Two By Mites

Mites is the sobriquet of Grisha Shakhnes, a 32-year old performer from Moscow currently residing in Israel. Due to a singular concurrence, I have received his last pair of outings separately in a week’s span: the juncture looked auspicious for a comparative/cumulative review of the man’s recent production.

Broadly categorized as a field recordist, Shakhnes would maybe prefer to be known as “tape composer”, although there’s no doubt that the specific environments he chooses to utilize – together with the elaboration and combination of the principal characteristics of the tapes he works with (an expanding collection of 150+) – represent the kernel of his music. About the processes and the actual origins of what we hear, Shakhnes is relatively tight-lipped, which this writer appreciates: there’s nothing worse than reading every fart and their place of birth meticulously listed on a cover, thus destroying the listener’s wonder and willingness to stay dumbfounded and deceived by the conveyed moods.

The five titles comprised by the older disc – 2011’s Something To Ponder Upon For A Restless Soul Like You (Mystery Sea) – must inevitably be listened several times before the fluids start moving through the insides of our reactivity’s engine. Avoiding silly “guess what” games, let me just tell you that the panoramas depicted by Mites are peripherally city-bred – the occasional presence of birds notwithstanding – and replete with saturation (both of the very tapes and the mix), permeated by colourless continuums, a fundamental stasis in the overall dynamic level (with rare exceptions) and a special compounding of farawayness and intimacy, which seems to work better with the passage of time. Clandestine patterns and involuntarily canorous phenomena materialize from the fog and, at respectable volume, the brain invents a sort of underwater tribal drum somewhere along the trance. The focus tends to dwindle a bit on the long distance, but one surmises that this is a part of the game, too. And when the soundscape becomes a mere constituent in a momentaneous stage of a day’s transitoriness, its beingness is certainly greeted with favour.

Passing Resemblance (Copy For Your Records) consists of three tracks, the last being a 35-minute semi-quiescent marathon of heterogeneous scenes discontinued by snippets of hush. Though the principles of Shakhnes’ approach to the handling of the matter are au fond analogous, there’s something slightly contrastive here in respect to the preceding opus. The wish of uprooting our aural confidence without explanations remains a requisite in Mites’ silent manifesto. The opening subdivision, for example, lulls into forgetfulness via clattering mantras, bulldozing metropolitan frequencies, hissing pressure and tinkling percussiveness for its entire continuance, then – for no apparent reason – ends with the outgrowth of a freeform steel-string guitar hit and plucked with the intention of extracting harmonics and small noises besides the regular notes. Elsewhere, Middle-Eastern vocal shards – perhaps captured on the radio – appear for a few seconds prior to going away forever, possibly the lone moment of “high-definition humanity” heard throughout the two albums. Again, this is not stuff that one can spin absentmindedly then blank out with a “been-there-done-that” expression: there is a discernible grade of forethought in the grouping of the sequences, even when they come out as protracted sessions of “let’s see what happens” taping. A serious scratch of the skin-deep attitude is all it takes to enjoy recurrent moments of introverted, if noisy brooding scented with damp smogginess and backgrounded by faded black-and-white photographs.

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