Stephan Micus: Darkness And Light (ECM 1427)

 

Stephan Micus
Darkness And Light

Stephan Micus dilruba, guitar, kortholt, suling, ki un ki, ballast-strings, tin whistle, balinese gong, sho
Recorded January/February 1990 at MCM Studios and Studio Giesing, München
Engineer: Tom Batoy

Listening to a Stephan Micus album is always like taking a journey through darkness and light, and so it is no wonder that his fourth album for ECM should bear that very title. The sarangi-like tones of the dilrubi of Part 1 open up a pathway that is indeed by turns bright and shaded. The path is circular, leading forever back to where it began, as if to say, “Birth and death issue from the same step.” From this mouth agape we get the insular sutras of guitar. Its chain of arpeggios carries in its arms a bouquet of memories and rests it in the crook of a tree, where it plays for the sake of Nature. From that whispered cove arises a mermaid holding a bow at the edge of a string. With every splitting of voice we are veiled in deeper solitude. Mournful songs shape a still heart, hanging on to certain threads longer than others. The guitar helps us to nourish ourselves with what remains in its chamber, stenciling the periphery with every pluck and unearthing in the afterlife all that is yet to come. Even in the absence of a bow, we feel our voices continuing to spin novel draws in the ether.

Part 2 takes a rawer approach to the dilrubi, giving rise to the call of the ki un ki, the Siberian cane trumpet pictured on the album’s cover. Played by inhaling, it sounds like a combination between a Theremin, a split and blown grass blade, and an elephant calling out to the cosmos. Part 3 scrapes the edge of darkness on its climb toward a trembling song. A flute cries as if in dialogue, two lovers parted on either side of the Milky Way unifying at last in a hopeful vein, tracing light back to the nebula that birthed them both.

Darkness And Light is as fleeting as its message, transparent as water and betraying its presence only through reflections. Still, its elemental forces sweep us away in the depth of Micus’s human touch, such that when they stop, one feels they might linger forever.

One thought on “Stephan Micus: Darkness And Light (ECM 1427)

  1. Just a little adding to beautiful review…I recognize ECM with this album of the maestro. Then “I took up the runes” from J. Garbarek. and the third, wow, the third was David Darling’s Cycles (it’s the greatest album I ever heard of without any doubt). D&L and of course Cycles made me searching for other ECM works. So it begun. I seriously stepped into ECM territory!
    What “Darkness and Light” did to me was beyond measure. It changed my life, my vision to the world like forever. I wasn’t the same person anymore. Track 1 (Part 1) is my all time favorite. from beginning to end I get goose bumps. When Dilruba came in it’s one of the most beautiful and sensational moments of musical history IMHO. You should hear it yourself. Experience it yourself. Touch it yourself…
    Listening to work of arts of the Stephan Micus need to change your perspective and tuning your heart again for admitting his music deeply.
    Unfortunately I was in a country with big fences around it (Iran) Lots of forbidden elements, so having the CD was so much difficult for me. Few hidden stores at that moment had original CD’s but they have some of Metallica or Pink floyd albums. and they didn’t heard of the name of S. Micus even once. One of my friend (that is composer) had the CD (I heard it there for the first time) and he wrote it for me on a CD. I listened to it like hundred times. Having the original CD pack was a great dream for me at that moment. So it did happened, but so long after!
    Stephan Micus is one of a kind artist between other ECM’s artists. I love all of his works Til the End of Time!

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