Manos Milonakis: Zyklon
Manos Milonakis

Eight years ago, a review of Every Night Dreams by Your Hand in Mine, an outfit from Thessaloniki, Greece featuring Manos Milonakis and George Papadupoulos, appeared at textura. At the time, we reported that the recording could either be appreciated as a stand-alone set of transporting vignettes or as it was designed, a musical accompaniment to Mikio Naruse's 1933 silent film Yogoto No Yume. Something much the same might be said of Zyklon, an original score by the now-solo Milonakis for Thanassis Triaridis's theatrical play Zyklon or the destiny. Once again, the music sounds fine on its own terms, though it's more likely the case that it holds up best when experienced in its full audio-visual form. Admittedly that's a guess on my part, as without having seen the play I can only presume the score assumes a more cohesive form when the live action's presented alongside it.

Milonakis brings his training in classical piano and music theory as well as proficiency on an impressive array of instruments to the project. The composer, who's credited with piano, glockenspiel, melodica, music box, and synthesizers, is augmented by a small number of voice contributors (Konstantinos Gavalas, Ioanna Payiataki) and string players (violinists Thanassis Karipidis and Elisso Papastrati, cellist Thodoris Papadimitriou).

At twenty-five minutes, Zyklon is more EP than full album; its settings are elegant vignettes, often electro-acoustic in nature and dramatic in mood, whose evocative arrangements draw on piano, strings, percussion, sound treatments, and field recordings for the sound design. Even in the absence of visual clarification, a setting such as “The Gas Room” exudes a powerful foreboding character in its pulsating, synthesizer-heavy presentation. A couple of pieces sound like they could have come from an Eleni Karandrou soundtrack (“La Forza Del Destino”) or Pedro Almodóvar film (“Giardini Di Boboli”), a factor that also contributes to the recording's occasional feeling of disunity.

Based on a melody from a Verdi overture, “La Forza Del Destino” makes a strong impression in presenting a mournful tapestry of melodic, strings, and glockenspiel, as does “The Desperation of Your Eyes” in hewing to an uncluttered arrangement of piano and strings. Tellingly, it's the closing piece, “Zyklon Main Theme,” that impresses most for the way it weaves together a number of strands and motifs that surface in the pieces leading up to it. Milonakis's gifts as a composer and arranger are never showcased better than they are here, and it's maybe no coincidence that Zyklon's most memorable piece is also its longest; on this recording, the more time a setting is given to develop, the greater its impact.

April 2016