Dya: No Rehearsals, No Overdubs, and a Loud "Initial Formlessness"

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The band "Dya" come from the industrial town of Togliatti in southern Russia; as we've noted before, Togliatti - shown below - occupies the position of Detroit in Russia's economy. The reason for having made that prior observation was the work of Mikhail Lezin, a local musician of considerable output. Perhaps as a result of little artistic activity in the area, Lezin has - over the years - fashioned creative outlets through a number of musical projects. Each of them is dedicated to a different style or genre. Spinning this logic and labor further from anything resembling a one-man band, Lezin also is a prolific painter.

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Almost no recent pictures exist of Dya - a consequence, perhaps of their changing membership; this post instead makes use of Lezin's portfolio, specifically of canvases from the last couple of years. The band's official selection of photos comes almost exclusively from the period 1995-1998, which is odd, given the ensemble's overall history. Dya was created as long ago as 1990, initially by Lezin and colleague Sergei Gridin.

Given that early efforts and releases were conducted under a series of pseudonyms, the band decided to abbreviate those multiple identities, at least for the purposes of PR. "Dya," therefore, is an acronym made from a couple of those initial nicknames. It serves as a starting point for investigating some ever-multiplying, snowballing projects.

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In the early '90s, Lezin and Gridin liked to refer to Dya as a "psychedelic-noise project, working along several specific trajectories: pure noise, electro-acoustic compositions, and sound experiments created with select tools." This joyfully shambolic response to prior law and order wasted no time in going public. Using the youth club of local auto-maker VAZ, the band set up jam sessions throughout 1991. These gelled in a 30-minute album that was committed to tape. That same tape, however, was quickly mislaid; to this day, nobody has any idea where it might be. Performing and archiving practices were less than organized in the wake of socialist media.

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Perhaps in acquiescence to these inevitable - and very Russian - problems with disorder, both creatively and socially, the members of Dya started to place more emphasis on playing than polishing their works. This outlook has resulted in a sizable discography over time; the band's peak activity came in the mid- to late-90s, when Dya churned out 10(!) albums in the three-year period of '95 to '98. After this point, as suggested, the images and recordings dried up, although acoustic tracks can be found here and there, dating from the start of this decade.

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Much of the silence from 2002 to 2009 can be explained by Lezin's increasing endeavors on canvas, rather than tape. He also founded the artistic collective called Pokhot' (Lust), about whom we've written in the past, produced a large number of photographic works, and helped to edit a collection of visual artifacts dedicated to Togliatti's achievements in Russian industry.

And now, together with side-project Yoko Absorbing (also the subject of our attention), Dya has come out of the woodwork. This time Lezin (on guitar) is joined by vocalist Tat'iana Povaliaeva and drummer Evgenii Khalilov.

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The new 8-track, 33-minute EP is called "Five Days in East Germany" (Piat' dnei v GDR) and indeed harks back to the same shambolic spirit that Lezin cultivated in the early '90s at the tail end of Soviet culture. A brief phrase, attached to the tracklist, tells us that the EP "was recorded on the fly, without rehearsals or overdubs." The creative worldview on display here - aurally - may be found in observations Lezin has made regarding his visual work. In talking about images, he explains the noises.

"Approaching a new work, I don't aim for any kind of predetermined goal. It's the process that I find more important; in fact, chance is one of the fundamental elements. In expressing that visually, I prefer to work with inexpensive paper, tarpaulin, wood, and paint. These are the media that I like, together with building paints, staining agents, crayon, and oil-based pastels. What interests me is the problem of how a work's visual elements interact with its technical aspects, i.e., how it's drawn. This is all tied up with possible ways in which initial formlessness can coexist - or enter into a dialog with - geometric structures."

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"I also find the 'aging' of works really interesting: the alterations in paint layers or the yellowing of paper. Each and every work, just like a living organism, 'moves' in time, acquiring new qualities as its does so." These were the creative principles designed to combat Soviet notions of creativity. Lezin to this day champions spontaneity over academic conservatism, and is happy to celebrate the passage of time, rather than any (self-deluding) imperial pretense towards permanence.

I also find the 'aging' of works really interesting: the alterations in paint layers or the yellowing of paper. Each and every work, just like a living organism, 'moves' in time, acquiring new qualities as its does so.

The new new EP by Dya does the same. Recorded on the fly, it deliberately places itself in a space between "formlessness and geometric structures." Likewise, by reducing the time from studio work to publication, the EP has no desire to buff and polish itself over and over, hoping thus to guarantee the "proper" audience response. Loose, loud, and shaggy, the eight songs by Dya are handed over almost immediately to the public, where their meaning or significance will alter at once. Different people will view the tracks in different ways, such that cocky authorial intent is subject to the "passage of time" - ASAP.

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This, as we say, was how Lezin and Dya countered the stubborn sameness or pomp of socialist culture. Today, against the backdrop of federal nostalgia or homogenized shoptalk and primetime pop music, low-fi amateurism can serve the same purpose.

On his website, Lezin includes an image of an old Soviet synthesizer; it can be seen below. These, presumably, are the same tools used to make "Piat' dnei v GDR," in which case a second rationale suggests itself for recording these songs in a swift, slapdash manner. The instruments wouldn't have stood up to rehearsals and overdubs.

The credo of Dya, therefore, might be expressed as follows: Get in the studio, play your songs in one take, and leave. Reject any arrogant striving towards stasis - and consider yourself lucky that nothing caught fire.

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Audio

Dya – In My Room
Dya – Rain
Dya – Signs
Dya – That's Our Movie
Dya – You Shine Brighter than the Sun

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