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Milana Zilnik “Accidental Etudes”

Review by Dave Greening

Milana Zilnik is a talented pianist born in Ukraine and resident in Canada. She is known for her gorgeous improvisations, of which this album is composed entirely. “Accidental Études” is the second of her original piano albums, with the tracks recorded in 2013.

The creative process for this album also involved her husband Artyom, who invented some of the short melodic motifs upon which Milana based her improvisations.

Milana writes:

“It never ceases to amaze me how music finds its way to come through us from the world and back into the world. Anything that surrounds us can become the inspiration that ends up being a musical story, a journey on the ivory keys: a sight from a window, child’s laughter, bad weather, good weather, tranquillity of a forest, rumbling storms, pain and happiness, madness within and falling in love. Every time I get a chance to escape to my world of music with a touch on keys, I feel like I discover another improvisation hidden in my effort to compose. These improvisations of mine are purely accidental: they are moments in time that never repeat. I hope you will enjoy these little accidental études.”

It brings me great pleasure to review this album, which I first began listening to back in May. It starts with “Accidental Étude”, which builds beautifully with it’s dramatic moving harmony and stunning melody. The repeating melody resonates and sounds anthemic. Milana uses some interesting discordant patterns here and there to add to the ‘accidental’ nature of the piece. This track is the epitome of the album’s focus on moments in time which are purely accidental, and cannot be repeated. This is a captivating track which leaves the listener wanting more.

“Sunny Keys” sounds very buoyant in nature, and again features a glorious melody. Milana explores and develops this melody to its fullest, reaching the highest and lowest ranges of the piano in the process. The performance is exemplary, with passion being driven into every note. I particularly enjoy the fact that Milana chose not to make the ending too epic, thus letting the listener wind down to its airy goodness.

“Winds and Tides” starts off almost like a piano exercise with a simple melody. The “to and fro” nature of the melody creates the imagery of the tides, with a very grounded harmony playing the part of the strong, full wind. My favourite part comes around 1:22 where she comes upon one of those gorgeous chord progressions that any pianist would be proud of.

“Dare to Be Me” starts off energetically, almost tauntingly. The sense that I get from this track is one of accomplishment, underscored by the choice of chords and cadences. I love how the melody keeps moving, playing around the middle register of the piano. It is purely complimentary to the tracks we have already heard, and shines with Milana’s originality and graceful touch.

“Feel My Pain” is another quite personal track. The melody is emotional, played softly, and strikes right to the core. Milana adopts a slow pace, and leaves a lot of room and space for resonance between each chord. This track is successful in giving not too much, but not too little. It allows the listener to fill in the silence, and the bond created is passionate and unbreakable. It feels very much like a lounge track, and I would have loved to have been there at the time this was written. This track is one to drink a fine white wine to … but make sure it’s very, very chilled!

“I Won’t Give Up” continues the personal themes of the album, and is again based around a poignant, deeply felt melody. The movement, as always, is astonishing; everything is fluid. The piece conjures up those image of inner turmoil, and of the twisting tendrils of emotion which we go through daily. This is furthered in the following track “The Madness Within,” which is astonishingly powerful, and even more gripping. “Storms in my Soul” also continues this same theme, and starts in a more neoclassical in nature with its focus on accidentals at the start, before stirring into a rapturously powerful theme.

“Missing the Sun” is another slow track, and is my favourite on the album. Milana’s performance is fantastic, and is the reason why the track is so captivating. The dynamics are astounding, with the melody being so soft in places, but the chords being so powerful that they make my speakers buzz. It is also perhaps the first track that Milana lets her jazz side come out, with some beautiful flicks and chord choices.

“When I am In Love” is also simply a classic. It’s one of those pieces you would expect to hear everywhere. As usual, Milana’s melody is stunning, original, and one which you just know will capture the hearts of many. There are tracks which you come across, and you say to yourself “why didn’t I come up with that?!” But the fact is you just can’t, as these musical developments come from within the artist herself, and Milana clearly has her own passionate fire burning inside to produce a melody as stunning as this; one which we hope burns forever.

“Dancing with Hades” is an interesting title, named after the Greek god of the underworld. This is one of the sadder themes on the album, though not nearly as sad as “When I Can’t Fly.” The latter immediately portrays the image of a shackled person, unable to reach their potential. It represents another strife in life, with Milana’s heart shining through all of it.

“Waltz of a Dying Candle” is another of my favourites, and one of the finest improvised waltzes I have heard. The track rumbles with emotion, and despite its title I feel like it is so powerful that it could burn on forever. The candle might be dying, but I’m sure there’s plenty of wick left for the flame to engulf us!

The album then suitably ends with “Out of the Dark”, which provides some resolution to the emotional journey Milana has taken us through.

This is such a striking album, and I just know that you will enjoy it. Please support Milana by following the link below!

Album review by Dave Greening