Diamos Roll is the stage-name of a well-known Belarusian keyboard player, who is usually busy with the ensemble Cherry Vata. He is, we should point out, not the only member to prefer a moniker to whatever's written in his passport. Cherry Vata together, with real and imagined identities, have been publishing material on a regular basis since 2004, and "Roll" is usually credited with managerial responsibilities. It's not surprising, therefore, that he might ponder the appeal of a solo venture from time to time, as something of a sabbatical.
And so, in the multiple guises of composer, sound designer, and producer, he now announces a five-track, twenty-three minute mini-album, "Rosecode." It appears not only in the context of DR's professional work with Cherry Vata, but also against the backdrop of his (entire) biography. In other words, he traces the genesis of these new tracks to his childhood. "When Diamos Roll was a little boy, there was always a great deal of music around. The sounds of jazz, rock, and classical recordings at home were constant. As a student, he would later delve into electronic music, devouring anything he could find. At the same time, he began DJ-ing with cassettes and CDs."
Instrumental hip-hop, funk, and nu-jazz
That healthy diversity of styles and performative experience would be reflected in initial solo recordings. "DR took his first, eclectic steps within a wide range of styles - all the way from trip-hop and jazz to rock or techno." That same patchwork aesthetic continues in "Rosecode," with a particular penchant for "instrumental hip-hop, funk, and nu-jazz." The artwork helps to set the stage for some appealing and often striking combinations.
A solo project, of course, makes any such generic infidelity a lot simpler: nobody needs to be persuaded. On a related, but more pragmatic level, Diamos Roll has told the Belarusian press that touring as a one-man band should also be considerably easier. It's cheaper than wayfaring with an entire collective - and one is always open to last-minute, voluntary changes in the schedule. Solitude therefore has considerable benefits in a poor economic climate.
And we shouldn't forget the evident romance that surrounds the very notion of a "solo" performer, especially one who operates under a pseudonym. It suggests a commitment to one's craft, away from idle chitchat - and the potential magic of that inspired retreat. The same logic, however, tends not to apply to ensembles. One mask or moniker is intriguing: five of them would be a charade. Ask Kiss.
Were we looking for some classic examples of solitude and/or the creative benefits of flight, then we might turn to Solar Witcher. Similarly preferring a stage-name over any dull quotidian data, this virtually anonymous Muscovite offers no contextual support other than his name, Anton Govorin. One could even argue that the very term "Solar Witcher" is more likely to suggest a strident prog outfit than the quiet, introspective electronica on display - and so another layer of mystery is used to effect a distance from social hubbub.
For all his willful obscurity however, and linguistic hide-and-seek, Mr. Govorin is able to use that vanishing act to bolster some most appealing imagery of calm. (We presume, of course, that the image below shows a sunrise, and not a major explosion.)
This, for example, is how one blogger recently reacted to Govorin's quiet instrumentals. "These [tracks] are a dreamy, ambient gem, with bright synth melodies recalling [old-school] video games." Once again images of liberty are fostered not only in terms of geography (as whimsical touring or some rural retreat); they also are connected to childhood. Youth, in other words, is apparently freer than adult experience. The only way to reconnect with that past is to distance oneself from busy social spheres.
Govorin has already made a couple of videos for his music; they both use substantial material from relatively recent feature films. More specifically, he takes footage from Lost in Translation (2003) and Cracks (2009). Both of those narratives center on the alienating effects of modern social existence, be it in a major Japanese city or an English boarding school. Both films romanticize escape.
We have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country (Lost in Translation)
We need not fall to major drama in pondering that escape, though. Some new and solo recordings from other Russian instrumentalists are cast in a much calmer - and therefore consistently happy - light. We could turn, perhaps, to the unhurried, unassuming works of Moscow musician Dmitry Glushenko, who makes only tentative contact with social networking sites - and has no more than a couple of photographs on display. Both involve two things: Mr. Glushenko himself and a small, portable keyboard. Everything else, it seems, is superfluous.
Have keyboard, will travel. Wherever I want.
Dmitry Glushenko (Moscow)
A small biographical sketch bolsters that assumption. "Music has always been my #1 inspiration. Since I started to write my own material, that's all I've aspired to, really. There are numerous influences behind what I do - and I've tried my hand at various styles (either alone or in collaborations) - but my main focus is upon instrumental material in basically traditional arrangements."
There's a very touching modesty at work here, one that's only realizable (far) away from the noisy demands of massed, monetized enterprise. And indeed, Mr. Glushenko is a native Muscovite who admits that solo composition can only fill the small spaces left after a host of familial and professional duties are satisfied. Those include - outside the home - studio work for artists around the capital, such as the excellent Vesna na Ulitse Karla Yuhana.
Glushenko admits to nothing more than two years in a jazz academy - "and that's hardly a great deal when it comes to 'formal education.'" Nonetheless, the results of humble, domestic effort find considerable support in an oppressively noisy metropolis. They allow for brief moments of wistful fantasy - and the kinds of (mental) adventure that are probably ill-advised in the office.
Given the almost inconceivable scale of Russia and the extreme degree to which "social retreat" can be realized, it probably comes as no surprise to discover the attraction of web-based collaboration. In a nation where physical geography can either maroon or isolate individuals to an awful extent, the idea of long-distance, noiseless, and freely-chosen(!) social bonds is great. As mentioned before on this site, Russians spend more time on social networking sites than any other people. The reasons why are clear. (Avoiding physical contact may be one of them.)
Take, by way of example, the new Russian duo of Maxim Ananyev and Nikita Moore. Ananyev has long been familiar to us through his own instrumental project - Tree Bosier - in the eastern city of Khabarovsk. That region's oldest records are buried deep in fifth-century Chinese and Korean chronicles; few Russian locations are further from Europe. As for Mr. Moore, he lives in Moscow. Between these two artists lie more than 8,500km of firtrees, ice, and snow. Nonetheless, they have now joined creative forces as Shampoo Voyagers. The stage-name suggests grand reverie from the comfortable - and rare! - solitude of a bathtub...
A slick and jazzy downtempo flow (XLR8R)
Any investigation into the endeavors of these two young men soon makes it clear that physical distance is overcome in simple, mobile patterns that help to strike a productive balance between isolation and (private) invention. Privacy is respected and productivity assisted.
Ananyev and Moore work by swapping files across the web, weaving from them a texture similar to that of Diamos Roll: "The project's main style is fundamentally downtempo - it's a[n audible] realm where lounge and nu-jazz meet glitch and experimental tendencies." These two, happily-removed individuals enjoy each other's absence(!) and thus spin easy-going tales of optimistic, free movement. Their debut recordings, in fact, come together with an invitation to "Join the Voyage!"
As long as you maintain a reasonable distance. Physical proximity and freewheeling imagination seem to contradict one another.
Sonic fragments, flying from East to West... and back again!
A recent chat with Satellite Voices produced some context for Shampoo Voyagers, specifically through a fuller explanation of the band's name. The musicians happily liken the audio files or weightless, digital building blocks of their work to fragile, "flying soap bubbles. They're like [sonic] fragments that we send to each other across huge distances - from East to West and back again!" Ananyev and Moore then state that "our music is closely associated with those distances, with movement, and traveling, too." Not with debilitating aloneness, but with new trajectories - i.e., with free passage that only becomes possible if one first retreats from the claustrophobia of city life.
And 8,500km is probably more than enough. All that's needed to overcome the risk of excessive detachment is a wi-fi connection - and some soap. Just in case there's company.