By Miriam Johnston, October 9 2017 —
Calgary-based Polish musician Valiska has called his new album, On Pause, his most personal work. Valiska describes the eight-track ambient album as “charting a journey of loss and upheaval.”
This album appears to be easy listening at first, but unlike some ambient music, each song demands your attention. A mostly lyric-free song must go the extra mile to make up for the lack of human connection that words provide. This album does that incredibly well with unexpected melodies in “Heavy Riser,” haunting vocals in “Softness” and dynamic whispering in “Mornings.”
The album succeeds on its concise three-minute tracks that employ little to no repetition, making “Heavy Riser” and “Mornings” so interesting. The longer songs, including “Softness” and “Fake Strings for False Memories,” catch your attention early, but they are less melodically varied and more relaxed. It’s perfect for those who want beautiful music that won’t intrude on their thoughts.
During “Across a City, Across a Country,” there are great artistic moments in which you can hear a woman speaking Polish. Her voice comes in near the end of the song, giving the track that last bit of interest to level-out its 10-minute length. This technique adds a personal touch to the electronic sound. The meaning is obscured to the listener, but there is a sense that it is of great personal significance to the artist without actually having each word explained. This places more focus on the voice than the meaning, leading listeners to make inferences about the voice and her relationship to the artist.
In contrast to “Across a City, Across a Country,” the clearly spoken words of “Interlude” showcase a trembling voice ridden with uncertainty. Throughout the whole album there is an underlying sense of anxiety, but also an urgency to keep going, no matter how ugly or difficult a journey can be.
According to Valiska, the album portrays such a journey. In fact, the word “valiska” directly translates to “journey” in Polish. The biographical album describes the events of the artist’s life while placing the listener in his shoes.
A carefully crafted and emotional experience, On Pause is a riveting expression Valiska’s experiences told through ambient music that we can apply to our own lives. The album will be released on Oct. 13 through Trouble in Utopia in digital download and vinyl formats.