Above: A slice of the EP’s cover, featuring art by Xala Ramesar and Cass’Moshe Centeno.
A review of Weird Sounds by Mikhail Gibbings by Mark Lyndersay. Originally published in Sunday Newsday, November 18, 2018
Across four spectral, tightly orchestrated tracks, Mikhail Gibbings, a young musician releasing his first collection of music, Weird Sounds, offers up a surprisingly mature, coherently concieved quartet of instrumentals.
Gibbings produced the EP with creative partner Adrian Kong, recording the songs in, as he described it, “different rooms of a house.”
“The whole thing was constructed very cinematically,” Gibbings explained.
“Every song was made to represent a scene that was in my mind when I heard the first sound or if I heard something outside or if I was feeling something at the time.”
“One of the songs was recorded entirely in a shower, and it was very, very, very logistically difficult, I may have gone too far.”
The first track on the album is Ugly Pretty, which opens with a surreal solo saxophone riff, by Kong, introducing a measured rhythmic lockstep of bass and percussion, over which Gibbings layers shimmering guitar fills.
There’s no way you can listen to the track without thinking of it in visual terms, which is no accident.
“Each song on the album was written to emulate a moment in a short film,” said Gibbings, “like a sonic retelling of a visual scene.”
Ugly Pretty was written and recorded while the National Geographic channel played mutely in the background of the session.
Gibbings plays most of the music on the album, layering bass and guitar with synth effects and sample passages in software.
Not even a song like a legit cry for help, the third track, was written to visualise a short screenplay that Gibbings wrote for the project.
“The climax took place in a cave, so to emulate the environment of the piece as closely as I could; I recorded the entire song in a small shower in complete darkness.”
Gibbings is a graduate of UWI’s Film School, and by way of full disclosure, I should mention that the lanky young man, with his shock of fluffy afro hair, was a student of mine for a semester there, producing a well-received collection of photographs exploring his father’s obsession with oysters.
It’s not surprising to me, at least, that he would filter his music through a visual lens, seeing a landscape before creating an audio environment.
Kong and Gibbings recorded 15 songs in the project, which suggests a rather large house for their explorations, but the final collection is the four works that the producing pair decided worked most coherently together.
The EP is being made available free of charge from November 17 across a range of download and streaming platforms, including SoundCloud, Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, YouTube and Amazon Music.
But the album is anything but weird to anyone who has explored the intersection between atmospheric jazz and experimental rock music.
For me, the album has a straight line connection to the probing work of the later efforts of the prog-rock band King Crimson and the solo work of its guitarist, Adrian Belew.
With a runtime of just eleven minutes and 35 seconds, I could express irritation that there isn’t more, but as a taster of the thinking behind Gibbings’ work, it stokes curiosity about both the cinema and the other music he’s conceptualised with Kong.
I, for one, am keen to see and hear more.
Musicians and production
i am very very very sad
not even a song like a legit cry for help
Mark Lyndersay is a photographer and writer living and working in Trinidad and Tobago.