Air Goatika: Bold Indian Traditions and Post-Industrial Chillout

Air Goatika is an offshoot of Moscow's Goatika Creative Lab and defines itself as a "joyous, energetic musical project, full of light and positive vibrations." Flexible in its lineup, the band's current members are Boris Nazarov (keyboards), Pavel Mikhailuk (bass guitar), Victor Netesov (horns) and French vocalist Pascale Caristo. That final Gallic figure is by no means an anomaly; Goatika Creative Lab have always been a fluid combination of Russian musicians and international guests. Their web page contains a full list of the numerous collaborators over the years.

The quartet of Air Goatika wastes no time in expressing this international zeal on a MySpace page; the collective's home address is listed as "Moscow, Ibiza, and Goa." As we mentioned the first time we wrote of GCL, "the ensemble's Indian connection is specifically with Goa and its modern dance scene, although GCL’s multiple projects have spiraled outwards beyond trance to encompass Indian traditional music and the meditative practices of the region – all filtered through a Slavic prism."

Such as winter headgear, come what may.

Mikhailuk has always described himself as Goatika's "conceptual mastermind[!] and manager," whereas Nazarov (above) is well-known in his own right as founder of Moscow Grooves Institute. Just as Goatika pull in guests from overseas, so MGI have moved in the opposite direction, traveling themselves around Europe and even appearing as far away as Japan.

These newly combined adventures and traditions were recently presented on disc as a six-track EP, offered here, and showcased live at Moscow's Shanti club. The same compositions can be downloaded via Kroogi.

These activities reflect some swift decision-making, since Air Goatika was only conceived at the start of 2010. A few online venues describe the early recordings as "tribal electro"; other opinions catalog the work as "Goa lounge," which is probably closer to the truth, if for no other reason that Mikhailuk and his colleagues have first-hand experience of those Indian shores, both as tourists and recording artists.

They return frequently and with fondness.

Mikhailuk attributes these sounds to a career choice he made several years ago, when he decided to "downshift" professionally. The hustle and bustle of Moscow life was placed to one side, and he stated his intention to work exclusively with music. This led to some early rhetoric from GCL declaring that "we've managed to make something that's genuinely hypnotic, calming, and relaxing, too. This is music rich with the Goa spirit of freedom. You'll find yourself plunging into an ocean of fantasies."

We've managed to make something that's genuinely hypnotic, calming, and relaxing, too. This is music rich with the Goa spirit of freedom. You'll find yourself plunging into an ocean of fantasies.

As Mikhailuk's finances shrank, his imagination blossomed.

Although most people today would associate Goa with a dance/trance-related heritage, the Air Goatika EP seems to hark back to an earlier stage of local musical evolution. In the 1970s, for example, Western music played on (or inspired by) the Goa shore was grounded in the traditions of psychedelic rock. It was not until the following decade that the narrower associations with dance music began to take hold.

A couple of tracks on this new EP reflect this era of guitars, rather than anything digital. From the first chords of "Terminal One," for example, it's evident that we have one leg firmly in the rock canon. (All the same, within a couple of minutes the same song is heavy in the kind of "wet" synth-sounds we'd associate with psytrance and other, more recent styles popular on the Indian coast).

If there's a guitar in this picture, it's very well hidden.

That same psychedelic tradition, at least in terms of a wholly affective, intuitive worldview, is clear in almost all interviews with GCL's Western collaborators, too. The musicians that Goatika have worked with speak of their Moscow/Goa experiences as something profoundly communal, in ways that urban, pragmatic society would consider borderline mumbo-jumbo.  American bass guitarist Tony Levin recently remarked: "When good musicians gather, something always turns out good." That positive experience has been explained in greater detail by UK percussionist Pete Lockett; here the line between studio work and post-festival chillout is very thin.

When good musicians gather, something always turns out good.

"We simply gather and play, leaving to fate where the notes and rhythms take us, drawing inspiration from the moment in time as well as all our musical influences and studies. And, as a result, we make something that turns out to be absolutely challenging and inspiring. We attentively listen and respond to one another selflessly and at this moment we exist in a uniform space."

These are the sentiments and sounds to match a rejection of Moscow's rat race. Everyone gets starry-eyed at the potential for a kinder, calmer type of socializing.

US saxophonist George Brooks extends this rhetoric when he speaks about working with GCL such that music, meditation, and hallucination all come together: "During a concert there is little or no verbal interaction. Music forms the basis and content of our conversation. As performing improvisers, we have developed a unique form of nonverbal communication. For this to work, each musician must remain open and receptive while simultaneously engaged in creation. This is our yoga, our meditation, our spiritual science."

For these and other reasons, Air Goatika's work respects and continues additional drug-related aspects of Indian coastal culture, such as the local convention of day-glo clothing, using gaudy shades from both Hindu practice and other, chemically assisted types of spiritual "insight."

Sartorial understatement is not an option. Especially if you already happen to be blue.

These escapist practices have taken on different forms in different lands, such as the psytrance that comes from Karelia or Finland, drawing upon the shamanistic conventions of Northern forests. Sun and sand are replaced by fog and moss, but the ideas are similar. From the other end of the globe, we can see that Goa has also, in recent years, become a popular destination for young Israeli soldiers, who need to decelerate both mentally and emotionally after their taxing military service.

That type of radical search for a downtempo environment puts Mikhailuk's own "downshifting" into a different perspective. If Israeli troops and the members of Goatika are looking for the same type of calm(!), that says a lot about stress levels in Moscow.

The tentative smiles and initial applause we see at the Shanti club would suggest that Air Goatika's antidote to urban anxiety is working well. Downshifters of the world, unite.

Audio

Air Goatika – De Folk (studio version)
Air Goatika – Funtasy Island
Air Goatika – Moving Energy
Air Goatika – Silly Love Song
Air Goatika – Terminal One

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