By Nickolas Mohanna and Olli Aarni
This April, Preservation have added two new releases to their catalogue – Mantis by Brooklyn-based musician Nickolas Mohanna and Muovia by Finland’s Olli Aarni.
Nickolas Mohanna primarily works within synth modulation, but the New York musician adds a generous range of acoustic instruments to his music, nestling beside and behind the synths. Zithers, a bowed acoustic guitar, cymbals and bells are all featured, as are various objects found on the streets of New York. And New York City breathes through and out of the music; the synths are busy and hustling, every synth a new avenue or street to explore. They diverge at the end of the block, snaking around the corners. Traffic lights stop and start, pulsing in and out; walk, don’t walk.
The afternoon stretches out before the music, its generally bright sound glinting in the weak sun, its sky muted and made pale by heavy, elephantine clouds. The synths start to take shape, and like a subway train they roll through the city at quicker (although they’re not exactly fierce or burning) speeds. When the other instruments enter the mix the synths drop out, leaving a swirling vortex behind. The other tones and timbres slowly inflate to fill the sparser vacuum. The synths hang around in the background, though, and they’re never gone for long. The incisive tones are capable of cutting and dividing up the music, but contrasting this, a series of smooth, muted notes breezes out of an afternoon jazz club, softening the track. This doesn’t last long, either. Mantis shifts between the experimental and the ephemerality of daily life, of transitory meditations on mindfulness that are sucked into the beating heart of a thriving, 24/7 city.
Bleeding into one another, the tracks lightly rattle with sweeping, cymbal-led interludes and chiming bells reminiscent of far-away gongs specifically used for meditation and daily chanting. They tickle the side of the notes, barely grazing the music. ‘Silver Theme’ has a floating synth that climbs to a decent altitude. The night covers the city as a darker, crackling drone walks underneath the bridge of a tired piano, and the intermittent sounds by the side of the road cover the boroughs in black cloth.
Muovia is the Finnish word for ‘plastic’. Similarly, his music has some degree of artificiality to it, lying there in its open, tranquil ocean among the tangled strands of seaweed and the pretty, colour-splashed coral. Inspired by old New Age music tapes, the music’s sensitive skin gently decays, tingling with soft sensations. The aquatic notes gently cascade, but the music’s been polluted by plastics and other debris. As a result, the sound is grainy and well-worn; it churns like the stomach of a whale after it has inadvertently swallowed something that shouldn’t be there. Still, the music is positive and the light tones ripple over the surface of the tape.
Its New Age influence comes across beautifully; the music always refreshing the palette, always going into unexplored, exotic areas and discovering new species along the way. Its lighter, watery sound is more expansive, not timid in the slightest. The thirty minutes float serenely by. The decay is a second-by-second process; the same way that the body, after receiving life, slowly decays. Muovia isn’t in danger of becoming obsolete, of fading away. The crackles in the record’s skin wrinkle and tighten. It’s a noticeable creasing, but it’s just a part of the process of ageing, and the crackles actually give the record a feeling of authenticity that contrasts and contradicts the artificial nature of the plastic. Like the lovely, deep warmth of a needle resting on the groove of a vinyl record, this extra layer and its additional texture really is crucial to the overall weight and depth of the sound. Split into sides A and B, Muovia is a safe, serene cruise across totally tropical seas.