Departures: Monolizard, Stephan Kubrak, Uplotnenie, and TonySoprano

Monolizard (Moscow/Novosibirsk):"Death Electric" (2013)

Since this site came into being, a number of bands and projects have, unavoidably, ceased to be. Others, as a positive consequence of that process, have formed new groupings, perhaps as a melange of recently defunct enterprises. Combination becomes a form of continuation. One such example would be Monolizard, based simultaneously in Moscow, Novosibirsk, and even New York. The Siberian connection takes us directly to Vladimir Komarov, otherwise known as one third of Punk TV. Komarov's band was formed in the early 1990s, so it perhaps comes as no surprise that other cities and collaborations would now hold considerable appeal.  

A fresh breath of Manhattan air...

This, after all, is somebody whose professional timeline begins at the very outset of overtly commercial music in Russia, mere months after the disappearance of the Soviet Union. A great deal seemed possible following the collapse of a state-run, centralized publishing system. Apparently new opportunities still beckon, either between cities or nations: the end of a political system is mirrored today in the demise of hard media. The vox populi and related data belong to nowhere in particular. 

Komarov's colleague from Punk TVAlex Kelman, recently outlined some of those new options or opportunities. Young artists need to bear some fresh guidelines in mind if they hope to negotiate an unfamiliar, virgin, and primarily digital landscape: "First of all, groups [in 2013] should tour the entire country, and not just stick to the capitals [of Moscow and Kiev]. Secondly, once they've recorded an album, they should put it online [and not rely on CD sales]. Those, I reckon, are the most important things."  

Moscow's Revoltmeter (Andrei Orlov [L] and Sergei Kiselev)

A need to look further from home is evident in Komarov's brand-new collaboration with Moscow's Revoltmeter (Andrei Orlov and Sergei Kiselev) - who themselves were once known as Adler. The result is declared a "dancefloor blend of vintage, late-80’s synth sounds, and post-punk guitars." As those sounds and and their authors come together, the stage-name chosen for any common effort is Monolizard. The general context here was well fleshed out by an interview in Afisha

Our fundamental trajectory is towards new beginnings

The issue arose of whether or not today's homeless ensembles, each with a fluid line-up, would ever know the professional stabilities of the past. Some kind of enduring address or aesthetic was at least hoped for: metamorphoses would, ideally, slow down eventually. "At some moment you understand that a 'foothold' of one sort or another is needed. It could be an address in London or Los Angeles, but for us it's here [in Moscow]. Nowadays, of course, everything has adopted a kind of 'mutant' character [full of endless change] - but we'd like things to move towards our own [recognizably constant] sound. It has to be something organic, not contrived. Something that simply grows from within you."

Given their stylistic "foothold" in Western pop of the 1980s, Kiselev and Orlov are keen to divorce themselves from any assumption they're "just nostalgic youngsters. Sure, we cast a glance backwards [in time]... We simply draw upon various things that strike us as personally relevant. They have nothing to do with ideology or any national idea." Apoliticism becomes a prerequisite for other, new memberships. Songwriting needs to be stripped from any connection to time or place - in order that new bonds are then forged. "Our fundamental trajectory is towards new beginnings and unique discoveries..." Over and over.

Stephan Kubrak (Kiev): "CA996" (2013)

The Shufflebrain label has just produced some beautiful, fragile compositions - entitled "CA996" - that are framed in related ways. They come from Kiev glitch instrumentalist Stephan [Stepan] Kubrak. Listeners are told to expect "clicks and cuts, coexisting beside ambient soundscapes and melodic synth-lines." Kubrak himself has spoken of these same processes as follows: "Music, in my opinion, is a matter of [constant] creation. It's something accompanied by private experience and emotions.. Everything is broadcast by means of sound - or whatever happens to melt away between those sounds; [I mean] things suspended in the compositional space itself. These significances may be colored by a single thought, or they could be the result of some collective endeavor..." 

All these compositions are unified by a general mood of 'departure'

Just as those sonic and social phenomena are seen as permanently ebbing and flowing, so Kubrak speaks of his craft as the embodiment of ongoing trajectories. Metaphorical rhizomes predominate over any unidirectional progress: nodes of significance cohere and then disperse. "All these [instrumental] compositions are unified by a general mood of 'departure.' That's a sensation known to every living being, all the way from its very first breath to a final movement of the eyes. It's an endless path. And that path itself is a goal."

