Quite frankly, it’s all but impossible for me to go into the idea of reviewing four hours of anyone’s music with a hopeful frame of mind. It’s not that I don’t want to listen to it, it’s just a lot to try to subjectively encapsulate. But after much back and forth with Michael Brückner, a prolific artist who was asking for a review, I ended up with Muzikhala because at the time it was his latest release. (I prefer not to review old/back catalog material.) So what did I get for my four hours (minimum) of listening time?
Let’s talk first about Parts 1 and 3, which are each hour-plus, single-track excursions. They are also where Brückner absolutely shines. (For reference, I have the physical version, where Parts 1 and 3 are their own discs.) Both pieces are symphonic in a way, exhibiting distinct movements which Brückner effortlessly shifts between. “Part 1 (The Aeronaut)” first distinguishes itself with a patient bass line plucking its way across glittering pads and notes and spacey backdrops. The layering here–and throughout–is excellent, with lots of small sounds filling the space. As the piece proceeds, we get world-music percussion and Berlin-style sequencing, all served over Brückner’s consistently well-chilled background flows. (Please examine this with headphones on to appreciate how much is going on.) There’s a great stretch where he dials it back to just his looping beats and some air-thin washes. It’s quietly hypnotic and those beats just fill your head. The bass returns in the final movement, along with vocoder, some big spacemusic pads, and, because Brückner apparently wants to leave no classic EM element behind, synth flute.
“Part 3 (The Rift)” opens dark and spacey, with long drones and an air of tension. As it moves toward a Jarre/Berlin School vibe, it does go a touch over the top with the science fiction flavor–lots of whooshes and the pew pew of lasers–but at least Brückner is getting the nostalgia factor right. He guides us back into a bass-led zone, again surrounded with windy pads and touches of piano. Then it’s into a long old-school movement with the springy bounce of bass sequencer matched with high lines in intersecting geometries. A length of deep ambient follows, the best of which rests on a long bass drone threading its way through your consciousness.
Between all this, Brückner places several mid-length pieces, including “Part 2 (The City Planners).” Although they initially came from unrelated projects, some carry echoes of the long pieces, like the percussive drive that gives way to pads in “Bem Betel.” Speaking of which, percussion fans will latch onto “The Vishmoor Incident,” a high-paced piece reminiscent of Steve Roach’s Fever Dreams. Humid grooves and unrelenting velocity make it a highlight of this portion of the journey. The drum pads get another workout on “Part 2,” tribal slamming and flairs laid over a bass line and a thick atmospheric backdrop. “Drowning” provides more rich sequencer work and hefty chords for another dose of pure spacemusic.
There’s obviously a lot going on in a three-album release and it’s not easy to keep up consistent quality and cohesive ideas over such a stretch, but I think Muzikhala manages it. The middle section is the comparatively weakest. I’m not sure it entirely needed to be included. The long-form pieces are so strong, they could have stood on their own. At that, I think that Part 1 is by far the best offering here. The way Brückner spools out his story, his seamless transitions, and just how damn good everything is on that piece–it’s a fantastic listen. While I don’t think I’ll ever have cause to commit to four hours of listening to Muzikhala in one go ever again, at least now I know that it’s worth coming back to.
Available from Bandcamp.