Practically, every time I visit Bandcamp I come across something beautiful. This time, it’s Floex, the stage name of Czech musician Tomáš Dvořák, responsible for many beautiful sounds coming into this world, out of which the soundtrack to the video game Machinarium is probably the most well-known, as it was awarded 2009’s title of Best Soundtrack by prestigious magazine PC Gamer. I played Machinarium for a bit when it came out, and the soundtrack definitely caught my attention at that time, but I didn’t make the connection until today. Floex is the name under which Tomáš Dvořák releases his original, non-soundtrack work, and Zorya is his second album, coming ten years after the first. (As a side-note, the fact that it took this man ten years to polish his album gives me renewed hope that Rob Dougan will eventually release a follow-up to the staggering Furious Angels… hope dies last, I guess.)
It was the name of the album that got my attention first, as it reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s book, American Gods, and three of its characters, modeled after the three Slavic goddesses which govern the stages of the day – dawn, dusk and midnight. Zorya Polunochnaya is she who guards midnight, and I got shivers down my spine meeting her character in that book, shivers which return to me upon repeated listening of Floex’s amazing album inspired by her myth and divine domain. The music is a perfect fit for midnight – odd, longing, fluid, patient, building up over and over, each track a fresh start, a fresh illusion, a new hypnotic trick. There’s so much inspiration, so much poetry in these songs, most of them wordless as they may be, that they end up sweeping you away, softly, leaving you very little chance to protest and/or analyze, if any. The sheer scale of it, the width of these sounds makes me think, while meditating on the succession of hours, that light can be considered a liquid, washing over the Earth and then retreating, tumultuously, at midnight – street lights, headlights and window shimmers mere eddies, soft, bubbly currents projected by our meager human means… This, the mightiest tide, I find crystallized in these notes, in the cold, romantic ebb and flow of the songs on this record.
There’s urgency here, though. It’s not a lax, lazy, meditative record. As witchcraft of myth can be done with soft, relaxed movements, it hides tremendous power and dramatic influence over the world. So does this music play with tempo and intensity and in such a deceptive, dynamic way that it feels to me like it acquires some of the traits of ritual, some faint, electrifying echoes of a mode of thought going extinct nowadays, a mythical understanding of the connections between things, of the way the theatrical gesture can influence the real world. The album simply transports me to a zone where so much more feels possible than the ever-distant rational thought, or the ever-clumsy physical contact can allow for, a zone of magic, which seems to me to only live on, truly, in music as it is presented on this record, and a few others like it.
Speaking of other albums/bands which convey some of the same vibe, the examples I can think about now are The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble and Hidden Orchestra. And imagine my surprise when I found that Floex remixed one of Hidden Orchestra’s songs from the Night Walks album – Dust. If ever there was a match made in heaven, here it is, especially if the mental image of heaven allows for a nocturnal cycle. And another external and quite interesting thing, Tomáš Dvořák is part of the Amanita Design independent video game studio as both soundtrack composer and, from what I can discern, the equivalent of a frolic artist, a designer of “everyday” sounds, which definitely fits in with his tremendous ability as a sound architect, an ability he eminently demonstrates on Zorya.Amanita Design also act like one of the record labels, or promoters of this record, which is not surprising, given their interest in music in general, and music videos in particular (they made a video for an Under Byen song! Everything and everyone is connected!)
This could be, and by all right, should be, a very long story, had I the words to tell it. But I feel I’ve said enough, and so I leave you in Zorya Polunochnaya’s thrall. The entire album is, as usual, available to listen, for free, from Bandcamp. Enjoy!