Flights of Fancy: I-Tone, Sumeo, The Cancel, 1618, and Napo

Ritmo Sportivo: The "Family" Compilation (2012)

The performers under consideration here live and work at maximum distance from one another: all the way from Russia's Pacific Coast to Lithuania. Nonetheless, they are joined in various fleeting forms: this might be through their stylistic preferences, in web-based working relationships, or thanks to a penchant for similar promotional metaphors, even. A host of new glitch-hop recordings this week shows those linkages rather well, despite the efforts of geography to keep people apart.

We begin with the young beatmaker known as I-Tone, who is based as far as humanly possible from Moscow's glossy clubs. Should I-Tone even contemplate a trip to the capital, he'd have the choice of flying approximately ten hours by airplane or riding more than 4,000 miles on trains, buses, and sundry animals.

Sounds from Russia's 'beautiful Pacific Ocean coast'

Surrounded by mountains and costal volcanoes, I-Tone's hometown of Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky is a vital sub-arctic center for shipping, fishing, and - not surprisingly - bear-hunting, which is popular with warmly dressed visitors. The year-round average temperature is less than zero Celsius and the region is subject to three times more rain or snow than Siberia. Despite those distances and inconveniences, I-Tone and his label Ritmo Sportivo speak fondly of Russia's "beautiful Pacific Ocean coast." Below we see the musician at work, curtains drawn against the welcome, yet incessant light of a northern sun.

I-Tone (Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky)

A similarly optimistic tone was used to frame I-Tone's earliest output, finding benefits in considerable solitude: "This talented Russian beatmaker is from Far Eastern places where a cold ocean inspires a warm heart to make good music... These are hip-hop instrumentals with smooth, cosmic beats." The edge of space was thus likened to outer space because, as we mention, it's simply impossible to walk any further. Several of the artists under consideration here relate to their location in a similar manner: one's distance from major urban centers - according to a happy logic - makes the romance of digital collaboration greater. Absence makes the heart grow fonder - and strive farther.

A cold ocean inspires a warm heart

Operating at a similarly grand distance from mainstream media is another Ritmo Sportivo artist, Aleksei Tsyrenov, aka Sumeo. He lives in Ulan-Ude, more than 3,500 miles from the Russian capital. Although Ulan-Ude is home to almost half a million people, it is - for most Russians - associated only with some half-remembered facts. Safe to say, none of them involve a major metropolis: they come, instead, from a distant past. Tied closely to a Mongol heritage of prior centuries, the city's early development occurred thanks to trade with neighboring Mongolia and China. Ulan-Ude, in other words, is discussed in terms of processes that move increasingly away from anything European.

Sumeo's prior recordings have been praised as sounding "like they were recorded somewhere in Santa Monica." Various desires or "exotic" enthusiasms connect Tsyrenov and his colleagues with other musicians across the map, rather than physical proximity. Once more, remoteness allows for the imagery of upward movement or liberty. Tsyrenov's last recording for Ritmo Sportivo invited listeners "to relax... and let the music take you up high. So high that even birds can't reach you."

And so fantasy moves off in search of other, better linkages.

Sumeo (Aleksei Tsyrenov, Ulan-Ude)

Once these digital dreamers are free from the burden of geography, or imagine themselves to be, metaphors of kinship and teamwork help online enterprise to flourish. And so we find the new compilation from Ritmo Sportivo, celebrating two years of joint projects and effort between unconnected locations: "Family." The album - free to download - includes not only the two tracks shown here from I-Tone and Sumeo. A host of other producers are on display - all frequently celebrated on this site: A.B.S.T.R.A, Cream Child, Oh! Dee, B*tchpleaze, Thallus, Feyorz, and Audiosynthes.  

Bringing everybody together, the album's compilers declare: "We can surely say now that we're more than just a team: we're one, united musical family." The goal of this compilation, in praise of that online unity, is to "give listeners the kind of music that'll make their heart beat a little faster."

