Mihail Doman- “Arhythmology” Review

With “Arhythmology”, Romanian composer Mihail Doman voyages into headily conceptual territory. The album is a neo-classical exploration of rebirth spliced into 9 segments, accompanied by a video transposing Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” onto a pristine white backdrop through modern dance. “Arhythmology” is inspired by Jean-Michel Jarre in its evocative swells and flowerings, but Doman shepherds his glacial futurism back into the familiar piano-led bounds of modern classical, more akin to a Philip Glass than an Aphex Twin.

However, this doesn’t imply a lack of ambition in this grand, sweeping project. “Arhythmology VI”, which was deservedly the album’s first single, ascends smoothly from a stately opening into a tightly-wound, beautifully melodic climax. However, the restraint of its crescendo distinguishes it from several of the album’s other tracks, whose peaks can be obscured beneath booming, wide-screen drums. Notably, the end of “Arhythmology III” is fumbled by the unnecessary and melodramatic inclusion of pounding tribal rhythms.

However, for all the cymbal splashes and thunderous orchestral bombast, the music is often soberly unflashy at its core, Doman building gradually from minimalistic piano lines and melodies. Ripples of Yann Tiersen or Erik Satie surface in the patient, pristine chords of “Arhythmology V”, and Doman brews the ominous ambient bubblings of the “Prelude” with painterly tact. He eschews the virtuosic flourishes of a Rachmaninoff or Liszt, diluting their melodic gifts down into guarded clarity—breezeblock-basic but strikingly intelligible. Any risk of “Arhythmology” being desaturated into drabness by this simplicity is swiftly curtailed by Doman’s rich use of strings and those cannon-blast drums, which are at least modernising.

This intersection of grand orchestration and relative simplicity sits Doman at the crux of contemporary cinematic music, and there are indeed flickers of Hans Zimmer’s “Time” in the pluming, warming strings of “Arhythmology 1”. This track slots into the album’s clear and somewhat constrictive musical house style, but there are fleeting transgressions: for instance, “Arhythmology” unexpectedly veers into the work of William Basinski or Harold Budd in the simmering ambience of the “Epilogue”. In its rumbling, choral heaves it serves as an intriguing glimpse of what the album could have been had Doman deviated more from his artistic blueprint. As it stands, “Arhythmology” often falls into contrast with its own name, stoically adhering to its own internal logic for much of its duration. However, it is difficult to deny the resonance and potency of its highlights—”Arhythmology VI”, notably—and its own overall coherence. In both opening and closing with brooding ambient pieces it gleans a sense of circularity, in keeping with its themes of rebirth and resurrection, deepening its immersion. As Doman himself remarked, the album “a soundtrack without a film”, and it’s a strikingly realised one at that. CO


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