Flux: Jelena Glazova, Astma, Kompakt–Katya, Blear Moon, and Sal Solaris

Jelena Glazova and Astma: "Idiot's Gold" (2016)

Jelena Glazova is an audiovisual artist based in Riga. In her own––and more detailed––words, she informs us that her experimentation operates across the overlapping domains of "image, poetic text, experimental sound, and art installations.... As a conceptual artist, I use my voice as a generator, radically altering and manipulating it with the help of digital processing." Glazova then utters a key statement: "I consider the deconstruction of vocal elements a way of expressing 'unpronounced speech.'"

Drone or noise recordings are a metaphor for the eternal flow or development of 'primary' matter (Jelena Glazova)

Glazova connects these experiments simultaneously to the traditions of Dadaism and Futurism. Something within "irrational, senseless" self-expression, so to speak, appeals as a forward-looking, even futural philosophy. Tomorrow is best approached silently and spontaneously––in anticipation of considerable strangeness. The same issues inform her poetry, which has been very well received by Latvian critics. It dismisses rationality and celebrates risk. 

In a recent interview with the Western press, Glazova speaks again of deconstruction and distortion. "For me drone or noise recordings are a metaphor for the eternal flow or development of 'primary' matter––as opposed to any development of the human body." Juxtaposed to the rigid forms of human physicality is something much older and more fluid. It is unpredictable. This ongoing distrust of strict semantics or hardened forms directly colors Glazova's video work. Film fluctuates and moves, whereas language––in her mind––tends merely to categorize: "Symbols say more than words."  

One of her poems is likewise dedicated to the telling symbolism of some "uncontrollable radiance." A young boy asks how to control such a phenomenon, since it lies far beyond the ken of any lexicographer. How can one speak of "radiance" and therefore manage it? A mysterious voice begins to offer advice, but the very excess of this blinding, ineffable light is so appealing that our quizzical boy is lost in thought. He ignores his helper. "The boy had long stopped listening to both speakers./ He was intrigued by the invention of new and interesting concepts." 

Jelena Glazova (Riga

These same theories and practices have now been interwoven with Moscow's electronic duo Astma––in other words with the craft of Alexei Borisov and Ol'ga Nosova, both of whom are discussed on FFM with regularity. Borisov, as readers know, remains a leading figure among Russia's avant-garde sound artists, inclining––as ever––towards the industrial or improvised end of a very discordant spectrum. Over the last couple of years he has worked increasingly with Nosova, known to audiences in the capital as drummer/percussionist with the Motherfathers, who nowadays find themselves tagged as "noise-core" exponents. She currently lives in Berlin. 

The creative process is sometimes absolutely unpredictable (Alexei Borisov)

Borisov's and Nosova's semi-audible vocals usually create less of a coherent narrative than a series of wandering, woeful declarations, surfacing from time to time amid the improvised clamor. Their earlier tracks have often remained nameless––or perhaps simply numbered. Beneath any disciplined track-listing, though, the mayhem will continue, awash with grand reverb, feedback, and the sounds of impending collapse. The newest collaborations with Jelena Glazova are called "Idiot's Gold," invoking similar motifs of deception and disaster.

Mirroring Glazova's celebration of creative, fruitful formlessness, Borisov has said in Russian interviews that his own work "is not arranged with any structural considerations in mind. I prefer the term 'no-art,' which can be understood in various ways. One could say, for example, that our work [in Astma] is neither art nor anything of value... We try to overcome those formal issues––in order to go beyond their limits. Perhaps that'll allow us to unearth something new... We're more interested in the [creative, chaotic] process than in any final result, although they don't necessarily exclude one another. So there is a certain ideological background at work... it causes [opposing] viewpoints to clash. And that might inspire a certain activism."

Put simply, a work of art (a concrete object or objective) is replaced with the working procedure––and that which constantly changes or remains active will never have a name. It never stays still long enough to join any established category; flux is ineffable. Borisov speaks of fluid, endless sound just as Glazova talks about unspeakable "radiance." He declares: "The creative process is sometimes absolutely unpredictable. You can shape it and perhaps even get it under complete control [for a while]––but that won't always be effective. Sooner or later, it will get away from you." Change will triumph over immobility; primal noise will always swamp language.