One, united musical family: Ritmo Sportivo

Freewheeling across the map, we turn to another new and jazzy hip-hop release - from Western Ukraine and an outfit known as The Cancel. To be more specific, we're dealing with the rather refined context of Morshyn, a demure spa town on the Ukraine/Poland border. Here we detect the sounds emanating from at least two people, Andrey Zelensky and the intriguingly named Dmitro Competition. The bond between them was forged in similar ways to the mechanics of Ritmo Sportivo: "We met several years ago - and decided to try and do something together. Our childhood musical tastes were pretty similar: old vinyl records with fairy tales and other recordings. Nonetheless, it was jazz that interested us more than anything..."

The magic of folk narratives and the improvisational wizardry of jazz came together in order to fashion the world anew - as romantically expressed through some new artwork. Once again, things "cosmic" are invoked. 

The Cancel (Morshyn, Ukraine): "Reply from Space" (2102)

These two musicians continue in their high praise for the dual goals of hard work and wonderment: "We've just begun our path together: the first singles and albums have already been completed - over the course of a single year! Now we've begun collaborating more seriously: in the future we'll certainly have something to make folks really happy! Lots of people from the former Soviet nations are making good music nowadays - and that really encourages us. Respect to one and all! Thanks also to the listeners whose support makes us try even harder. We always welcome suggestions from any other musicians who'd like to join in..."

Lots of people from the former Soviet nations are making good music nowadays - and that really encourages us

After the demise of social or political connections, support and sympathy move to the forefront of attention. Mutual support systems, ironically, work with a much grander sweep, ignoring borders and boundaries. In a similar way, talk of "output" from The Cancel is a direct consequence of audience enthusiasm. At no point in the proceedings is material gain mentioned by any of these artists. 

Moving north to the Lithuanian town of Šakiai, we find the producer Leonas "Napo" Rėčkus. Whereas the performers noted thus far often use common interests or styles to engender some "vertical" escape from physical geography, Napo has tended to romanticize the symbolism of downwards movement. Talk of "depth" and "profundity" comes into play, in order to avoid or improve upon the banal, yet stubborn obstacles of everyday experience. "Napo's first fifteen[!] years of life should be viewed in terms of rhythm and the depth of his beats..." Apparently the need to imagine oneself elsewhere arose very early.

Leonas "Napo" Rėčkus (Šakiai, Lithuania): "Noelleon" (2012)

A new, three-track EP from Napo has just appeared - "Noelleon" - and is available for free download. East European admirers have already described the recording as a "simple blend of glitch-hop, chillwave, and ambient sounds. The result is capable of brightening our gloomy winter evenings. Noelleon will prepare you for the coziest, brightest dreams..." The bonds of empathy and enthusiasm, forged across the web, allow for a greater sense of comfort than whatever ostensible existence can offer. And, all the way from Lithuania to the Pacific Ocean, across eleven time zones, it makes sense that one's imagination would hope to conjure a "cozier" environment than countless miles of permafrost.

Preparation for the coziest, brightest dreams...

Well aware of the fragile, precious nature of this reverie is the project 1618. Just published under that stage-name are a series of crumpled hip- and glitch-hop instrumentals; they all reflect the unstable sounds produced by lo-fi tape. Dreamy motifs, themselves borrowed from faraway US recordings, float in and out of earshot: each of them is subject to the waning fidelity of whatever media they're recorded upon. Dreams of distant places are contingent upon low-grade tools. Sadly. 

These stumbling sounds come to us from the town of Dmitrov - which leads us to suspect that the stage-name "1618," in fact, refers to the same musician who's behind similarly old-school projects such as Classic Moove and Chushi. All those recordings come from the same town, use the same effects, and speak to a similarly fading ideal.

Hoping to overcome the problems created by physical space - and a cheap toolbox - most of the musicians in this article are involved in digital collaborations, which foster a certain kind of romance. Online teamwork leads to some bold metaphors of escape and "cosmic" adventure. Solo enterprise, however, from a relatively unfashionable location, can make that same romance a tricky, delicate issue indeed. Grand harmony struggles to make itself heard from an ailing speaker, as it were. 

1618 (Dmitrov, Russia): "Vinyl Tape" (2012)


I-Tone – Bumpin'
1618 – Labirint
Napo – Lumieres
1618 – Steklo4: Popal
Sumeo – Summer Madness
Napo – The Great Story of a Snowstorm

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