The MIGZ Festival 2009: Deep-Seated Fantasies and Shallow Pockets

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With the summer now behind us, some of the season's events have been pleasingly/productively summarized - by various people in different places. Visitors at all manner of functions have uploaded memorabilia in a haphazard fashion. Photographs will appear from one attendee, with a little video from another, and so forth: a form of unconsciously collaborative work starts taking shape. One such event that has now cohered in ways of considerable value to digital archivists is the MIGZ 2009 festival.

This exhibition/concert series, which took place at the very end of June, bills itself as a major showcase for both electronic music and media; suitably enough, the festival has maintained a good-looking website, with proof of its intentions - from prior to the show - and documented achievements, from afterward. Over and above this detailed evidence, a compilation CD has also been published, thus producing the audio in this post.

The bar staff, however, were a little less productive.

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Operating across a range of cinemas, clubs, and (poorly serviced) cafes, MIGZ defines itself - quite literally - as a sociocultural "mash-up."

"The event [annually] brings together various forms of contemporary media arts. Not only is there modern and relevant music to be heard, but the festival also showcases new design, photography, video arts, and so forth. The entire affair is designed both for Russian fans of club culture and for business professionals. When the event debuted last September [in 2008], 40 artists took part, together with 15 DJs, and 7 video artists. This year there will be considerably more..."

Everybody was welcome, no matter the impression left by certain wall-hangings.

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Interactive media-displays and lectures were scheduled in the same busy manner. The lectures, in fact, many of which were dedicated to technical affairs, ran side by side with a number of workshops, allowing people to get hands-on experience of up-to-date software, especially from the realm of music-making. One of the people actually creating those noises was Aleksandr Kholenko, known to the outside world as Dzhem, or - on occasion - Dza. For MGIZ he appeared not, as he normally does, with Mujuice, but with a new and young musician who goes by the dramatically brief name of Ol. His involvement in a pre-festival interview session was briefer still - he never turned up.

Nor is he in the photograph below of Kholenko, who - whilst rather lonely and peeved - was obliged to say a few words in "praise" of his colleague. It turned out that both men are least tangentially connected to Kholenko's excellent label, How2Make, and have already performed together on a number of occasions around Moscow.

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Kholenko, speaking of his responsibilities as DJ/performer, brought a musical selection to MIGZ that he felt would mirror the generic "mashup" attempted by the organizers. "By and large we'll be playing hip-hop. As opposed to your standard hip-hop people, though -  who make reserved, if not minimalist tracks, using big ol' sections of sampled funk or soul - we use a lot more modern technology. We build up a really rich musical backdrop. The stuff we do isn't limited by anything canonical, either. It combines elements of various musical genres, all the way from psychedelic rock of the 1960s to the kind of things that the [German] "~scape" label was putting out at the start of this decade."

Full of energy (but with an unreliable partner) Dza continues to labor on, even though he admits that given the current financial climate, it can be hard to consider making music as "work." By this he means that "'work' is what brings in the money. And - at least so far - I can't say with any confidence that I'll be able to exist simply by making music. But I'm giving it a go, in any case..." Buying new equipment for live performances is also proving to be tricky...

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For this reason, no doubt, another chat with participants MySpaceRocket (aka Andriesh Gandrabur [right] and Stas Kross) led quickly to dreams of what technology could do.. maybe. "The name of our joint project is merely a reflection of the fact we're both fans of a 'cosmic aesthetic' and all the romance that's wrapped up with science fiction. It's the kind of idea that's hard to put into words... especially because MySpaceRocket isn't a 'project,' so much as a 'formation,' so to speak... Every now and then, really gifted people will pass through it, only to disappear once more. We work in all kinds of genres, too: all the way from space-disco to techno, pure and simple. The only constant factors in all this will be that everything's suitable for the dancefloor - and it has some psychedelic edges, too. Some kind of hypnotic element."

Robotic, even.

