SiJ, Way to Dream

sij_wtdLet me say that I do enjoy SiJ’s Way to Dream. Or, I try to enjoy it when it’s not busy drenching me in theme.  There’s a lot of water sounds, nature sounds, various clatters and thumps and maybe some rain on the roof type things, and in among a fairly relentless assault of them, Vladislav Sikach tucks in some piano work and soft ambient passages. He imports an impressive number of sound sources (which he refers to as “provided materials”) that range from duduk and singing bows to dumbek and singing glass. For me, if some of the atmospherics had been judiciously left off, Way to Dream would be a much more immersive album. The piano can get a little overly melodramatic in places, but when it’s dialed down, it’s beautiful and moving. The easy lilt of “Birth of Life” makes me want more like it, a track where subtlety takes the lead. Chords sing softly, a light tap of percussion slips in, and a great wobbling sound like didgeridoo bounces around the background weaving an ear-catching texture. It’s a track that lets you really appreciate Sikach’s use of small sounds and layering. “A Night Like This Will Never Come Again in Your Life” has a similar effect, but its emotional core is bigger and more direct. The piano on this piece—which gives off the sharp twang of a harpsichord—plays out a very slow melody, low left-hand notes landing with percussive force. Once again, Sikach loads the environment with some field recordings, but they’re kept low and light, which is not always the case here. The closing track, “Deep in Dreams,” features the flowing lines of the dudek from Ilya Fursov. (I assume this is what I’m hearing, since Sikach’s lengthy indicia on his Bandcamp page shows no other kind of reed instrument.) I’m pulled in by the twisting lines and the simple construction, and when this piece slips down to a field recording of crickets to close the album, it makes sense.

I am all for theme. I am all for using natural sounds in your work. But letting either of those things overpower the music can feel like a mistake. Way to Dream is a hit-or-miss outing for me. Where it’s not overladen with theme or delving into too much melodrama, I quite like it. Its quietest moments are engaging and deep. But it’s an album where I’ll pick and choose what pieces I listen to. Well worth checking out.

Available from Bandcamp.

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