Songs of Persephone: Joys, Innoe, Serdceder, and Acloneofmyown

Rivne, Ukraine

Some of the new sounds in this article belong to a very old location, specifically to the Ukrainian town of Rivne, first mentioned in chronicles of the thirteenth century. Over the years, fate and warfare have contrived to throw Rivne back and forth between various neighbors. Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia have all made intrusions into the region. The most recent of these came during WWII, when German forces stormed a city whose population was perhaps fifty percent Jewish. The consequences were both predictable and tragic. 

Over more than seven hundred years, Rivne has developed into an industrial center of some importance. It is currently home to the band ACOMO, sometimes known in fuller (and rather unwieldy) terms as A Clone of My Own. Complicating matters further still, that long English phrase is often written without spacing between the words. Whatever their promotional preferences, these Ukrainian musicians first came together in 2005 under the guidance of founding members Sergei Mironchuk and Aleksandr Stratonov. Those two young men had already placed aside earlier projects in electronica and taken up a couple of guitars. Support was required for the long haul.

Now flanked by additional help, ACOMO have tended to place much greater emphasis upon recording than on any concrete PR. Hard work matters more than conceptual chatter. Consequently, they've considerably more songs to offer than interviews, for example. Together with the valuable contributions of Dmitry Synevych (vocals, guitar) and Vladimir Zakharov (guitar), this ensemble has just made three recordings available from their efforts of the last few months. The most recent of these is entitled "Persephone."

ACOMO (Rivne): "Persephone"

In other words, we have here the work of an assiduous quartet from an ancient town, struggling in a business that rarely looks beyond the ring road of Kiev. These performers take both comfort and inspiration from an ancient goddess of the underworld(!), whose symbolism is usually bound to the endless, fertile cycles of death and (re)birth in nature. The cover art to ACOMO's recording even shows a blood-red pomegranate in Persephone's hands; that fruit is the core motif linking her both to the underworld and renovation, to patterns of demise and the seeds of rejuvenation.

There's good reason to seek and advocate this kind of consoling imagery, especially when considered against the backdrop of other hard-working collectives. Take, for example, the band from Novosibirsk known as Innoe. Formed as a quartet, they're currently operating as a battle-worn threesome: Pavel Cheremnykh, Ivan Perelygin, and Vladimir Belov. Their biography is marked by perseverance. Far from the glamor and performing opportunities of Moscow, they first sacrificed a great deal in order to save the money needed for some basic demo recordings. Those earliest tapes appeared in 2008.

In other words, two whole years were needed for these callow showmen to make any kind of decent, permanent record of themselves. Skill-sets and bank balances both needed to be nurtured, little by little.

Innoe (Novosibirsk)

Once that first, costly step had been taken, the musicians felt slightly more self-assured with regard to a move beyond their Siberian roots. Calling cards and cassettes were ready. And indeed, the link between demo tapes and demonstrative progress became clearer. Soon we would hear that: "The band has been playing live sets with increasing confidence in various cities. We've been mapping our gigs further and further afield."

We've been mapping our gigs further and further afield...

As these lines spread across the atlas, a need emerged for the ensemble to define or brand itself ahead of time. On what basis, for example, should a distant club even consider hiring Innoe for an evening's entertainment? The same question would always be forthcoming from squeamish promoters: "Do you sound similar to any better-known outfits?" Despite these understandable, if not unavoidable pressures to make an already-recognizable impression, so to speak, the band stubbornly refused to namecheck its influences. 

"It's pretty difficult to name those groups that've been important for Innoe. Each and every member of the band takes part in writing the songs - and they all have their own tastes or preferences." A busy process would lead to an equally busy conclusion: "An entire range of options opens up from our multifaceted input. Everything happens at the point where modern electronica and guitar-based rock come together."

Simplicity was nowhere to be seen.

Innoe: "Make the Only Victim" (2012)

Cheremnykh has recently remarked that a career in the arts - especially music - is merely a surefire way to disappoint one's parents! His newest recordings with Innoe - "Make the Only Victim" - are not graced with artwork that suggests easy-going enterprise, either. And, if we were to look at the band's blog, it currently contains a single, lonely post; there's apparently no time to document or celebrate endless effort. Readers are invited to "stay tuned for up-and-coming, breaking news," but the only information at hand is four lines of poetry. "The words that I have to say/ [Are] like bullets stuck on my tongue./ [It's] too late to express regret/ For all the things I’ve done."

Forming a worldview to counter this level of enterprise, combined with doubt and disappointment, must be challenging indeed.

