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Contemporary EP Review: Michael Vignola, "Orbiting"

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.


In many ways, Orbiting is an extension of the broader musical themes that Michael Vignola has been developing in his own personal musical works. The mixture of simplicity, emotional depth and the use of strings and piano are all elements that have emerged in his music as it has developed. What’s interesting about Orbiting is that it takes the form of a theme and variations. Each track on this EP evolves through similar sounds and repetition, but the subtle differences begin to come through as Vignola explores the themes. Although each track is in some way related to a planet’s orbit through space, I was far more affected by the emotions created in Vignola’s music.

The first track “Apogee” starts out with simple chords that are unadorned and gently warming. Single notes enter and begin to coalesce into the beginnings of a fragile melody. As the track progresses, the melody becomes more concrete as it floats over the underlying chords. This track has a gentle, almost tender quality about it.

“Flare Star” opens with faster notes that progress through the chords with slightly more urgency. This time around there’s more of a minor key quality to the track and a bit more weight to the piano chords underneath everything. There’s less of a clear melody, but the whole track is imbued with a mournful quality. Now we get soft, almost wavering strings that whisper over the piano. There’s a poignant melancholy to this track created by the weeping strings.

Underneath the sound of a contrabass grows, bringing more depth to the track and emphasizing how delicate every other part of the track is by contrast with the depth of the bass.

The final track “Orbiting” begins with very slow, plain piano chords that are widely spaced and achingly gentle. Now the delicate melody forms, softness and a light brush across the ear, also with a real ache in it. The strings on “Orbiting” are so sweet and sad that I felt tears nearly start in my eyes. This track is so gentle but there is unbearable melancholy trembling through the strings and that piano, as underneath the double bass continues to build and grow. There is just thread of something hopeful touching this track.

Michael Vignola has taken simple elements and seemingly poured a complex mixture of emotions into them to create a delicate, yearning, aching recording. Although the tracks are superficially similar, each develops a little more weight and complexity. The interactions of all the parts form a cohesive whole that is rich, shimmering and so full of emotion.

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