One of the most pleasing and enduring traditions of 2012 has been the series of "Afterhours Sessions" EPs, each challenging a producer, beatmaker, or housebound composer to create polished material over the course of one night. The resulting works are then tagged according to the time of completion. The newest of these projects, released three days ago in Moscow, comes from 813 (Aleksandr Goryachev), a figure often celebrated on FFM. The first impression is one of surprise - at the energy levels. Most of the "Afterhours Sessions," conducted already in a range of Russian cities, have adopted a quiet, almost glitchy tone, reflective of one man's solitude. 813, however, throws habit (and caution) to the wind. His opening track, "Marine Paints," is tagged at 11:17pm on September 19th. At that precise moment, long after sundown, some spirited funk starts kicking and punching.
Some people have trouble sleeping.
11:17 p.m. to 7:20 a.m. on September 19, 2012 (Moscow)
That high level of enthusiasm and laptop zeal is especially interesting in that Goryachev, until recently, worked as a fireman. There is arguably no harder job in the Russian capital. Now, however, he has taken a leap of faith and dedicated himself entirely to music-making. He thus scribes an alternative professional trajectory to many artists in Moscow. A recent questionnaire in the capital's press asked a range of sound artists how they manage to make a living nowadays; Goryachev appeared to be the only person who was able to survive on a performance-based, "artistic" income alone. That may well be, of course, thanks wholly to funds that were saved doing something else - and much harder.
The ardor and exhilaration he brings to these upbeat, funk- and juke-flecked numbers certainly find expression elsewhere. Goryachev recently spoke of his solo compositional work in the most romantic tones, again in discussion with the Russian press. On this second occasion, he was asked to define the meaning that podcasts, mixes, or mixtapes have for him as a musician. What, in other words, is the creative promise of mixing, matching, cutting, and pasting?
Aleksandr Goryachev (813) at his old job
It's evident from the response that an individual just released into "pure" creative work, far from raging fires or suffocating smoke, is keen to get cracking. "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."
A related romance, tied to workplace adventures, has appeared this week through Russia's DJMag, who are offering a free CD attached to the cover; it's designed to showcase a range of artists from the FUSELab label. One of those individuals included on the freebie disk is Denis Korsunskii, himself from FUSELab's spiritual homeland of Krasnodar in southern Russia.
We'll show you what it means to busy your brain with creativity!
Operating under the dual nicknames of Clapan and Information Ghetto, he has not only published widely across numerous European labels, both at home and abroad. He also does a great deal in Krasnodar to help the development of young music and, in his hometown, is equally renowned as a pedagogue and performer. The younger generation needs skills to get by. In a recent interview with the Russian press, he remarked: "There's one piece of advice I can give anybody who's thinking about tying their life to music. Come to our school and studio [known as Spektral]... and we'll show you what it means to busy your brain with creativity!"
As these workplace travails are channeled towards something better than mere physical slog, Clapan uses an intriguing turn of phrase. "We help people to stage unique events; they always offer an especially 'aesthetic' approach to dance culture, in fact to the application of music as a whole! The events we create always involve a total cleansing [or 'sanitation'!] of your music. We want everybody's social functions [and guest-lists] to consist of smart, cultured individuals..."
The kind of "explosive" romance or creative possibilities of which 813 speaks are, according to Korsunskii, possible only with the help of refined or "trained" folks on the dancefloor. Finding, gathering, and educating those individuals is, apparently, is not an easy task in every city. Ideal situations and social potentials require planning, extensive labor, and teacherly input... en route to what Clapan calls "cosmic music." That stargazing possibility doesn't occur on its own.
Another of the participants on the DJMag album is Sergei Galunenko, who displays his on-stage talents as the gifted and increasingly well-known beatboxer Galun. Working of late with Ivan Kalashnikov of Moremoney, his own transformations of physical exertion, in fact of his entire body, have been remarkable. With Kalashnikov at the production desk, Galunenko's physical limits have been tested, if not pushed into unique experiential realms, both from the viewpoint of an artist and his audience. A beatbox heritage is morphed into some baroque investigations of post-dubstep promise. Somewhere within physical effort lies an ideal sound.
Galunenko's voice is dramatically chopped up and manipulated
"Galunenko's voice is so dramatically chopped up and manipulated that's it's almost unrecognizable... Yet the main thing here is not the voice alone, it's the musical concept [behind those efforts], so to speak." The work enacted upon a voice reflects an idea - of something bigger and better - that should be. At least "conceptually." "All the twists, turns, and [structural] solutions come precisely from Galun's voice. And that only humanizes the whole process..."
