Khlebnikov is a poetic and charming collection of tales about the journey on a ship sailing through chilling waters. Right from the get-go, with the crashing waves and rickety sound of the ship’s floorboards, it sends chills – both anticipation for the experience and temperature-wise – for the audience.
Canadian singer and songwriter Danny Michel wrote the album during his trip travelling the Russian Kapitan Khlebnikov around the artic. Travelling with him were scientists, writers, videographers, photographers, and the “cosmonaut” referenced in his song, Col. Chris Hadfield. Different passengers, like the dishwasher and Hadfield himself, are featured on the album. Equipped with Juno nominations, a Polaris Prize, and CBC’s Heart of Gold, it’s no wonder Khlebnikov is so well done.
The album is full of tropes that would be expected of songs about the artic and Russia. Mentions of vodka shots, whales with harpoon scars, and freezing cold temperatures are littered within the album. There’s also a lot of use of brass instruments like tubas and trumpets. The sound effects really push Khlebnikov the extra mile with crashing waves, dogs barking, and creaking floorboards, making it more authentic and providing the feeling of being on a ship. Coincidentally, they were recorded from the actual Khlebnikov. It should be noted how well all the songs flow into each other. Some are done so that the listener can’t tell where one begins and the other ends.
Each song reflects a different part of the expedition. There’s The Dishwasher’s Dream, describing what life was like back home and a longing to return, Qilakitsoq describes the view from a lifeboat, and Fall, which is sung in Russian by Chris Hadflied. While it’s unclear what he’s saying because it’s in Russian, it’s still solomn and and great to listen to.
Michel’s trip on the Khlebnikov may be over, but it will take all who listen to it on a journey.