Argo Vals – Imer (Remix of Galaktlan)
Art Electronix – Chaotic Numbers
Roundelay – My Friends
Marble Boy – Rainbows

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Narva, Estonia
Saint Petersburg, Russian Fed.
Kemerovo, Russian Federation
Saint Petersburg, Russian Fed.
Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation
Krasnoyarsk, Russian Federation
Tolyatti, Russian Federation
Moscow, Russian Federation
Smolensk, Russian Federation
Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation



Spotovsky (Saint Petersburg): "Everything's designed for psychedelic dancing... by people who are sitting down. This is the soundtrack to a game of hide and seek - with your own echo"


New electronic recordings from a range of outlying Russian cities draw parallels between their location and local history. A sense of distance transpires, both from cultural centers and the passage of time.


Argo Vals is an Estonian multi-instrumentalist and composer. His career can be traced back to 2006, when initial, DIY tracks morphed slowly into several Baltic ensembles. A reputation started to grow.


In the city of Samara is a female choir led by Dmitrii Kolevatykh: Roundelay. This substantial, shifting lineup of young women creates a sound unique within modern Russian music.
Multi-instrumentalist Argo Vals was born and raised in Estonia. Originally from the small, southern Ahja parish and a graduate of the local arts academy, Vals currently enjoys support from many Baltic music critics - not only as a solo artist, but also in his related ensembles of Animal Drama and the Viljandi Guitar Trio. His springtime appearance on these pages is prompted by the emergence of a brand-new instrumental EP, which is being released through FFM: "Oxymoron." The EP is, in actual fact, an extended and digital version of an earlier publication that emerged via Eesti Pops in Tallinn.
In the city of Samara is a female choir led by Dmitrii Kolevatykh: Roundelay. This substantial, shifting lineup of young woman creates a sound unique with modern Russian music. Combining an admirable amateurism with online savvy and a knowingly hip aesthetic, Roundelay have won some very distant admirers. The Moscow portal LookatMe recently invited more than six hundred performers and ensembles to submit material for a project called "Ten Young Musicians." At some point in the proceedings, 590 polite refusal letters would be required. Thanks to a system of expert juries and public voting, the numbers gradually shrank - and the quality increased. Once those ten lucky outfits remained, LookatMe then put them in touch with a range of Western producers, including Jeremy Gara (Arcade Fire), Ramona Gonzalez (Nite Jewel), and Andy Grier (Thieves Like Us). That professional boost was eventually extended further still with the chance to play at a couple of local - and prestigious - festivals. Roundelay were given Jeremy Gara. The same sense of emotional support, be it local or international, is especially important in a large collective. The more people are involved, the more they need to feel included. Kolevatykh adds: "It goes without saying that certain problems emerge when you've got so many people in a band. The more participants, the more individual scenarios or lifelines you'll find among them. It's considerably easier to gather four people than ten or fifteen! Our choir members can often get stuck in traffic jams [en route to rehearsals]... They might, conversely, just drive off somewhere, or do something different altogether. You must, somehow, hold eleven lifelines together. That means being attentive to each and every person." Why, though, does Roundelay exist amid mainstream music? As we hear from Dmitrii Kolevatykh himself, there's a more immediate - and local - need within Russia’s contemporary songwriting. Primetime product from Moscow has little, if any, relevance for concrete friends and families - in smaller, specific locations nationwide. Gathering eight young singers around an old piano seems a fine response. A helping hand from Montreal doesn't hurt, either.
Marble Boy are a duo from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv: Anton Shatokhin and the enigmatically named Ma De (aka Masha). Kharkiv is a major industrial location, reflecting in its scale the grand, sweeping vistas of Soviet aspiration. Today it is home to a couple of friends who first came together in a dusty basement, where they happened to discover a drum kit. Armed with nothing more than makeshift percussion and an acoustic guitar, private emotion started to sound forth. Matters have now come to include various keyboards, plugs, and sockets, but the spontaneity of semi-acoustic performance remains vital. Tales of love need to be mobile amid the imposing shapes of socialist monumentalism – both yesterday and today. Anton and Masha often turn to the issue of private destiny – and the increasing sense of some ubiquitous burden. Local history has not fostered an especially strong impression of self-determination. One of Marble Boy’s compositions even begins: "You thought you've been talking to the gods, but they're not smiling.” On a slightly more serious note, Masha then adds: “We can always wish for everything… because so much is lacking here. We’ve not got enough money, love, or harmony in our lives. There’s genuine stress everywhere. So everybody should just imagine life the way they’d like it to be. Let’s allow people to have what they want” - at least in fantasy. Very big hopes sound forth from a tiny underground location. Thus far, Marble Boy have played at the Kharkiv Jazz Festival (2011), the Euro 2012 Football Championships, the O.LIVE TV show (via Russia's A1 Alternative Music Channel), and – coming full circle - the prestigious Koketbel Jazz Festival in 2014
Aleksandr Spotovsky is a long-term resident of Saint Petersburg and best known for the excellent netlabel he founded, Subwise. The project’s various venues online usually contain a small and explicatory paragraph, sketching these endeavors for the uninitiated. Turned into English, it reads: “Subwise unites musicians who write experimental electronic music – together with some other genres, too. The organizers at Subwise used to publish recordings with a rather ‘harsh’ edge, but now they place an emphasis on softer works. That doesn’t mean to say, however, that things are going to be any less interesting!” The local press expresses gratitude for these adventures. Club reviews speak of a man who has shown himself to be “both professional and pragmatic. There’s something academic in the way he approaches compositions. It gives maturity to his ‘unfinished pieces for mechanical pianos.’” That unwieldy quote refers back to a 1977 film by Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov. Based upon a series of interweaving motifs from Chekhov, it paints a melancholy picture of time’s passage among the provincial intelligentsia, just before the Revolution. Put differently, Spotovsky's audiences see something profoundly local in his alleged “laconicism.” He gives voice to the minor, yet dignified culture of some northern periphery.