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.