Review: Mike Majkowski – Bright Astonishment Of The Night

Mike Majkowski - Bright Astonishment Of The NightI hear the room emerge. I hear the double bass emerge. Over the course of an hour (divided into two long-form pieces), Mike Majkowski traces an image with sound alone. As each tone swells into wooden chamber of his instrument, or splashes gracefully against the walls of the studio, I learn more about the space and its inhabitants: the bright, buoyantly reflective surfaces of the room, the luxurious warmth and elegant shape of the double bass, the generous emptiness that cradles Majkowski on each side. His execution is deliberately simple, centring on a handful of gestures (sleek strands of bowed string, vigorous thumbed pizzicato notes, flurries of tremolo) that ripple through the air and surge gently through solid material. After each gesture Majkowski waits patiently for the decay to subside, examining the way the sound blooms as promptly recedes. During these moments – when Majkowski and his instrument have ceased moving – I feel a strange kinship. We both sit in curious stillness. We both just listen.

One thing becomes increasingly clear throughout Bright Astonishment Of The Night: the instrument is beautiful. In fact, Majkowski’s gestures are merely the point of musical instigation, or the first domino to be pushed – each slide of the bow triggers a cascade of overtones and internal resonances, colliding and subdividing into a chorus of refracted vibration. Each time he connects with the instrument I hear this hidden world in greater detail, leaning further into the forks of frequency and encountering yet more, gradually approaching a zoomed, microbial perspective of Majkowski’s acoustic setting. In fact, I find myself so fixated on the construct of individual gestures that I almost neglect to acknowledge the beautiful surface-level harmonies that run through the second of these two pieces: the wide smiles of major key, the asymmetric dissonances, the cycles of harmonic tension and relief. It’s a rich and thoroughly three-dimensional work.