AstmaAlexei Borisov (Moscow) and Ol'ga Nosova (Berlin)

Related ideas emerge in the catalog of Sal Solaris. Known also by their Russian moniker (Солнечная Соль), these two men––Konstantin Mezer and Ivan Napreenko––are from the cities of Moscow and Rostov-na-Donu. Their social networking accounts are sometimes topped with a somewhat imploring request: "May each of us become a philosophical child." Satisfaction is more likely to be found in thought than in social deed. For quite a few years now––in fact, since the late 1990s––Mezer and Napreenko have spoken of their singular desire to fashion "phantom melodies... This is audio therapy for a broken world." Another common, yet idiosyncratic tag for Sal Solaris has been "power ambient"––something of a forceful rejection of modernity.

'Possessed': urgently desirous to do or have something (Sal Solaris)

Sal Solaris describe the aesthetic of their live shows as inspired by the "austere persistence of early National Bolshevism"––which was another unrealized possibility within Soviet culture, something that never came to be. Several commentators would even assign such ideas to Russia's current regime, in which case Sal Solaris' performances are meant to dramatize the very thin line between politics and persecution, between promises and actuality. Between words and a more complex actuality.

The newest Sal Solaris compositions are collectively called "Possessed," They are prefaced with an English-language definition from a Merriam Webster dictionary of that same adjective or participle: "[1] Influenced or controlled by something (as an evil spirit, a passion, or an idea) [2] Mad, crazed [3] Urgently desirous to do or have something." The imprecise word "something" appears here twice; the driving force behind possession or obsession remains vague, at best.  

That same abstract force emerged in an interview not long ago when Sal Solaris explained that their peculiar moniker comes from a 1997 edition of the long-defunct National Bolshevik Party newspaper, "Limonka." "It [also] has alchemical origins and refers to a new subjectivity––one that would be free from the illusions of a false consciousness." 

Sal Solaris ("Солнечная Соль," Rostov-na-Donu)

Mezer and Napreenko talk here of some "phantom," a nameless melody that once inspired the civic dreams of the Soviet Union. Those elusive harmonies possessed an entire social system and remain strangely dignified, even after 1991. Maybe Soviet reverie could have become a reality; universal brotherhood might still transpire––one day. Sal Solaris admit: "We were traumatized by the shutdown of the USSR, as were many people of our generation (and our entire country). Yes, the empire was ugly, tired, and imperfect. But any hopes for a new, just, and free society [in 1991] were crushed by the growing gap between common people and those who took power..." A wordless aspiration refused to go away, especially when faced with the cruelty of Russian society in the 1990s. 

An attempt to discredit completely the world of reality (Salvador Dalí)

Rather than the awfulness or grim conclusion or some goal-driven enterprise, therefore, Sal Solaris speak––like Astma––in favor of flow, movement, and flux. That which never ends will never come to be. "Exposing oneself––in life, as in music––is always risky, even in a state of information overload. Probably we should remind ourselves that there are no right or wrong choices, only choices and their consequences." The movement between them is arguably unending, because conscious choices often prompt unpredictable consequences; deliberate actions frequently lead to strange outcomes. Linear plans are led astray and straight lines become rhizomatic curlicues. Life slips out of our hands; it does not lend itself to categorization.

The real becomes surreal, if one surrenders orderly, conventional thoughts (or anally retentive behavior!) to the flux of an improvised procedure––hence Jelena Glazova's invocation of Salvador Dalí. The same painter is important in some new recordings from the founder or creator of Kompakt–Katya in Moscow. Known in more mundane settings as Katya Zaitseva, "KK" and her  catalog are the very embodiment of isolation. Prone to silence, Zaitseva presents herself to the world visually with faded, unfocused Polaroids and other crumpled portraits. Sonically, her compositions tend to be tagged as wobbly tape music, full of hiss and often built upon faltering loops. These, put simply, are the sounds of solitude, freely chosen or otherwise. Old, even obsolete recording devices are used to capture the musical musings of a very minor––and barely audible––figure.

Zaitseva's newest video accompanies a parallel EP, released under her own name and called "Palimpsest." A wavering, hand-held camera scans some crumpled bed linen and then goes on an unsure journey. It moves from the security of a bedroom to a wooded hillside, topped by a dark stone tower. One of the looping, repeated images in the film is an unfocused shot of Dalí's 1931 painting, "The Persistence of Memory." That canvas was famously defined by its maker as an attempt "to systematize confusion and thus to help discredit completely the world of reality." Full actuality lies beyond the visible, immobile, and effable.

Sal Solaris: "Possessed" (2016)

Anything unfamiliar, unnamed, or illogical will be disturbing in a realm of convention and habit. Zaitseva's video throws a couple more spanners into the safe workings of tradition. Not only does this film end with David Bowie's 1977 song, "Secret Life of Arabia," in which we hear that "secret secrets [are] never seen." The "Palimpsest" film also includes a textual message, written in cursive across several frames: "Psychokiller––he is after your heart."

