Solitude: A.B.S.T.R.A, Yevgeny Shukin, Long Arm, SPDSC, and Vagina Vangi

Kirill Sergeev (St. Petersburg): SPDSC

Today we consider the remaining musicians selected by the Red Bull Academy "Bass Camp," an annual event that assists performing artists from various countries, both creatively and professionally. Yesterday, we chose four of the ten people selected for Russia's camp next month in Sochi: below are the last six. All in all, says RBMA, they represent a wide range of genres: "From house and techno to hip-hop, from dubstep to indietronica and folk." That final style, to be honest, isn't really to be found here, but all the others are championed to some degree.

From house and techno to hip-hop, from dubstep to indietronica and folk

What's especially pleasing is that one of the chosen lecturers is also Russian: VTOL (Dmitry Morozov), whose homemade magic with bent circuitry has been enthusiastically supported on this site for some while. Another local hero is Lydia Kavina, the world-famous theremin player, who will also be giving a performance. In short, over and above the international talks and Western workshops, a healthy degree of local history and dexterity is on display. In fact, Kavina's contribution is advertised by RBMA as "interactive" - with that adjective emphatically printed in a cursive font, stressing the fact that everybody's welcome to try their hand with a legendary instrument of Russian music. 

Compositions, collaborations, and DJ sets will be built during the daytime, often in a laboratory environment. The results will then be played live - after dark - to a willing audience. Sun, sea, sand, and music are all on offer... albeit during a Russian winter. That contradiction between warmth and a somewhat "chilly" environment will continue to be important.

A still from the 2011 SPDSC video: "Love Spin"

All the musicians in today's list have been individually - and loudly - promoted on FFM before, but as a team, so to speak, they bring some novel emphases to light. What, then, can be said of their latest efforts and intentions? One of the more adventurous steps taken by these men in recent months has been a video for/by Kirill Sergeev, aka SPDSC (Saint Petersburg Disco Spin Club). More specifically, a fantastic array of stop-action plasticine figures was created in Sergeev's hometown for a virtuoso display of old-school animation. The vivid interplay we see above between music and the material world was fashioned according to "collective thought-processes, fantasy, and much discussion."

A visual attitude towards the social world was itself created socially. What transpired as a result?

Collective thought-processes, fantasy, and discussion

The basic plot of the film - known as "Love Spin" - involves an enormous, slowly spinning record, upon which a lonely figure sits. He is listening to music on some headphones. As the music plays, his imagination starts to populate the space around him. Grass grows quickly: this magical lawn is slowly covered by new human figures, their pets, children, and a host of playful activities, Houses then pop up, as a scene of domestic enterprise unfolds: the suburban calm soon becomes an even busier realm, full of traffic (above).

Eventually a second figure comes forth, also listening to music on headphones. As these two romantics find each other, the gaudy clamor of streets and shops fades away - returning us to the simplicity of the opening footage.

And, all the while, the word LOVE flickers across the screen in a wide range of childish - and therefore appealing - cutouts. Solitude has found its perfect match, thanks to music, reverie, and the natural ebb and flow of one's surroundings. Plants appear, flourish... and vanish.

Georgii Kotunov (aka Long Arm), Orenburg

These happy, sentimental patterns of growth recall some of the rhetoric surrounding Georgii Kotunov, who is also attending the Bass Camp. Raised in the city of Orenburg, Kotunov performs as Long Arm and has been praised in recent months by the French press for his "jazz fantasies, enthralling samples, and overall inventiveness." The same publication then celebrates his soundscapes as a realm where "human emotion and the forces of nature are joined as one." Sound evokes a tangible space, which it then changes for the better - as we saw with SPDSC

Jazz fantasies, enthralling samples, and an overall inventiveness

The parallels between "natural" processes and the benefits of improvisation in Kotunov's discography continue elsewhere. "Purely by virtue of his performance style, Long Arm often passes through an entire evolutionary cycle. His slices of abstract hip-hop, decorated with pleasing aspects of trip-hop, can easily branch outwards... His LP or vinyl-beats, grounded in cool jazz, are suggestive of a great deal. Even brief snippets of his recordings can reveal an unexpected plenitude."

Composition - in very abstract terms - is viewed as a creative, burgeoning principle that operates in harmony with nature itself. Indeed, in that same "expansive" spirit, Long Arm says of his newest labor: "I would never have fallen in love with the springtime if I hadn't first experienced autumn....The world is full of contrasts. Every day is full of conflicting emotions and events. Every one of them leaves an imprint... They all lead back to the creation of [new,] imaginative worlds." The interplay of sound and silence, novelty and tradition - or any other binary - is viewed in terms of the biosphere's annual juxtaposition of growth and demise. Each requires the other.

