ALBUM REVIEW: The Catacomb Suburbs by Misha Kolesoski



Misha Kolesoski is a composer hailing from Oregon, USA. He began writing music at a young age and has gone on to write music for films, both commercial and amateur. In May of 2009 his Adagio for Erhu and Chamber Ensembl was premiered at Edinburgh University in Scotland, featuring the Erhu virtuoso Peng Yeuquang. Aside from classical, his other main genre is electronics, which he describes as ‘minimalistic’.

Both these genres come together on this album, which is in fact a musical based on Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle Of Otranto and consists of eleven tracks. Some refer specifically to characters in the novel, while others are less obvious in terms of relevance to the story and it’s more of a loose adaption of themes rather than a faithful rendition of the plot.

First track, the intriguedly titled Dramatic in Forensic Studies sets an atmospheric mood, an electronica instrumental with a first section of amorphous textures and a restless rhythmic intricacy. This progresses to a punchy dubstep style beat and an effective ascending synth riff. By contrast, the second track Eden In Foreclosure shows the classical side to his ouevre. It is an orchestral piano ballad with a very well composed arrangement and features some beautifully sung female vocals. This is also where we first hear the eerie backing vocals that appear throughout the album which lend a suitable Gothic touch (The Castle of Otranto is regarded as the first Gothic novel).

Third track Ghosts is completely different once again. Over a slinky, skittish beat that you’d expect to hear on a hip hop track and a subtle, high end synth melody we then hear female vocals that are rapped in Spanish. Not knowing any Spanish, I’m none the wiser as to what the track is about but it is an unexpected and compelling track!

Bianca is the first track to reference characters in the novel, and begins with a quote from the novel. Bianca is the servant of Matilda, one of the main characters. It forms the basis for another electronic a instrumental with a pulsing glitch/hip hop style beat, along with rich organ and flute, so combining both classical and electronica styles effectively.

This hybrid occurs again on Isabella and Theodore, which feature lead female and male vocals respectively. These two tracks represent two of the main characters of the novel, which is reflected on the lyrics. Both feature fine vocal and instrumental melodies, which are weaved throughout the songs.

Recorder el Pasedo returns to the darker sounding electronics style, and features female vocals both in English and Spanish, which complements the earlier Ghosts. Manfred, again another main character, consists of spoken word excerpts from the novel, set to a backing featuring electric guitar which widens the sound world even more.

The Cinema Landscape and Matilda, the final character song, are both slow paced electronica, the latter with a nice lilting beat. The closing Sonnet starts with a beautiful piano part of Beethoven style minor key melancholy and employs the spoken word style to create a haunting finale.

Overall, this is a very well composed and produced concept album that aims for something a little more highbrow than what the mainstream offers, and manages to successfully blend two seemingly disparate genres, often within the same track. The literary adaption gives structure and depth to the album and it deserves to find a large audience.


Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.4 out of 10


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