The experimental sonic moments of How Much Time It Is Between You and Me?, the debut full-length album from artist Aleksandra Zakharenko under the name Perila, are ephemeral ones. They linger more or less before they melt, evaporate, or otherwise reverberate away, each sound giving way to the next in the electrifying construction of a dynamic atmosphere. Central to her product is Perila’s process, and as the album unfolds, that’s what she offers, taking us down paths as she builds them.
Especially captivating about How Much Time is its exploration of the interplay between macro and micro ambience. Composed in rural France during the peak of the pandemic’s lockdowns, the album deals with space and isolation in complex ways. Some tracks feel massive. The opener, “Air Like Velvet”, sounds like the slowed-down essence of an icebreaker at work, colossal subzero movements that shimmer into the stratosphere. On the other end of the spectrum, “Vaxxine” features Zakharenko singing unaccompanied, her voice barely above a murmur and yet close enough in apparent proximity that the movements of her mouth are often audible in the silences between syllables.
Most pieces, though, fall somewhere in the middle of immense and intimate, moving organically between the poles. As Zakharenko delivers a spoken word piece on “Time Date”, the beats behind her evoke and then subvert clichéd beat poetry bongos as they bounce into intriguing arrhythmia and vibrate into orbit. Scattered piano keys add warmth to the otherworldly drones and simmering cymbals of “You Disappear You Find Yourself Again”. “Untilted” is almost meditative, airy vocals slipping into pressurized depths that continue to grow through the gently melodic “Blanket”.
Electric hums streak through the spherical bass end of “Memories of Grass” in sharp contrast to the open space left for meandering pizzicato and menacing, high-voltage swells on “Enchiz”. In “Backyard Echo”, melody lies just beyond a field of static, while “Cradle” is ethereally resonant. The album’s final piece is its finest: “Fallin Into Space”, a slow-drifting composition that adds a blissfully alien aura to a skeleton of comforting wooden creaks and clear rhythms. Zakharenko’s wordless voice once again adds an angelic touch that makes the track fully rapturous.
How Much Time It Is Between You and Me? is a waking dream in strange and constant motion. Perila creates uncanny worlds crackling with both elemental force and human ingenuity. Nothing here is wholly straightforward or capable of being pinned down; every composition takes shapes open to interpretation. Zakharenko’s experience in Russian experimental music circles and her current location in Berlin’s cutting-edge electronic scene make for a sublime and unfettered combination of sounds and styles. She dabbles in the eerie, the pastoral, the electronic, and even the new age, taking her listeners one by one to unexpected places that never hold still long enough to be fully comprehensible. Perila is a project that, even in its structural simplicity, makes magic in surprising ways, and How Much Time is a glowing debut worth complete and dedicated listening.