2020 / Silent Beat Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Abracadabra is the third 2020 release from Milana Zilnik following Fiori 1 and 2. Milana and her producer-husband Artyom Tchebotaryov have to be two of the most creative people in the music industry, constantly moving in new directions and exploring new musical territory. Milana’s last few albums have been solo piano, but Abracadabra is a mix of hang drum (hand pan), piano, vocals and cello. An interesting combination, right? You bet it is! Mysterious and magical, the concept for the album revolves around Milana and Arty’s purchase of a hang drum in early 2019. Most of these instruments are pentatonic, but Milana wanted one with a full scale. (It turns out that the maker, who goes by WidJana, is from the Ukrainian town where Milana was born, but she didn’t know that until after they bought the drum!) After composing a couple of the pieces, Milana and Arty decided to pause and write a storyline for the album, as they have done with some of Milana’s more recent projects. As the title suggests, the story involves a magical journey. This one goes behind the mirror where they face challenges, magical encounters, enchantment, witchcraft, alchemy and then a return to normal life. The artists on the album are Milana on piano, hang drum and some of the vocals; Phil DiMercurio on drums and additional percussion; Yoed Nir on cello; and Canadian singer/songwriter Alexa Ray provides the vocalizations on most of the thirteen tracks.
Abracadabra opens with “Time,” referring to the decision to embark the journey. Darkly mysterious and seductive, it’s an intriguing start! “Journey” begins the adventure with feelings of determination and moving forward; the hang drum injects a bit of exotic flavor to the mix. Every magical journey begins with a magical word, and “Abracadabra” is it. Sometimes light and playful, but mostly dark and mysterious - even a little spooky at times - there is no turning back now! The drum is very effective near the end of the piece and feels like a rapidly-beating heart. Soon, we find ourselves in the magical land “Behind the Mirror” and cautiously start looking around. Upbeat and more on the jazz side of the musical spectrum, “Encounters” and “Enchantment” feature Milana’s vocalizations along with the other instrumentation - the cello is especially playful on “Encounters”! “Lost and Found” is a favorite and reflects on what was lost from “normal” life and what was found behind the mirror. Deeply emotional and almost mournful, it’s a powerful and affecting piece. “Enchantment” is much lighter and more buoyant. “Spirito Incantato” is the first in a triptych of pieces about feeling empowered to change the world by bringing the “Enchanted Spirit” to life using “Witchcraft” and “Alchemy.” Again, very dark, mysterious and more than a little scary, it's no wonder this album is being released right before Halloween! “Returning” brings us back to “normal” life with a mix of nostalgia and sadness for what was left behind, but also joy in what we brought back with us and how we were changed by the experience.
Abracadabra can be the soundtrack to your own mystical adventure, but it’s also terrific to listen to for its own sake! The album is available on Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music, Bandcamp and Spotify. For some music that’s really different, this is a great choice!
October 13, 2020
with Stephan Beneking