Creativity is a constant line of escape, en route to new connections and networks.

Returning to Siberia, there is a simultaneous album on display from the project known as Uplotnenie, based in Omsk. This recording presents an intriguing complexity from the outset. As we've said before, Uplotnenie's moniker has a wide range of meanings in Russian, none of which are terribly pleasant. It can be translated as "compression, reduction [in size], a tightening [of pressure], hardening, or subcutaneous lump."

Uplotnenie (Omsk): Rano Sdalis'" (2013)

That deliberate recourse to discomfort is then framed by a few additional words, again in Russian, at the top of a social networking account. In English they might read: "Emissions. Turned into a mush... and [pushed] out through a tube." Such dramatically fluid metaphors continue to play a role regarding the new album, "Rano Sdalis'" (They [or We] Surrendered Too Soon).

Uplotnenie is a duo: Ivan Dmitriev and Grisha Dudarev. Both men remain virtually silent in terms of promotional effort, but one of them currently uses a 1931 text from the Russian surrealist or absurdist writer, Daniil Kharms. In translation it might read: "Before coming to see you, I will knock at your window. You will see me in the window. Then I will stand in your doorway; you will see me in the doorway. Then I will come to your house and you will recognize me. Then I will enter you and nobody, apart from you, will see or know who I am. You will see me in the window. You will see me in the doorway."

I hope the leaves caress you

A process grows both in motion and importance, yet it belongs to no one place or person. The addressee of the text is so imprecise as to be fundamentally absent: she is more of a presumed locus than a fixed personality. In the same way, a brief and touching note on Dudarev's networking page turns from cynicism to sentiment, in order to view happiness as aimless movement within nature itself. Joy is a humbling (even faceless) mode of membership. "I hope the sun shines on you all. I hope the moon illuminates the dark places [in your life]. I hope the stars move deep within your eyes - and become your very own. I hope the leaves caress you..." Perfect self-realization happens nowhere special. It is a nexus, not a fixed state. 

Given this celebration of looping, even ecological patterns of change and combination, it seems only fitting to return to Siberia and the aforementioned Punk TV member, Alex Kelman. 

Natural networks: TonySoprano (Moscow), with Alex Kelman (L)

Together with Anna Panskova, Vladimir Bogoyavlensky, and Boris Booben, he operates a side-project in Moscow known as TonySoprano (written thus). Advertising themselves as "electro-punk in the style of The Breeders or Black Lips," the group also proclaims a commitment to "energetic, danceable punk... something that's not totally devoid of melody!"

The recent and tragic passing of James Gandolfini aide, it's hard not to see a connection between the band's raison d'être and their chosen hero. After all, our core symbol here is an aging figure of the New Jersey underworld who has such difficulty "harmonizing" the violence of major, goal-driven crime with his modest "network" of family life that he enters therapy. Tony makes a brave attempt to avoid the shame of medical treatment. Put differently, no matter the awful demands of being a Mafia boss, any surrender to pills and a therapist's couch is demeaning indeed. Social existence would require greater humility.

We keep tryin’ to get back on the bus... (James Gandolfini/ Tony Soprano)

One of the most famous Tony Soprano quotes speaks directly to that need to forget arrogant individuality and related notions of unchanging selfhood. Any attempt to make time and/or space stand still is not only misguided; it's also a sign of illness. "This is gonna sound stupid, but I saw at one point that our mothers are … bus drivers. No, they are the bus. See, they’re the vehicle that gets us here. They drop us off and go on their way. They continue on their journey. And the problem is that we keep tryin’ to get back on the bus, instead of just lettin’ it go."

Even in the rather stereotypical phrasing that accompanies one PR release from TonySoprano, the same issue emerges. "The band plays with drive and a degree of lyricism. There's a[n enduring] striving for the stars, too" - away from home, noisy hubris, and any goal-driven existence. For that reason, the imagery of a kaleidoscope makes more sense that any linear rhetoric of pragmatic targets. A kaleidoscope engenders new, complete representations from the most fragmented structures - over and over again, each time anew. It both approaches and departs from cohesion - simultaneously.

TonySoprano: "Silence/Marina Remixes" (2013)

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