A concept and/or potential is expressed through effort; the most "human" forms of expression of all are realized at their limit.
Not everybody looks with such faith or determination in a forward direction. A couple more recordings this week - from Kiev and Moscow - take more inspiration from the past. The first of them, representing Ukraine, is Cape Cod, aka Maksim Sikalenko, who tags his newest work in a charming way at Soundcloud: "There's Soul in Ma House." Drawing inspiration from a wide range of influences - Erik Satie, Burial, and Jamie xx among them - these sounds benefit from the vigorous support of Guerrilla Records. That witty, cutting publication only publishes music rarely. The choice of Cape Cod has been made seriously.
A six-track EP is now on show, entitled "We Don't Have To Put U Down." Including remixes my Dubdelight (Odessa) and Koloah (Kiev), among others, it has already met with some very approving voices from Western bloggers and US webzines. By way of example: "The opening track starts with a surprisingly original intro, which quickly melts into a sweet house melody and a beat-clap rhythm... It's all quite 'summer-flavored' and accompanied by a discrete, low bass... [plus] a tasty choice in vocals. [Overall,] the track is chill, yet a little bouncy and groovy, too." An air of ease predominates: "Whether it's to warm up a party or just enjoy in your headphones, this smooth track by Cape Cod won’t let you down."
The atmosphere of [Ukrainian] raves from the early '90s
Once we're within a Kievan context, however, ease and other attainable ideals are positioned elsewhere, increasingly out of reach. The sounds of happiness are linked not to a forthcoming party, but to prior sonic and social potentials. Older sounds predominate. Sikalenko says: "Nowadays Cape Cod operates as a solo project, because that makes it possible for me to experiment more freely. The foundation of these tracks lies in a vintage garage sound with [elements of] old-school house and deep house, too. To that I add a little techno, crunk, or R&B... with the atmosphere of raves from the early '90s."
Ideal sounds are positioned in the past, specifically in a time when dancefloor hedonism first reached post-Soviet raves - and a great deal seemed possible. Both creatively and socially. It takes effort to rebuild the past, however, and some listeners on Soundcloud have noticed audible traces of exertion: "I like the amount of bit-rate reduction [you use] on the drums. It's just the right amount of digital distortion." It's as if the tape wobble and lo-fi hiss of glo-fi are just around the corner. Dreams endure, but the physical media bearing them start to suffer.
Another listener has a more direct view of resurrecting prior perfection: "Please do a song with Michael Jackson! Your drum style and smooth synth make me think of his first album."
It's hard not to see parallels with the brand new, well-hidden side project that has emerged from the workshop of Aleksey Devyanin (known to many as Pixelord). Two tracks have just appeared under the (uncredited) moniker of Computer Graphics. Those same compositions have yet to be advertised in any way, even though they're tagged with a simple, explanatory phrase in English: "News from the past." There are lessons for the future's residents in past practice. A minuscule, B&W image of an antique iPod decorates the sidebar, too.
In the same way, various smiling faces are on display, redolent of an 8-bit Pokemon. Only three small turns of (normal!) phrasing appear in the comments left by Computer Graphics: "Wooohoo"; "Hey Babe" (followed by another smiling beastie), and "Tasty bleeps!" The signature sounds of a boyhood computer game, again from the chiptune years of post-Soviet promise, refuse to go away. An unfinished dream persists; it's not, however, easily rediscovered or nearby. Devyanin, in this new guise, states his official location as the "Superbowl," and that – apparently – is in Jamaica. Fantasy leaves fact (and likelihood) in a cloud of dust.
Tasty bleeps! (Computer Graphics, Moscow)
The October recordings from 813, FUSELab, Cape Cod, and Pixelord all admit the tricky relationship between (necessary) work and (ideal) music. Doing a life-threatening job, Aleksandr Goryachev manages to buy some time for composition; Clapan talks of "cleaning out" the detritus of poor taste with his schoolroom duties; and Galun's voice is "severely dissected" in order to realize its expressive potential. None of these situations speaks of uncomplicated, let alone effortless composition. That link between stress, strain, and possible beauty is so widespread that we turned also to brand-new material from Cape Cod and Computer Graphics, declaring that the best "news" comes either from the distant past or from a very distant location.
Likewise, the "tastiest bleeps" of all reflect the romance of early '90s chiptune or 8-bit culture; they're from a time before these young men grew up. And realized how hard things would be.