It's too late to express regret

Should private and/or professional pressures become too great, a band will simply cease to exist. This happened not long ago to another Siberian collective, celebrated before on FFM: Psy Vertinskogo are/were from the Siberian industrial town of Kemerovo, and - as we noted back in the Spring of 2009 - took their name from a song by cafe chanteur Aleksandr Vertinsky (1916-1957). This dog-loving, decadent star of pre-Revolutionary culture was never a representative of Russia's gruffer, more "masculine" aspect; likewise the young Siberians he inspires took much in their early catalog from Vertinskii's ironic, self-deprecatory tone.

That mode of dark humor is always fostered in anticipation of failure, and we would expect stories of decline or even masochism from anybody inspired by Russian decadence. Surrender to circumstance in those kinds of narratives is both easy and consoling. It becomes a perverse form of pleasure, even. 

Joys (Kemerovo/Moscow, previously known as Psy Vertinskogo)

Not long ago, circumstances took their toll on the ensemble: "From today onwards, Psy Vertinskogo cease to exist. The band has been reborn - as Joys. Our newer songs - the ones you already know from recent gigs - haven't been wasted, though. They've all been recorded and uploaded for everybody, under the banner of Joys." Listeners are then asked to do the group a "huge favor" and vote for them in an online competition. The struggles start immediately, at the moment one collective peters out and is then reborn in a different form. 

From today onwards, Psy Vertinskogo cease to exist...

This wear and tear endured by idealistic artists in a rough, tough environment leads to the kind of sounds we hear from Moscow's lo-fi garage ensemble, Serdceder. The band's name - presumably - comes from the 1953 novel by French author Boris Vian, "L'Arrache-Cœur," which translates into English as "The Heart-Extractor" or "Heart-Snatcher." That tale takes place in a profoundly absurdist and often threatening location, full of talking animals and nightmarish interpretations of psychoanalysis. Logic has no place in this sphere.

And then, from Serdceder themselves, we get the following dubious invitation to investigate its irrationality: "The simplicity of this band's music is only an illusion, designed to help listeners enter a mad, neurotic realm. The group's lyrics [in investigation of those neuroses] are worthy of a doctoral dissertation (at the very least!)." One listener, not surprisingly, said to the group not long ago: "Your texts are really f***ed-up. In the best possible sense, of course... Do you have some kind of fixed idea how or when you write them, or does the meaning appear only after you consider what you've actually typed? Maybe there's something here I just don't understand?"

Clamorous sounds are designed as the soundtrack to modern disorientation.

Serdceder (Moscow): "Cardiorespiration" (Kardiodykhanie, 2012)

A new EP is now on show, titled with a neologism that translates into English as "Cardiorespiration" (Kardiodykhanie). The public has already attributed that image to "something from transpersonal psychology, perhaps," in other words to hopes for a delicate, yet widespread unity that lies above individual or inanimate existence. The transpersonal school itself likes to speak of "unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness." If those thematic connections do indeed exist - or at least sound convincing - then for all the lo-fi clatter on display, these are the sounds of a yearning away from physical space. They are the noisy, troubled attempts to shun the clumsiness of flesh and bones.

Serdceder's Aleksandr Samokhvalov was just interviewed on the subject of this new output. Early in the discussion, a well-known opinion of Boris Grebenshchikov was referenced - the contention that music has, to some degree, been liberated from material concerns by piracy. Anything, believes Grebenshchikov, that's "created by the intellect belongs to mankind as a whole." The mind does not create matter. Samokhvalov concurs: "If you're an artist, then make something! Stop griping about society's moral demise or about modern tastelessness. Stop moaning about your indifferent, stupid public..." The only upshot from such curmudgeonly - and self-satisfied - criticism is that "there will be more moaning but a lot less music!"

Anything created by the intellect belongs to mankind as a whole ("BG")

Songwriting, allegedly, offers an opportunity to interact on the level of a "transcendent state." How, though, might one find the time, energy, and funds to actually do so? The path towards a supposed escape from materialism is itself a tough - and physical - challenge. Some of Samokhvalov's other recordings of late have been described by their maker as "a kind of 'folk' or even religious music. A few people have already said it reminds them of mantras - or a chorale..."

A large number of the photographs published by Serdceder are out of focus, due to extreme physical movement. The effort required to counter modern materialism is itself rapid, extensive, and physically draining. The only hope, as suggested in the traditional imagery of Persephone, is that any "decline or fall" is naturally (hopefully!) bound to the birth of another, new significance. 

Or, if one is genuinely heading towards collapse and irreversible disaster, then the decadent songs of Vertinsky offer consolation en route.



Joys – Auction
Serdceder – Intellect Paranoid
Joys – Pyramids of Pain
Innoe – Say It Again
Innoe – Tears of a Dying Soldier
Serdceder – Waters

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