Composer Michaela Polakova and singer/songwriter Natalie Kocab have joined forces to create intricately dark music in the form of their new album Ellis Island. A contemporary musical experience that takes inspiration from the meticulous story telling of eras gone by such as the 70s and 80s. An out of this time album that is sure to lure you into a siren’s trance.
Artists such as Michaela and Natalie working together should lead to the inevitable condemning words in the music industry of ‘musical differences’. However the two have managed to transcend gene and cultural differences to create something utterly breath taking that otherwise could not exist. The overall incandescent darkness of Ellis Island is based on the sound of Michaela’s classical background with the piano and string quartet compositions. The effect sensually chilling to listen to when combined with Natalie’s vocals that create a sense of mystery you can’t help but be intrigued by. The sound of the album can be compared to the likes of Nick Cave with it’s explorations of both the mind and human spirit, the song ‘Underwater’ alone exposing the hardships of life some of us are ignorant to. Ellis Island is a dark, eye opening tale that could be akin to a musical awakening.
The brilliance of this album did not happen overnight, however, but is a collective of hard work from a multitude of talented musicians. The project is of course the brainchild of Michaela and Natalie but even they realised something on this scale could not be accomplished with only the two of them. After meeting during the making of the album Hummingbirds in Iceland, which received outstanding reviews in Europe, the two recognised in one another what they themselves could be lacking. From here the album was created with the help of The Verve’s guitarist Nick McCabe as well as long-time bassist Fernando Saunders of Lou Reed. Initially the two recruited McCabe for a single track but after being moved by the sound of the album the guitarist took it to heart and ended up contributing to a total of eight tracks on the album. Saunders also showed his love for the work Michaela and Natalie were doing and both these praises are just as slice of the recognition Ellis Island deserves.
The album is infused with 90s indie music vibes and has a sound not unlike G Tom Mac’s ‘Cry Little Sister’ leading also to a distinctive 80s hint in the sound. Specifically the song ‘Underwater’ which is a beautifully dark composition that highlights physical and emotional struggle through the soaring notes and powerful vocals. The track is a spiralling roller-coaster of genuinely moving musical talent that can be described as nothing less than beautiful. This beauty, however, is one of a sinister nature once the electric guitar kicks in at the song’s crescendo that will leave you with an insatiable need to fill that strange hollowness it leaves in you with more of the album’s music.
Watch the video to “Underwater” here: https://youtu.be/omx-6V6hbk8
The song to fill this hollowness is ‘Social Affair’ with its dream like sound that will send you into a trance whilst still embodying the same dark, swelling emotion of ‘Underwater.’ ‘Social Affair’ seems to move forward in time to have a more 90s vibe to it, the repeating guitar riffs not unlike music from Love Spit Love but slightly softer. Something that you can put on, plug in your head phones and let the music consume you into a tranquil state. The repeating lyrics of ‘come find me’ in the opening set a good rhythmic tone for the rest of the song.
Yet if you want something more to pull at your music heartstrings like ‘Underwater’, the album also includes the orchestral piece ‘These Years.’ A combination of string instruments and piano keys that is harrowing and immensely creative at the same time; marrying both a heartfelt ballad and a musical score into one. The swaying sound is as hypnotic as the rest of Ellis Island as well as conveying the raw emotion behind the song in its own right.
Ellis Island is out now and available for digital download at https://wmcz.lnk.to/ellisisland and is an undeniable creative album that will sweep you away before pulling you in deep into the dark yet beautiful world Michaela and Natalie have created.
Review by Skye W.Winwood