Estonia’s Misha Mishajashvili has been releasing music since the turn of the decade, offering a score to the decline of the Soviet Empire. As global conditions grow starker, the artist’s vision grows bleaker. Even so, the fact that his releases tend to fall on the first of the year implies that he still has hope.
2018 is a chronicle of broken things, reminiscent of Road Warrior and mid-90s Laibach. One can picture the artist poking through debris in search of busted boom boxes and splayed turntables. The castles and churches of Tallinn may be an influence, old stones whispering of wars and annexations. Little by little, the capital has attempted to erase its past, but echoes keep seeping through the cracks.
The strength of this release ~ indeed, of all Mishajashvili’s releases ~ is the authenticity of its samples. With sources varying widely from classical to swing, political speech to military march, one feels the weight of the past bearing down. The temptation is great to embrace such sounds as those of strength and solidarity, and to be drawn in this direction as a weakened populace is drawn to an old iron glove. But then one remembers the Gulags and the long, cold winters of war, and fights to gain perspective.
Mishajashvili’s style might be described as industrial plunderphonics, with samples shoved into the red, a possible commentary on the digital era’s insistence on noise over clarity. And yet, under each distorted groove lies a pristine passage, a reminder that something good might yet be salvaged. Bells and choirs rise to the fore in the finale, “последнее дыхание перед падением (The last breath before falling”), a reminder of the nation’s Christian heritage, as well as its highest aspirations. There is sorrow in the singing, but the choir continues to stretch upward, grasping for the stratosphere and fastening its notes in the sky. If they too shall fall, they will have left their mark. (Richard Allen)