The last recording from Kompakt–Katya was no less dramatic in its depiction of "flowing, primary, and forceful" emotions, to paraphrase Glazova. Entitled "Evelyn," it was based on the life of Florence Evelyn Nesbit (b. 1884). In the early Twentieth Century Nesbit became not only a famous model and chorus girl. She was also, maintain some modern historians, America's first marketable celebrity, dragged at a young age into the limelight of national media––for better and worse. 

Secret secrets [are] never seen (David Bowie/ Kompakt–Katya)

Sexually abused as a young teenager, she eventually found herself loved by two pathologically jealous men––who themselves were subsequently embroiled in what became known as "The Murder Trial of the Century." Needless to say, the popular press had a field day, not only with the complexities of legal drama, but also with the private lives of everybody involved. The trial only exacerbated the general air of unwanted public exposure and suffering; Nesbit's spouse, found not guilty by virtue of insanity, would subsequently be sent to a mental institution. Meanwhile, Nesbit herself was chastised by journalists as somebody who "was sold to one man––and later sold herself to another."

Rounding out the collection of new experimental and electronic releases this week is Blear Moon, a one-man project otherwise known as Vlas Presnetov. Unwilling to document himself with any great clarity, Mr. Presnetov nonetheless informs people that he has been playing on the guitar, piano, and cello for the last five years. Recent efforts have taken that DIY dossier into the broader, more public realm of audio-visual performance. He used to live in Snezhinsk, a small town relatively close to the industrial center of Chelyabinsk. That city, in turn, is no great distance from the Ural Mountains, which traditionally straddle European and Asian Russia. 

Katya Zaitseva (Kompakt–Katya, Mw): "Palimpsest" (2016)

Chelyabinsk is home to more than a million people, yet Snezhinsk goes unmentioned on many of today's maps. It didn’t exist at all until the late 1950s and for decades sported a number of secret names––because of its links to nuclear research. During the last quarter century of the Soviet period Snezhinsk was known merely as “Chelyabinsk 70”––and was extremely unlikely to be signposted on roads or marked in domestic atlases.

Presnetov has since moved to Ústí Nad Labem in the Czech Republic. Perhaps as a result of these distances and dimensions, the Blear Moon project fell completely silent for two years. It has just resurfaced with a new album called "Dust." Presnetov modestly adds to the release page: "I hope I'll be back with more cinematic textures, designed for independent directors to use in their own works, free of charge." A link to the Wikipedia article on "Renaissance" is also appended––with a nod and knowing wink. 

The experience and teachings of those who have feared the most––and then died (Blear Moon)

Not long beforehand, Blear Moon uploaded a small and cutting text that summarizes the worldview of Jelena GlazovaAstmaKompakt–Katya, and Sal Solaris––all of whom validate change and metamorphoses over stasis and (immobile, intolerant) prestige. It reads as a cautionary tale, concerning men and women whose lives are dictated by fear and anxiety.

We are initially told that anybody who shakes with fear at twenty years of age will probably continue to do so forever. "They'll shiver and shake from dawn till dusk––and through the night, too. They'll do so all of their 'conscious' lives. It's called 'cautiousness' or 'planning.' In essence, this kind of behavior is based on the experience and teachings of those who have feared the most––and then died. In many cases, those deceased individuals had also published books in which they shared their rich, jittery experience. They may be called 'How to Avoid Cancer' or 'How to Get Rich.' They might equally be called 'Happy Family' or 'The Experience of a Successful Manager,' maybe 'Healthy Eating'..." The list continues.

In essence, the takeaway of Blear Moon's anecdote is that a lifetime planned or shaped wholly by conservative, unquestioned habit will be terribly disappointing. Life needs jeopardy––because risk and danger lead ultimately to increased gratitude. The plenitude of human experience is found in risky, unconscious realms, in places that scare us––because planning must give way to the primary, instinctive flows of which Jelena Glazova speaks. And so we find ourselves surrounded in all of these recordings by discord, clamor, and the unexpected. These are the sounds of abnormal experiential states––with no name. 

Blear Moon (Vlas Presnetov, SnezhinskÚstí Nad Labem, Czech Rep.)


Jelena Glazova – Dysfunctional Dancing (with ASTMA)
Sal Solaris – Entangled Photons (for PVV)
Sal Solaris – From Now to the New de Sitter Space
Astma – Idiot's Gold (w. Jelena Glazova)
Blear Moon – Naked Shadow (Tape 2)

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