The leafy streets of Krasnodar
Over the last week or so, we've been looking at recent developments in the south of Russia, specifically around Krasnodar. As new techno and tech-house projects cohere, so founding members of the region's electronic scene move off into solo endeavors. The one important figure we've yet to touch upon is that of Mr. Yevgeny Shukin, raised in the same city and known in his professional capacity as "Vega." Currently he is busy overseeing the future of Wols, which has now become a one-man enterprise.
Simultaneously - and with remarkable zeal - he also manages the fantastic FUSELab collective, which remains one of the high-points of Russian electronica today. Wols will be releasing a new EP through FUSELab very soon: Vega has kindly given us the teaser track which we include here. We also offer an earlier, classic Modul/Wols collaboration: "Beauty among the Runners." Vega will be on tour in April - all the way from the industrial Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk to Moscow's fashionable Solyanka club. He'll not only be playing music, but also giving lectures. Such is his reputation.
Thankfully, another Modul side-project also endures with Mr. Shukin - Feldmaus - most recently in the form of a new podcast. As if that weren't enough, Vega is even inventing a few more stage-names, through which to promote future house and techno recordings.
If we were to examine Soundcloud - and the FUSELab page in particular - in order to get a quick sense of the vox populi, then some pleasant surprises would be in store. The first phrases that pop up include (in various languages): "This is so good!"; "Wonderful"; "Amazing." And then, the further one reads, a special gratitude becomes evident for ways in which Wols and FUSELab manage to blur the line between ambient, chillout, and field recordings - all of which help to make the world a more appealing place.
One listener says: "I'm loving the field recordings and textures." Another adds: "It's all really pretty... Almost like something from a video-game, but ambient and 'soundscapey' at the same time."
Almost like something from a video-game, but ambient and 'soundscapey' at the same time
This desire to improve the outside world with sounds made indoors(!) is nicely shown by the project Miru Water, overseen by Kirill Miru in the Siberian city of Omsk. Born and bred in that same snow-swept location, Miru takes much of his imagery from the open sea - or the cosmos. He began to tinker with various instruments and programs whilst barely a teenager. His skills and purview would grow.
As he started to discover the sounds being created by other young men and women - from other towns around Siberia - he "thought they were coming from the depths of outer space!" In order to ease any sense of anxiety that might transpire from a life conducted within this regional "emptiness," he began to "write calm and fundamentally melodic music."
Why? For an answer, Miru turns somewhat surprisingly to the lyrics of Russian screamo outfit Psikheia and their infamous track "Kill a Cop." In part, the lyrics read as follows: "It's possible that the world is just a trashcan,/ Into which we throw a cigarette lighter./ With the piercing gaze of the sun/ It'll all feel worse than worms inside rotting flesh..."
Then, in a related spirit, Miru on one social network claims that his religious views may include "many faiths in moderation," but that his political outlook is "radical." In a world, therefore, where arson apparently gets more done than prayer, some gentle tunes are in serious demand. On his LiveJournal account, Miru recently posed and answered a pressing question, dealing with related topics: "Why do I write atmospheric music? It's all really f***ing simple. I'm so tired of the endless stress and hassles all around us. People have such a cr*p attitude towards me that all they do is break me down. What a great start, eh? I want to put myself back together, piece by piece with this kind of music..."
I want to put myself back together, piece by piece with this kind of music...
Staying in Siberia, in fact in Novosibirsk, we find the instrumentalist already known to us known as Speck (aka Nikita Bondarev), who has a new recording available through the side-project of Osmenog (a slight play upon the Russian word for "octopus"). Previously, Bondarev's output has been assessed by Siberian webzines as a mosaic built from "noise and musical particles." The same folks like to tag the result as "minimalist neoclassical." Somewhere within the glitch, blips, and squeaks of minimalist rustling lie the stricter forms of classical enterprise. New structures - and styles - therefore exist: they just need to be defined by discerning ears. Nature seems a good place to look.
It's always worth remembering when we visit the catalog of Osmenog and/or Speck's catalog that he has also released some recordings through FUSElab. Entitled "You [Are] Still Alone," that earlier publication blended ambient and drone layers with almost sparkling distortion, as if the places conjured by such gentle sounds - in which we're allegedly "alone" - were somehow "excessive." In realms where evident horizons become blurred or distances vague, logical and/or physical trajectories seemed frustratingly pointless. That loss of effable clarity took audible shape - especially in a very large series of photos that he publishes under the same title on Vkontakte (e.g., above).
One of the quietest, happiest connections between soundscapes, landscapes, and calm can be found in the project known as 2muchachos, located close to the industrial city of Cherepovets (in between Moscow and St Petersburg). As one might imagine, that address has led - over the centuries - to a rich network of railways, roads, and other forms of communication. Iron and steel plants now form the backbone of local industry, having benefitted from the same connections. Consequently the city's name is synonymous with noisy enterprise.
Despite the scale and significance of their hometown - or perhaps because of that clamorous majesty - these artists cultivate a deliberately miniature aesthetic.
Last summer, the RussianAdults netlabel told us to expect "touching forms of indietronica devoid of almost any rhythmic pattern. And yet these performers have actually gained some beautiful phrasing [as a result] - all in a rather 'Soviet' manner. In other words, it's full of tidy harmonies and various noises that are taken from nature. Their music radiates with optimism - and will inspire you with a certain joie de vivre."
Somehow peace and quiet are still obtainable amid the factories and smelting plants, which begs the question: where precisely and how? An investigation of the artists' minimalist web venues will show - in no uncertain terms - that solitude is key. In other words, the ideal environment for building the faint, lacy textures of ambient dreampop involves flora, fauna, and a marked lack of asphalt. The wistful notes of 2muchachos find expression in terms of escape.
I feel the touch of the sunbeams...
These musicians now have a new, barely audible EP on display, entitled "Vesnywski!!" - with two exclamation marks and a strange spelling of the Russian word for "freckles." As the sun emerges, so do freckles on the cheeks of fair-skinned folks, which is cause for joy. Nature is doing everybody a favor, and a fitting soundtrack is required. Two of these new - and frankly beautiful - compositions come with tiny little poems embedded in the mp3s, written mostly in lower case. The first reads, in its original English: "only when u hear/ the singin' of [a] titmouse/ outside/ u feel the spring.../ that spring [just] like the children's photo album."
The second reads: "i feel touch of the sunbeams/ the whisper[s] invite me to dance/ i'm spinning around/ and my hair [is] flyin'/ in the spring['s] breath." As spring grows nearer and desires become reality - thanks to the kindliness of nature - a sweet imprecision emerges. Sounds grow faint and images slip happily out of focus. The word "bliss" comes to mind.