Minimalist Magic: Pavel Ambiont, UVL, Sfourds, and Nieviadomy Artyst

V/A (Force Carriers): "Basic Force Interactions" (Minsk, 2013)

This week sees a second compilation of industrial and "forest" techno from a Belarusian quartet based in MinskS4DS, UVL, and Nieviadomy Artyst, who is also known as Pavel Ambiont. In stricter terms, therefore, the album contains the work of three men and four identities. Imagination offers more variety than reality. The gentleman responsible for Pavel Ambiont's two, parallel characters is known in more typical surroundings as Pavel Niakhayeu. He was born in 1978, more specifically in the town of Orsha, which lies maybe fifteen miles from the Russian border. On the edge of a nation, identities both fade and fracture.

Sounds for a peaceful cosmos! (Soundcloud)

Orsha was founded in the seventeenth century and, due to that peripheral position on the map, has suffered considerable violence over the centuries. Larger nations pass through in order to do each other harm. These mobile forms of damage have included the understandably famous Battle of Orsha in 1514, when a small Polish and Lithuanian army allegedly defeated a Russian force almost three times the size. Local residents, whatever the outcome, would suffer awful losses. Several centuries later, Napoleon's invasion of Russia would also lead to considerable destruction, and Orsha would then be occupied by German forces during both World Wars. 

Perhaps in flight from these bruising traditions - or the subsequent, dour remains of Soviet materialism - Mr. Niakhayeu conducted graduate research in Vilnius into the ritualistic aspects of techno and psy-trance communities. Simultaneously, he has become a widely respected techno artist himself and has performed all across continental Europe, not to mention shows in the US.

At the moment his efforts are directed towards managing the four comradely projects mentioned above. Together those young men constitute the Minsk techno collective of "Force Carriers." We look here at their new compilation, but the project's website also includes mixes, podcasts, and video performance.

Pavel Niakhayeu (Minsk, aka Nieviadomy Artyst or "Unknown Artist")

Colleagues at the influential Foundamental Network in Minsk have used various tags to qualify not only the work of Pavel Ambiont, but also the nuanced deviations of Nieviadomy Artyst ("Unknown Artist"). "You can speak of this [composite] material as deep- or dub-techno, electro, breaks, dubstep, tribal or ambient. What matters, though, is not the style, but the overarching characteristics of a sonic flow. You could call it 'hypno' or 'electro-dream.' Even though that this music is undoubtedly suitable for a dancefloor, Pavel is actually trying to influence the emotional and psychic state of his audience."

Work conducted upon the emotional and psychic state of an audience

These crisscrossing intentions have led to a performative mode defined elsewhere as "techno dub drive," itself epitomized by "precise sound placement, subtle rhythmic structures and an essentially minimalist approach." In the more specific context of another, equally recent publication, we're told that Pavel Ambiont's stagecraft employs that stripped-down aesthetic in realms where "ancient shamanism meets the mysticism of the hi-tech era." These ideas clearly mirror Niakhayeu's grad-school research, i.e., his interest in the construction of varied meanings through repetitive, skeletal patterns.

Once more, audible forms both challenge and supersede anything ostensible. They allegedly achieve a great deal with very little.

Niakhayeu has often appeared on stage with his good friend and colleague Alexei Usinovich, who can be found operating under a couple of monikers: Sfourds or the briefer version of S4DS (not to mention Hobort Hobonski...). The connections between Usinovich and Niakhayeu are actually quiet considerable, since they are both neighbors and collaborators on "Force Carriers." That joint phrasing is used not only to designate a label and the compilation, but also to establish some key metaphors. 

Put differently, the teamwork of these Belarusian musicians is defined with the following (and helpful) phrasing: "In the realm of physics, 'force carriers' are particles that mediate between other, fundamental forces." A waning energy - or the romance thereof - is both furthered and nurtured, all to the metronymic, insistent patterns of classic techno. These ideas - and ideals - run throughout the creative credo of everybody involved in "Basic Force Interactions."

