Alternative Industry: Mpala Garoo, Booby Mason, jjoth, and V4W.Enko

v4w.enko (Evgeniy Vaschenko, Kiev): "In Formation" (2013)

Kiev's Evgeniy Vaschenko formed the one-man glitch project v4w.enko in 2007, in order to realize creative avenues within "live electronica." That seemingly simple designation masks considerable complexity, in that his shows are fundamentally designed to "generate audio-flows in real time." Put differently, he builds various algorithms that "will make sounds on the fly." Vaschenko soon explains where the pleasure or philosophical benefit might be within such patterns: "I always find it intriguing to build multi-leveled or layered structures, each part of which can then be synchronously transformed."

Multi-leveled or layered structures that can be transformed in real time

Elsewhere he has outlined the effort(s) involved somewhat differently: "An initial sequence of instructions can form a simple process. А complex combination of those processes can then be contained within a 'block,' i.e., a spatial structure [for example]. That structure can always be changed by reorganizing the relationships between our simple processes - as well as by [re]tuning the settings of the instructions. Several [re]tuned blocks can form a 'composition.'"

He continues, bringing a tad more clarity to the proceedings: "It only takes the replacement of one block to produce a global restructuring in the entire system." These statements, however, are not strict rules. Put as briefly as possible, large structures are born of small elements, and it only takes a relatively minor change in one of those little building blocks to effect a systemic revolution. Everything and anything can change, sometimes following the smallest structural blip.

These impressionistic observations do make sense in the realm of v4w.enko's flickering, semi-improvised instrumentals - and those compositions are typically written to accompany an audio-visual, digital/programmed project.

Evgeniy Vaschenko (v4w.enko)

Vaschenko's beautiful website is almost entirely dedicated to this sonic evocation of ostensible geometry: it makes myriad, inanimate forms mobile - and audibly soWe hear what penetrates or lies outside immobile bricks and mortar. Some recent examples of this work and worldview deserve special attention. They embody aspects of what he refers to as "robotic [sonic] envelopes and generative visuals."

The most striking of those recordings, just published, is entitled "In Formation." That punning term designates "information" that itself is endlessly being constituted or "formed." "Information is [always] a sequence-structure of symbols that can be interpreted as a message. Music, for example, could be explained as a time-sequence of sounds, which are then understood collectively as a composition."

Algorithmic sound, robotic [sonic] envelopes, and generative visuals

This deconstructive gesture is quickly turned to productive ends in the spirit, say, of Brian Eno's generative music: perhaps machines, working with the apparent imprecision of complex algorithms, could build designs of endless, "constantly formed" beauty? Perhaps randomized technology could, paradoxically, provide an expressive alternative to the mundane repetition of most mainstream entertainment.

That brings us (back) to a slightly earlier v4w.enko album of 2012, "Synthetic Explosion." In the programatic text linked to that recording, incipient structures emerge from systemic collapse. Structural breakdowns foster new generations, so to speak. Vaschenko's technical patterns even begin to be associated with blossoming plants: "Some robotic systems, operating in abstract spaces or according to certain algorithms, eventually nurture both music and visual textures. These textures are even capable of living and growing without human factors..."

Digital spaces become as "productive" as some imagined biosphere. Digital and botanical randomness both scribe a trajectory or swift escape away from quotidian tedium.

Mpala Garoo (Moscow)

As mathematical intricacy runs parallel with the beautiful illogicality of flora and fauna, v4w.enko talks about the dovetailing of "stochastic, organic, and related layers of the human mind. [In my chaotically splintered soundscapes] things happen both separately and simultaneously. They're never in conflict. No one element involved has any more value than the others. Eventually [in endless interaction] they [collectively] reach the point where everything melts into one [unified] music.""

That optimistic and inclusive tone is trumped by the Moscow outfit Mpala Garoo: "Our discography is crafted for the sunny, tropical paradise of our mind. A seasonal mood is shared by magnetic vibes. We can all exist in the same balmy and tropical state, no matter our physical location. These pure vibrations ebb and flow according to the whim of tidal moons..." Should the search for some generic tags help to simplify that abstract mode, we would find the following: "Tropical lo-fi, tribal surf, suncore, ethnotronic, underwater fiesta, hypnagogic, new weird earth, psychedelic, and summer drone..."

Music crafted for the sunny, tropical paradise of our mind

Artistry, amid those labels, is handed over not to mechanical patterns, but to nature itself. These ideas, perhaps, first began in the Moscow drone project Sunbells Fenimore, of which we've written before. Although we could at least discern a name behind these publications - Ivan Kurbakov - his hometown has rarely been advertised. These Sunbells tracks, as a consequence, might be called "homeless" in various senses. They belong to physical, not political geography; they're bound to an atmosphere, not an address.

Sunbells Fenimore is far from Kurbakov's only endeavor, in fact he's arguably better known for his Mpala Garoo work, followed by the side-project Kon Tiki Gemini. In several ways, therefore, a de-centered, rhizomatic aesthetic is celebrated. Sonic output belongs to no single person.

Mpala Garoo in search of new sounds, far from home

And, for that reason, western audiences have been quick to endorse these sounds of no fixed abode. These recordings always speak of somewhere else, usually of somewhere warmer. "I like how the name Mpala Garoo sounds in my mouth - like a bite-full of mashed potatoes or something... It sounds like the translation of a translation, filled with electronic and organic hand-drumming that dances around [some] hazy and off-center guitar jams."

