Scene and Heard – CCCII : Underground –  Mikäel (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Namnls_design5Some music is bombastic and out going, full of vim and vigour, getting the message across by being up close and personal. And that’s fine, it gets the job done, after a fashion, but the cliched adage of less is more is still being repeated for a very good reason. Cliches are cliches because they are true and Mikäel is an artist who proves that you can sometimes do a lot more, make a lot more of an impact, by carefully cutting your sonic cloth. And that is what is so great about his debut single Underground, the fact that it builds its musical platforms and dynamic highs, lofty sonic peaks and acoustic crescendos not by powering through or laying the music on thick and fast, but by choosing just the right few notes, the right pauses and more importantly, the right spaces, to make the most impact.

It’s a song which is created just as much by the breath between the lyrics, the silence between notes, the atmosphere and anticipation created by music fading into nothingness, of restraint and understatement as by what is actually being played. But that is not to say that the song is some sort of ethereal, dream-pop. Whilst it has such elements to it, it also mixes in slow pop back-beats, distant rock guitars, sweeping and dramatic strings, and dulcet, soft and subdued vocals. It is a pop ballad more than anything but one that breaks through generic boundaries on all sides to wander and revel in the sounds of other musical styles.

Underground is confident enough in its own skin to take its time, which enjoys restraint and underplay. It is a song built around space, carefully crafted sounds creating a sonic wake as it builds ambient landscapes of meditative post-pop. It is also a song you could describe as unique, and beautiful, haunting, ambient and otherworldly, built through seamless and graceful musical lines and leaves the listener to join dots. This is music as suggestion rather than direction, neither leading nor following but happier to follow its own meandering instincts.

On the one hand it is an unobtrusive song, one which can sit in the background late at night or maybe just as a mood enhancer but once you begin to immerse yourself into just how wonderfully emotive and heartfelt it is you will realise that you have uncovered a real gem. It may not sparkle as brightly and obviously as some you may have seen but you will find yourself gazing into the myriad of subtle, shifting colours at its heart for years to come.

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