Pavel Ambiont (L) and Sfourds (Alexei Usinovich, Minsk)

Joining Pavel AmbiontSfourds, and Nieviadomy Artyst in this search for a philosophically rewarding minimalism is the figure of UVL, once again from Minsk. Just as we've seen with the other participants in Force Carriers, awareness of some additional stage-names or masks is needed in order to make sense of the general proceedings. UVL (aka Oleg Yaque) is already known to us through the monikers of both Viber Park and Parametric. Various overarching concepts run throughout those snowballing identities.

A kind of philosophical melancholy

In ways that are redolent of Ambiont's interest in ritual and repetition, some of Viber Park's earlier releases have been dedicated to a vague, yet insistently mantric purpose. His instrumentals have been concerned with tiny forms of recurrence - in the hope of spiritual transformation. Yaque, in other words, has equated a reduction in sonic excess with the sacred incantation of "om" in various Dharmic faiths. Less is much (much!) more. Themes of meditation and noiseless enlightenment thus emerge amid the 4/4 beats and hi-hats that Western listeners associate with the factory floors of Detroit.

Given that we're dealing with the industrial workings of techno, Yaque's desire to forge mantric, meditative syllables might seem suspiciously relentless. It's as if reality denies quiet introspection - and so the need to beat material existence into submission only grows. For that reason, perhaps, one finds the following assessment of Yaque's dossier: "His music is imbued with a kind of philosophical melancholy, being both dream-like and beautiful.” Peace and calm are very hard work indeed.

These concerted efforts to ignore the constraints of physicality come to light in a recent and rather insightful interview that Pavel Niakhayeu gave to the  Foundamental Network. In more specific and direct terms, Pavel was asked how he sees the future development of Force Carriers, both for himself and his workplace partners. Kickstarting the conversation, a couple of the Foundamental staff spoke immediately of his desire, perhaps, to combine "severe techno with odes to outer space."

UVL (Oleg Yaque, Minsk)

Mr. Niakhayeu concurred: "The range of our interests and sounds at Force Carriers might be likened to [the science of physics, albeit with elements of a cosmic, even mystical lyricism." Machinic, increasingly stubborn arrangements, although of industrial provenance, speak to something immaterial or spiritual. Yet again, the grim physical effort needed to escape moribund physicality comes to the fore. 

Severe techno combined with odes to outer space

Pavel has a few additional words that help to explain the workings of lyricism within the legendary chilliness of techno - especially in a Belarusian context. "There's considerable beauty and romance in the combination of techno with sci-fi or 'cosmic' metaphors. Anybody who dislikes what we're doing can go off and dance to witch-house or trap." One can almost sense a tenuous connection here to the lyricism of post-Stalinist culture, when Soviet journeys to outer space were endlessly - and earnestly! - celebrated by poets. The line between intrepid cosmonauts and anxious lovers was very thin. Both were working alone. 

The same heartfelt spirit, born of heavy industry, moves further or higher still: "As far as I'm concerned, techno isn't simply music. It's made from powerful, energetic processes that are tightly bound together. Those processes reveal themselves - over time - in unique ways. The structures they constitute can be bettered or improved forever."

Looking to explain a potential for profundity and variegation within (endless!) repetition, Niakhayeu casts an eye beyond anything European: "The work at Force Carriers is reminiscent of the mastery in a haiku or the minimalism of Chinese painting. Using no more than seven key elements, together with an interplay of presence and absence, you can generate bona fide transformations. Both of yourself and your surroundings. That's why you don't really have to dance to this music, even if it's operating at 140 bpm. You can, if you like, simply observe the sound patterns or the gaps between them. It's very meditative." 

Illumination comes from the darkest sources.

Pavel Ambiont performing live in Poznan, Poland


UVL – Broken Twin
UVL – Dead Tissue
Sfourds – Effort
Sfourds – Mechanical Stresses
Pavel Ambiont – Peace Dub (N/A rmx)

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