira Drevo, hailing from the Ladoga Karelia part of Russia, is amazingly perfected ambient full of small tones. Its sounds are slightly thin, yet permeated by a strange sense of warmth. The whole is further refined by use of backgrounds that fill up with tiny sounds, as well as with rhythms that have been used periodically, extremely well. The production quality is furthermore exemplary - the disc functions just as well on earphones, big loudspeakers and a cheap car stereo (the last of which was actually for me the best, as it was combined with a snowstorm on a pitch-black highway, creating a perfect backdrop for the music). The combination of machines and acoustic instruments is flawless throughout. From the same label, Mira Drevo brings to mind Eonic, especially due to certain ethno and new age influences, but it is far more harmonious. Heavens of Lakes is really successful, light-ish dark ambient every part of which is good, but where especially Ладога still rises above the others. One can only hope that Skald, the artist behind the project, will continue as strong in the future.
Exquisite, lightly rhythmic ambient with lots of extremely well selected spices. One of the very best albums of 2012, no doubt about it.