Just over a month ago, Moscow's Pixelord (Alexey Devyanin) published his "Keramika" (Ceramics) EP through the Brighton-based UK label Hit and Hope. Devyanin's south coast colleagues framed the release as follows: "Pixelord is already a veteran of electronic music. This Moscow producer has gained international recognition for his sound, which is the perfect cocktail of synth-driven alternative bleeps and bass-heavy beats. With previous releases on Error Broadcast [Berlin/Modena] and Leisure System [also Berlin], Pixelord now turns to Hit and Hope for his next effort – 'Keramika'."
As we mentioned on that prior occasion, words of praise were soon audible, for example from England's Kidkanevil: “Incredible release!! Gotta be Pixelord's finest work to date. 'Keramika' is ridiculous. Really, really f***in' dope.” Publications far from Brighton have likewise celebrated the recording's "Twinkling biomechanic melodies with insectoid rhythms... The staggered scales and [moments of] boozed-up swagger provide the biggest highlight." And now - with impressive speed - a collection of remixes has appeared, including snazzy contributions from NVG and 813, both regulars on this site.
Staggered scales and boozed-up swagger
Even before the release took place, its graphic design was winning hearts on Facebook: "Wicked artwork, man!" And so a handful of workshop images have started to move through the web, showing the composition and construction of the graphic design (above). What's surprising, as we see, is that the final image - redolent of a classic 2D collage - was in fact created with solid, three-dimensional objects. The impression of perspective is real, not virtual. In the same spirit of tangible craftsmanship, the remixes of "Keramika" are adorned with the image of a chainsaw - doing considerable damage.
Pixelord (Alexey Devyanin, Moscow)
This desire to keep hewing change, variation, and therefore potentials out of one's raw material is given dramatic audio-visual form. The overall imagery is of remixed, remade, and therefore bettered materials. These new chopped-and-diced tunes comes to us from the hard-working Hyperboloid Records, run by the capital's dancefloor heavyweights Dmitry Garin and Mr. Devyanin himself. The lacework and meshed surfaces of the label's logo invoke the famous "Shabolovka" tower in Moscow, built according to hyperboloid principles, section upon section. Commissioned by Lenin in the 1920s, it represented the romance of a new society - together with hopes for the kind of charitable, social "networking" once blocked by class divisions in Czarist Russia.
Today, however, it lies in disrepair and at the mercy of various architectural charities. Hyperboloid, with their name and branding, look back to the physical work and "skyward" engineering goals of a time when social optimism was broadcast far and wide.
This desire to advocate an altered, better state is evident in a few other new recordings. One of them comes from the Russian Square Harmony label, who've been kind enough to share with us an EP scheduled for official release on March 26. Entitled "Lost in Time," the EP comes from a project known as Last Night Flavor. The people involved in this enterprise are from the towns of Ivanovo and Yaroslavl: Vladimir Mastryukov (Bimbotronic) and Denis Sokolov (Crispo).
The staff at Square Harmony tell us they've never met in person, and that all collaborative work was done online.
As the crow files, the Ivanovo region is about 150-200 miles from Moscow; winding roads will make that distance somewhat longer. Although the area first developed in the sixteenth century, it has always been tied to a rather modern form of enterprise: fabric production. Yaroslavl is older still; approximately 160 miles from the capital, it grew on the remains of Viking sites that date back to the eighth century. In fact, Yaroslavl is now a World Heritage site. Surrounded by the hushed majesty of ancient Russian churches, the sounds of Last Night Flavor are designed to create a "pleasant atmosphere, rich with appealing vocal samples. (There are quite a few of them!) It's all combined with an unhurried garage rhythm and a minimalist aesthetic."
Аn unhurried garage rhythm and a minimalist aesthetic
Born of an unhurried town, the sounds of a better realm or social domain also imply a slower pace of mental activity. The thirst for variation we see in Pixelord's remixes takes on concrete forms of space and speed. "Somewhere else" and somewhere slower both have much charm.
That outward yearning, away from steel and concrete, takes more dramatic shape with the new release from Kiev's Vadim Griboedoff (Griboedov). His career is bound tightly to the Ukrainian Subself and High-Jack record labels. The former project takes its name from a psychological theory that questions the Western understanding of selfhood as a "bounded, unique, and dynamic center of awareness, emotion, judgement, or action." This, we're told, is something alien to many cultures worldwide.
More widespread is the belief that we all manifest various "subselves" of our personality in different "contexts or social settings." Group dynamics or workplace responsibilities might bring these subselves into play. In the Big City, a form of mild schizophrenia often develops, born of anxiety and insecurities. And so Mr. Griboedoff turns for his next release to Trenton Records, which is moving far from that stressful Kievan home.
Trenton is currently working with the Goethe Institute and the French Embassy of Kazakhstan, in order to fold Kazakh and Kyrgyz musicians into a handful of western enterprises. In the meantime, there's also a "Belarus Project" in the works from Trenton, making similarly inclusive gestures to the musicians of Minsk - and further afield. Vadim Griboedoff's next compositions will be published by these romantic, itinerant spirits, constantly looking for alternative - and increasingly distant - sounds.
The further one travels from home, the more possibilities open up. Movement reveals new horizons, both literally and metaphorically.
This is so relaxing. It's music that makes me zone out and think about clouds 'n' sh*t
And, if we wanted a clear, closing example of that synonymy between distance, difference, and dreams, a good case would be the Moscow musician Vova Nosov. Until recently he performed under the name of Madfriend, but has now adopted a new identity - Kinnel - from whom fresh sounds with soon be forthcoming on a US label. To be honest, the spelling of Mr. Nosov's real and stage names can change slightly, depending upon the sites under discussion. There are more important matters at hand than fixed identities (or spelling), it would seem.
Alteration is more appealing than stasis. That's true for haircuts, also.
The accompanying retro-beats and hip-hop compositions from Kinnel have brought these ideas swiftly to the surface. On Soundcloud we find the following comments: "Nice, man. You're different to the other Russian beatmakers. Daydreamer!"; "I love that dubby/hip-hop mixture. The vocals are beautiful!"; "This is so relaxing. It's music that makes me zone out and think about clouds 'n' sh*t."
Man on a sidewalk, stone cold./ He's carrying everyone's load
And yet a little detective work reveals a strain of melancholy amid this common jollity. One of the Kinnel tracks we've chosen - "The Time Has Now Gone" uses a vocal sample from a 1972 soft-rock track: "The Runaways." More specifically, it's taken from the catalog of a little-known UK band Babe Ruth. (The original can be heard here.) If we follow the lyrics beyond the brief, sampled phrase, what we discover is a most disconcerting storyline: "Man on a sidewalk, stone cold./ He's carrying everyone's load/ And a tear in his eye/ Mirrors the moon in a black sky./ His dreams have been built up too high." This runaway figure, hoping to flee his troubles, finally reaches a dead-end. We find him brandishing a gun - yet ignored by the public. "'The time has now gone,'/ Said the man with the gun.../ To the crowd as they all turned away." There's no public interest in private woes.
The audio-visual metaphors of hard work inherent in Pixelord's "Keramika" remixes - not to mention the branding of Hyperboloid Records - are extended to talk of distant, challenging travels by our artists. The desire for change is visualized as the ability to change locations. Thoughts of creative and mobile liberty overlap. Nonetheless, the final performer under discussion here, Kinnel, spins a story in which luck runs out altogether - and there's nowhere else to go.
Given these time-honored views of fading freedoms, sometimes a little comfort is needed (below). In the words of one sage, Scottish collective: "All things are possible... but happen less and less."
Pixelord and security blanket