When receiving a package from Fluid Audio, the first thing one notices is the scent. These releases smell like a fresh forest field, and often contain tiny dried flowers as well. The next thing one does is to lay the contents across a table or couch. One can see the contents of this set in the photo to the left. My copy includes a softcover version of Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol; more on this later. Yet all of this would be only eye candy without solid music. While the packaging is the entry point, the sounds of Kirill Nikolai are the highlight.
The press release calls these pieces “requiems for the heart.” We can hear why. These compositions are as careful as a person approaching an injured cat. They build gently, slowly, in waves. While each possesses an unshakable forward motion, none can be rushed. The strings hold back until their time, but when they bloom, they reach the deepest portions of the heart: fissures, wounds, regrets. Perhaps when such cracks and chasms are exposed, healing may leak in. There’s certainly an intense calm to be found here, a sense of sitting still while the crazy world slows down. Imagine a gentle friend, speaking in low tones, bringing a person down from a panic attack; or a horse whisperer, lying patiently in a field. Best of all, imagine a day in which all of the chores have been done, the bills paid, and finally one can watch a sunset or pause to enjoy a murmuration.
The literary angle is important, as it reflects the use of time. It has been reported that most Americans read no more than one book a year, while watching an average of four hours of television a day. Is it any surprise, given this fact alone, that our society is stressed to the limit? I’m an avid reader, but in the morning that Letting Go Variations arrived, I had just depleted my pile of new books. In Wilde I found familiar words, now in new context:
Some love too little, some too long;
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.
When one has no books, and beauty arrives in the mail, the timing seems serendipitous. To read poetry and to listen to Kirill Nikolai is to let go of the world and all of its outer confusion: to seek for answers within and above. Late in the album – nine minutes into “Ellie’s Theme”, on the 2nd CD3″ – piano keys strike with a sudden epiphany. This is how we were meant to live, in harmony with the physical, intellectual and spiritual worlds. We need not suffer such dissonance. Nikolai’s work is a reminder of the peace that awaits, if only we will forge the time to find it. (Richard Allen)