Dare we draw a parallel with Engels' "Dialectics of Nature," in which there's a celebrated passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes? 

Vagina Vangi (Murmansk)

Spontaneity and nature aren't, however, always viewed by these folks in positive terms. In some cases, the movement away from consolingly rational, urban structures leads only to worry - and the kind of drone we hear from Murmansk's Vagina Vangi. From places far colder than Sochi in January come some very disconcerting notions - in audible form.

Various blogs and music sites have adopted a dramatic register in order to do these sounds justice. "Vagina Vangi’s lurching, slow-burn material turns into a roiling hell[!]. These are aggressive and sexy synth-jams. They owe a bit to witch-house, but never feel beholden to it." A dalliance with disaster slowly takes shape...

Or, in another Western publication, we find an ongoing debate about the best way to categorize rural discord: "Call it 'witchhouse,' call it 'deathgaze,' call it 'doomtronic,' call it whatever you want (please don't actually call it 'doomtronic' though). Vagina Vangi, Russia's one-man gothgazer, has crafted some pretty massive dirges..." Earlier tracks released in Murmansk, such as "Christ" and "Servant of Death," had certainly set the tone. If city life dissatisfies, then the northern wilderness induces panic.

Kirill Vasin (left): A.B.S.T.R.A (St. Petersburg)

What's missing in the catalog of all these (social!) performers is a loud, optimistic call to civic engagement. SPDSC and Long Arm value imagination and hushed nature over peopled, urban spheres. Vagina Vangi, unhappy with asphalt and concrete, discern even bigger problems among the trees. For that reason, perhaps, several of the other RBMA projects leave a clear impression of wanting isolation, rather than company.

St. Petersburg's A.B.S.T.R.A (Kirill Vasin) has long based his abstract hip-hop on the "cosmic" possibilities of solitude and sci-fi. In some places, he even extends the fantasy of his moniker by appending the term "UFO." In the light of those self-designations, we start to leave ostensible reality with great speed. Ritmo Sportivo, who've released Vasin's prior work, sometimes refer to A.B.S.T.R.A as "our love- and space-researcher."  Civic investigation and improvement, in other words, is imagined - which is apparently much easier than forcing one's way through the unwilling, unwashed masses.

In the same vein, another of RBMA's attendees, Yevgeny Shukin (below), works exclusively within small, local projects like WOLS and Modul. Himself from the southern city of Krasnodar, Mr. Shukin has arguably contributed to some of the best electronic music from Russia over the last few years. What he does not do, however, is stride boldly forth as a solo artist, brandishing his real name for all to see. Even when operating alone, he prefers the nickname "Vega."

Actuality lacks magic - and promises little. Fantasy is a better option, fostered in small collectives. Dark glasses help to lessen the disappointment of surrounding tedium.

Yevgeny Shukin (Krasnodar)

What results from all these young men, therefore, is a credo of hard work, attentive craftsmanship, and the validation of considerable reserve - if not a wholesale retreat from society. 

And that leads us, in closing, to the conference's least social contributor: Roman Maksimov, who plays in St. Petersburg's Otomoto. This funk-rock outfit, rather strangely, offers by far the loudest, most hedonistic music of any RBMA project - yet the band is virtually absent from Russian music sites. Instead Otomoto prefer to advocate "marijuana as an aesthetic. And nonsense as an artform." The styles or tags used to frame this outlook are "freak-pop, theatrical scenes, and comic verse, all in the forms of math- or post-metal." The result may sound "heavy, but it's played without pathos." Why? Because there's little in actuality that deserves a confident or confrontational form of delivery.

You'll erase all thoughts, and your pulse will be separated from your mind....

Although these musicians are entering into a realm of collaboration and public display in Sochi, they all have a very standoffish attitude towards society itself. Introspection runs through their catalogs. And perhaps that's the goal sought by their audiences, too, using the dancefloor as a place of brief, yet precious forgetfulness. After all, it's exactly what Kirill Vasin has promised of late: "You will lose all sense of gravity [listening to this material]. You'll erase all thoughts, and your pulse will be separated from your mind...." 

Society fades away - on a dancefloor! - to the sights and sounds of a performance that's designed to escape physicality. Hence the empty space below, perhaps. 

Long ArmOrenburg


Wols – Adam Beam
SPDSC – Big Willey (Original/Snippet)
SPDSC – Divine (Mario Basanov. Snippet)
Modul – Krasnodar: Aurora
Vagina Vangi – Now What (w. Bobbi Dahl) [VV Touch]
Long Arm – Seeds Of Revolution (Dday One)
Vagina Vangi – The Sky in the Hands

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