Another listener suggests that we're dealing, perhaps, with a dizzyingly large array of influences: "They range from the early, weird folk optimism of Animal Collective to a near-tropical summertime vibe. This is tribal surf rock[!]. That’s the closest one can get to describe this incurably optimistic album." Hope is always elsewhere.

It's the same promise of a natural, glitch-speckled world of endless variegation - rather than anything polished or urban - that sometimes colors the discography of Omsk resident Anton Gudkov, known to online audiences as Booby Mason. He attributes his own inspiration to "the industrial backwoods of Siberia." Not to the industrial centers, but to the woods.

You write noise - which is serious stuff!

Enthusiastically tagging his output as "noise, harsh noise, field recordings, abstract [instrumentals], lo-fi, ambient, cut-up... and musique concrète," he has become an influential figure. Not only has he done a wonderful job of aggregating roughly hewn, lo-fi cacophony from far-flung corners of Eastern Russia, he is also a productive sound artist in his own right.

Some of his more recent material has been remarkably hushed - and last year constituted half of a split with Yakutsk artist Tetsuo Kikai (also known as "Foxberry"). The recording, titled simply as "bm + tk," was announced with the simplest of promotional phrases: "We've grown quieter!" The artwork, meanwhile, made it patently clear that these almost inaudible field recordings were either inspired by or taken from the limitless, sprawling taiga.

Their challenging discord has not always been understood by local listeners: Booby Mason's page on Vkontakte, for example, is headed with the following reaction to his catalog. It is presumably the phrasing of a bewildered colleague: "You're such a strange man. You write noise - which is serious stuff! - but you listen to all kinds of ravers. You listen to soul music and jazz!" 

Booby Mason (Omsk): "Loop Waves and Rhythmic Reverberations" (2013)

A recent interview moved the significance of these works beyond even the natural world. Booby Mason's soundscapes belong, quite literally, nowhere: "My surroundings [in Omsk] don't influence my music at all. You might say what's important in the absence of any local influence." A related freedom - from both canons and regional space - is found in unpredictable clamor: "In noise you can do whatever you want. It's loud and totally without responsibility..." 

Even Tetsuo Kikai has commented on this aspect of his colleague's work. "Some people say that noise music is made simply of various sounds that are both unpleasant and injurious for 'philistine ears.' Others would consider Booby Mason's's catalog as an unlimited and creatively free form of musical expression... It’s like some floating reverb over electric plants; it's like a journey taken through the de-energized neural system of some bleeding machine." 

In noise you can do whatever you want. It's loud and totally with responsibility...

Tetsuo Kikai then corrects himself: "No, it’s rather like the mute whispering of organic life's final forms as they rush through freezing spaces at the speed of light. This is very personal and intimate music..."

The fact that contemporary subjectivity is, perhaps, best expressed in these brittle, busily interactive forms, is argued persuasively by the figure of jjoth. He is a Ukrainian sound artist who has also been experimenting with drone, harsh noise, and - to some degree - idm for the last four years. Recently on Soundcloud some intriguing comments were embedded in a jjoth composition, as preparation for a fairly straightforward technical question. "This is quite a hypnotic track, but wouldn't it be even better if it was encoded at a higher rate?"

Booby Mason (aka Anton Gudkov, Omsk)

The response came that a lower bit-rate in fact helped to underscore the desired sense of "hypnotic" performance. In other words, these cheap, slurred, and drone-like textures had been deliberately created. The inquisitive listener then added that he certainly admired jjoth's evocation of "stubbornness." Two issues would emerge from that online exchange: Why do we encounter this deliberate recourse to very inexpensive noise? And what exactly is the role of stubbornness? Why sound so bad - and why keep going?

Please keep the noise down in this location of the festival — and no crisps allowed

A fitting and objective answer can be found in the VK Lobit collective, buried deep in the Russian web. Here we discover a group of performers and colleagues, including jjoth. They are all dedicated to working with "lossy data, encoded at low bitrates. The artists in this online group believe that good songs can be appreciated at any rate - and broadcast through any speakers." Nonetheless, they require serious attention. One recent comment at a jjoth show in Holland explained the suitable, most respectful behavior at his shows: "Please keep the noise down in this location of the festival - and no crisps allowed." Cheap sounds deserve rich attention.

In closing, it's both interesting and important to recall jjoth's discussion of "azoth" in some recordings. That antique noun refers to a "universal solvent" in medieval alchemy. It had the magical quality - allegedly - of making all "transformations" and metamorphoses possible. A single alien element could both dissemble and reconstitute everything. All at once!

In a related manner for v4w.enko, Mpala Garoo, and Booby Mason, grand possibilities endure in disjointed, even chaotic noise. They reside in an industrious realm where all potentials are realized to the maximum. Those potentials all coexist and interact; flow and change, if endless, are even treated as a new stability.

Fragmentation, fissures, and mistakes reveal new avenues. As jjoth's newest artwork suggests, shockingly vivid options will transpire from patterns of contrast, tension, and even collapse. After all, innovation and natural (re)birth occur only through rupture; they begin against a backdrop of "stochastic and organic" variables that challenge prior norms. They are always uncanny - and sometimes unlistenable.

Mobile fragments: jjoth (Sumy, Ukraine): "Wheelchair Concert" (2012)


v4w.enko – 01122520122210
v4w.enko – 04122520122237
jjoth – Bohemia Nocturne
Booby Mason – Electric Plants (Snippet)
jjoth – Forest. Scena VII
Mpala Garoo – Maha Siempre
Booby Mason – Sensitive Spaceships (Snippet)

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