Poland’s Lights Dim and the Ukraine’s Endless Melancholy have been busy since they were last reviewed here at ACL, releasing a series of small-run, beautifully designed EPs. (Lights Dim: please make a third edition of Moon!) Each act borders on ambience, but Lights Dim adds a touch of post-rock, while Endless Melancholy verges on modern composition. The two artists have now combined their talents for an EP.
The Soft Steps EP begins by focusing on the piano of Oleksil Sakevych (Endless Melancholy). The first note takes 33 seconds to arrive, entering only after the “Bed of Moss” (actually a bed of electronics) has been made. When light strings enter, we realize that the pianist is not alone. Then Lights Dim (Marek Kaminski) echoes his notes with post-rock guitar, and each performer benefits as a result. Finally, a military drum ~ soft steps, indeed, but confident. “Piano no Mori” (nice pun) adds birdsong, which is obvious but effective. But the album’s highlight is “As They Grow”, which mimics its title by doing just that. The piano is joined first by tender violin, then tentative glockenspiel, then triumphant guitar, leading to a satisfying climax.
This team-up apparently worked so well that Sakevych didn’t want it to end; Epilogue‘s opening track continues the collaboration. Linear Bells, EUS and Creation VI also grace single tracks, lending them additional vitality. Sakevych has learned the value of a fuller sound; as beautiful as his piano may be, it works even better when presented both alone and adorned. We loved the solo Five Songs EP, and two of the tracks appear here in slightly abbreviated versions: the EP’s opener and closer, “We Have Met Before” and “Nostalgia”. “We Have Met Before” now boasts strings in the final minute, which completely changes its trajectory and mood. Both versions are indispensable.
“As the Sun Quietly Sets and the Seashore Falls Asleep” is the most ambitious piece that Sakevych has ever tried, and the title betrays its post-rock ambitions. Bass and drums add depth, and by the ivory switch at 4:27, it sounds more like the work of a band with piano than that of a solo artist. The descent begins only a minute later, but continues until the 8th minute, brave and unexpected. It’s the best track on here, and this experimentation increases our respect for the performer. The guest stars are great (and we suggested such a thing a couple reviews back), but the top story is that Sakevych is stretching his own boundaries as well; to date, all of his decisions have been wise. (Richard Allen)