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The repetitions needed for that musical hypnosis will, it seems, be forthcoming thanks to a big collection of old vinyl. Constant trips, so to speak, will be taken - over and over - into the past. "There's so little 'old school' music in Russia. There don't seem to be many people at all, in fact, who like old music... or, if they do exist, they probably sit at home with their headphones on - and have no idea of what we're creating! Personally, I'd like to work more with material from the 1960s - not from that decade in the USSR, but the same period in the US or Europe."

So far, en route to that kind of automated, antique expression, MySpaceRocket reckon they've built up something like 4 hours worth of material "in various genres."

(Not everybody is impressed.)

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An interesting extension of these ideas appeared in another pre-festival chat with Roman Korablev (above, right) and Egor "KillaHertz" - known collectively as Dubolom.  When asked at the outset about the meaning of that on-stage moniker, the two men replied that they had to create some kind of tag for their work, in order that they be included on the festival posters!

"Without thinking about it for very long, we came up with 'Dubolom.'" Given that both men are well-known on the Moscow scene as solo performers or DJs - i.e., as "Korablove" and one half of B-Voice & Khz - the twosome was then asked how their music changes, if at all, as a result of working together. "The rhythm of what we create doesn't change," they said. "We're pretty free in what we choose [for our sets]. We ended up, in fact, working together simply as a result of people wanting to hear the kind of music that - occasionally! - we're able to pull out of our [cheap/old] machinery!"

The rhythm of what we create doesn't change. We're pretty free in what we choose [for our sets]... 

Once again, the lack of cash was an evident factor. The general spending power of both artists and attendees could certainly be judged by the goods on sale. There seemed to be more people with pocket money than pay packets.

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The music of Dubolom - just like their name - is not the result of careful, studied practice: "We never practice... or, if we do, it all happens during our performances!" Despite saving a great deal of time and effort by combining(!) rehearsals and live work, Korablove and KillaHertz have yet to commit anything to tape. Spontaneity takes precedence over planning; the fickle workings of desire do not acquiesce to long-term organization. When asked what his plans might be for the foreseeable future, KillaHertz replied - "I never make plans. Whatever happens... just happens!" Korablove was no better-prepared: "I think I'll travel a bit."

In short, the musical champions of MGIZ created together a most suitable worldview for the summer of 2009. Their mixes and sets combined a number of genres and times according to whimsical, off-handed patterns. We say "patterns" because although several of these artists validate the moment of live performance over any prior, systematized acquisition of skills, the notion of rules and regulations does emerge - at least briefly.

That transition takes place as follows. Dza's love for psychedelic music of the '60s is turned - by the members of MySpaceRocket - into what they call "hypnotic" patterns. Freely-chosen samples fall into hypnotically repetitious structures, no matter how simple, that allow one to ignore (or be unaware of) the passage of time. Neither musical, nor chronological "progress" is uppermost. Any notions of forward, linear movement are replaced by a shuttling back and forth: across the dancefloor, between structural units of the music (as refrains); or through the repeated, reemployed snippets of old-school recordings.

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Tuning out becomes a distinct possibility. Eyes glaze over and necks go limp.

These heady, hedonistic activities all take place with much enthusiasm and minimal cash. In fact it is precisely because of that abject poverty that the romance of science fiction, lauded by MySpaceRocket, is so important. With absolutely nothing at their disposal, these musicians can dream of anything. Were they, conversely, to have something - some meager resources - their plans would be limited on the same humbling scale. As we can see, though, there are no plans in sight! Dreamers win the day, thanks to destitution. Dza, MySpaceRocket, and Dubolom all exist in a happy state of pure virtuality. Anything and everything might come to be.

No wonder they want to embrace that moment a little longer - in a loop of hypnotic hip-hop. It's all a matter of finding one's groove and losing one's head.

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Audio

Korablove – Dal Dubu
Dza – Flogram
Ol – Gameplay
Dsh-Dsh – Kompakt Parabolik

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