Mikhail Karikis has been releasing music for a couple years now in various places, with his most high-profile effort ("'Once More' In CoF Minor") landing on the very hit-or-miss Bjork compilation Army of Me: Remixes and Covers. Orphica is the debut full-length album from the London-based artist and musician, and it's one of the more unique concoctions of music that I've heard in some time, mixing together everything from subtle electronics and avant-garde to Greek folk and even a Victorian sensibility at times.
In other words, it's certainly not out-of-the ordinary to hear harpsichord, violin, dramatic vocals, and blippy electronics all bumping up against one another in the same track. That's exactly what happens during the first two songs of the release, with "Untitled in CoF Minor" opening the release with clipped, plucked, and filtered strings, woodwinds, and harpsichord bowing and darting around while Karikis adds his wailing, and occasionally growling vocals. It's an odd combination, both primal and futuristic at the same time, and it sets the tone for what's to come on the rest of the release. "Asteris" follows, and starts off with a gorgeous combination of string quartet and programmed rhythms that builds with timpani rolls and some unique processing. Once the vocals of Karikis enter the mix, the track takes on a slightly more dramatic feel, pushing into almost operatic places at times, before dissolving into field recordings and deconstructed electronics.
The rest of Orphica has a similar feel, without really treading the same ground too much. There are places where it gets so overly-theatrical that it becomes a bit of a distraction, and that is largely due to the odd stylings of Karikis, who grunts, growls, and yelps his vocals, with all kinds of guttural noises and tics that sound like everything from throat-clearing to hiccups to hypnotized chanting. On "Argonautica," a full chorus of male background vocals comes for power over the top of a string-laced, electro growler that's truly strange, while the minute-long "Love Song" sounds like the artist simply being difficult for being-difficult's sake as layers of throaty filtered vocals slither across one another in stomach-turning ways. At it's best, the twelve song, forty-five minute album is a gorgeous mixture of archaic and futuristic, and at it's worst it's frustrating and grating. Your general reaction will probably largely hinge on whether you find the melodramatics of the album stirring or simply pretentious.