A Vague, Distant Promise: Aleph, 813, Valotihkuu, and PCのMuseum

Valotihkuu (D. Davydov, Cherepovets): "Radio Tropica" (2013)

The newest Valotihkuu release begins with a solid, wooden "clunk": an antique radio is turned on. As the receiver crackles into life, it seems to introduce the distant strains of some alluring - and fundamentally banal! - "Hawaiian" instrumental. A dusty lounge recording promises some isolated, yet ideal location, utterly free of stress and strain. No sooner is it audible, however, than the same Hawaiian motif slips back into waves of crackle and static. This sonic hide-and-seek is used to begin Valotihkuu's "Radio Tropica" mini-album, dedicated to an "endless summer."

Put differently, the tracks are yearning for some purportedly "endless" state that never comes to be. We're dealing with stubborn fantasy, rather than with manageable fact.

Tiki Soul, Exotique Drums...

Hence the track-listing of "Radio Tropica," speaking of locations that are long desired - yet never seen. Repeated, precious wishes have a difficult time extricating themselves from the language of saccharine sentiment: "Ocean Breath"; "Tropical Splash"; "All the Sunny Days"; "Tiki Soul"; "Exotique Drums"; and even "Jungle[!] Fantasy." The last two titles in particular do much to admit the enduring gap between actuality and orientalized daydreams. Likewise, Tiki establishments in the US have - for eighty years now - played upon a romanticized, commercialized, yet loving view of Polynesian culture. A perfect location is reproduced, close to home, yet never actually created. 

Looped samples from these charming, though superficial views of Pacific people gradually turn an overseas desire into a more driven expression. Hope, on occasion, becomes a little obsessive. Any such interplay of wishing and (really) wanting to be elsewhere serves to remind us of Valotihkuu's whereabouts. This project's only member is Denis Davydov. He lives in the industrial city of Cherepovets on the banks of the Sheksna River.

From that smokey, endlessly noisy location we've recently seen releases such as "Medusa Bay." That summertime single was based on a couple of reconsidered tunes from the 1990s Sega computer game, "Ecco the Dolphin." In essence, the game's core storyline once concerned the efforts of a magical dolphin to fight extraterrestrial forces, both in the (deepest) ocean and in distant space...

Aleph (Ivan Erofeev, orig. Omsk): "Fourth Way" (2013)

These efforts also involved significant time travel, as Ecco goes 55 million years(!) into the past, in order to find the original sources of both an alien threat and repeated ecological disaster. In the famous words of one concerned dolphin within the game, "Something terrible has happened, something very powerful." Travel to an imagined past could offer new ways to reconstitute the present; answers could be found elsewhere.

Language can easily lose its power

The promise of "somewhere else" is just as important in the August release from Aleph (Ivan Erofeev), originally from Omsk. Thanks to the help of Canada's excellent King Deluxe label, Aleph has announced a fresh EP, "Fourth Way." The title is presumably a reference to Petr Uspenskii's study of global faiths, conducted in search of an alternative belief system, made from a synthesis of all existing models. In other words, Uspenskii held that the Sufi, Hindu/Sikh, and Christian/Buddhist heritages could be merged. This grand gesture was based on the conviction that those three religious groupings all conceive of their tenets - respectively - through the symbolic figures of a fakir, yogi, and monk. Those three biographical and spiritual models could be interwoven, perhaps, in a fourth synthetic system.

An elusive object of desire was both (admittedly) far and the focus of much attention.

Not long ago, Aleph published some material with colleague Tronical (aka Gosha Shikhow, based in Perm). Together they produced a "Distant Lights EP," perhaps in reference to their respective addresses. The label publishing these future bass and juke compositions, Safe 'n' Sound, declared: "The EP's goal was both to produce a working definition of love and evoke its fundamental essence, too. We mean everything from the fleeting passions you'll experience at a party to some powerful, all-consuming sense of happiness. Everything from endless solitude online to touching messages, sent to future lovers. Each and every track was a separate story, a journey taken towards some distant light."  

Aleph (now in St. Petersburg): a fixed gaze upon some abstract notions

The impression endured that verity and/or profundity are far away. Difference is synonymous with distance. That leads, however, to the possibility that genuine, guaranteed revelation - something that's always special - must necessarily be kept far from normality. Dreams, apparently, do not benefit from coming true or being "close" to typical experience. 

The same thoughts have led Aleph to shy away from interviews and wordy self-statements. His most cherished ideas are best left unrealized, without the narrow constraints of typical (un-editable!) language. "I don't think I'd ever write a [creative] manifesto. Maybe my tracks play that role. If you start toying with manifestos and your head gets full of words, then language itself can easily lose its power." Something unsaid has greater weight. "If people worldwide could simply comprehend the profound and fundamental meaning of art [in silence] and experience it, then everything would be different."

I just wanted to turn my head off...

If meaning was neither stated, nor brought close to "proximal" banality, life would apparently improve. The best things never come to be.

Moscow's 813 (Aleksandr Goryachev) is busy promoting his new EP, "Espoir Voyage." It comes not long after his material for the Afterhours Sessions" EP, itself penned over the course of a single night. This celebration of wordless inspiration or spontaneity was explained, in part, when 813 offered a new mix to a Moscow webzine this season.

"When making my most recent mix, I just wanted to turn my head off and let the dance music flow. I simply wanted the material to carry some positive, even beautiful emotions with it. If I could ever 'visualize' a mix, then maybe a suitable image would be the fragments of a large glass vase - one decorated in bright, rich colors [and then shattered]. Everything would explode - endlessly - and break into even smaller fragments. Ultimately what results is a kind of technicolor dust, simply hanging in the air." 

Moscow's 813 (Aleksandr Goryachev): "Espoir Voyage" (2013)

Fragmentation and the removal of any singular, sensible meaning becomes a cause for celebration. 

And now for a contrary viewpoint. Doubts are cast upon the long-term value of virtual, distant, or somehow "absent" truths by the Siberian project PCのMuseum. As we mentioned before, this unnamed performer plays upon some key elements of vaporwave, the style first discussed by Adam Harper in Dummy - using both concrete and commercial contexts. The DNA of vaporwave - itself born of wholly virtual, homeless "vaporware" - was explained by Harper through the increasingly homeless expansion of global business. 

Sensory information, valued by the pixel

"Global capitalism is nearly there. At the end of the world there will only be liquid advertisement and gaseous desire. Sublimated from our bodies, our untethered senses will endlessly ride escalators through pristine artificial environments, more and less than human, drugged-up and drugged down, catalyzed, consuming and consumed by a relentlessly rich economy of sensory information, valued by the pixel. The Virtual Plaza welcomes you, and you will welcome it too."

Music born in these floating environments, though, can be construed either as some "hypnogogic" flight from a nightmarish actuality or - to more cynical readers - as capitulation to international norms of business. What sounds like escapist, even underground psychedelia is for some audiences terribly reminiscent of the soma-like soundtrack we encounter in shops, elevators, and corporate commercials.

Tiki bars start to look very disconcerting...

PCのMuseum (Omsk): "Fashion" (2013)

Audio

Aleph – Crown of Slave
Valotihkuu – Endless Summer
813 – Espoir Voyage (DZA Remix)
Valotihkuu – Ocean Breath
Aleph – Overheat
PCのMuseum – Structure 680
813 – Village

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