Pokhot': The Abstract Appeal of "Singalong Horror Death-Core"

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If the theory were ever advanced that a musician's physical appearance reflects his/her chosen genre, then Aleksei Kondrat'ev would be a fine candidate for investigation. The two B&W images in this post have been chosen by Kondrat'ev and colleague Mikhail Lezin as their primary PR photos; this is how Mr. Kondrat'ev wishes to present himself to the world. His music is equally... disheveled. The main output for his vocals/recordings is the outfit known as "Pokhot'" (Lust). There's no real sexual connotation here, since any unbridled passions are used more in these audio works to break down generic norms than "advance" anything amorous; the music of Pokhot' is fundamentally deconstructive in its gestures. These are the sounds of something large and lumbering, soon to fall apart entirely.

In fact, one of the pithier sentences used to promote the outfit's work states - in no uncertain terms -  "Lust is an artistic project that has absolutely nothing to do with music." A long list of tags is then thrown in our general direction: we're "lo-fi; post-rock; post-punk; blues; psychedelic; contemporary art; freestyle; jazz; acoustic; intuitive improvisation; folk-rock; avant-garde; progressive rock..."

Lust is an artistic project that has absolutely nothing to do with music.

We get the general idea. (And suspect the contents of that plastic cup may not be water.)

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It is hard to resist drawing parallels between the collapsing chords sounded - with great volume - by Kondrat'ev, Lezin, and friends - and the place of their origin. This band - if such terms are correct - is based in the city of Togliatti, which is Russia's equivalent of Detroit. We've made this point before, when discussing an equally shambolic, ramshackle recording from the same town. At the time of writing, one of the city's biggest employers, automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ is on the verge of bankruptcy. Unemployment, failing industry, and soul-destroying nostalgia seem to produce a certain kind of noise.

These are the surrounding context(s) of the two lengthy tracks embedded in this post.  The always-invisible Lezin, in fact, has been making similar "music" for almost nine years in the same location - over which time he has recorded close to 40 albums. Almost all of them can be downloaded from his very generous website. Lust began as what Lezin calls a "studio project," but has developed into a less tidy enterprise. The main tools he uses in order to get beyond the tidy traditions of musical production are electric guitars, a Jew's harp, Soviet analog synthesizers, "and various metal or wooden objects."

Spanners and wrenches are no doubt among them.

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Just as the plural noun "objects" gives us frustratingly little specificity with regard to what exactly is going on during these recording sessions, the various tags or labels used to describe Lezin's efforts can also spin into even less conservative realms. Instead of the muddled - yet standard - tags listed above, elsewhere we can find the following sketch of what Pokhot'/Lust gets up to: "Punk-ambient sounds, noise, Dada, or garage psychedelia. Post-post-modern psycho-surf. Furious noise-chanson, singalong horror death-core, heartfelt concrete-punk, or bardic songs... but 'unadulterated.' Cheap trip-hop-blues, boozy art brut, post-graphic conceptualism, reckless garage punk. Clumsy DIY Cubo-Futurism, etc..."

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That reference to Futurism is very important, since Lezin directly credits the early 20th-century poet Aleksei Kruchenykh (above, right) as one of his main influences. Inspired by the rapid social and technological changes of Europe prior to WWI, the Futurist poets and painters strove to find new expressions that might do a world of planes, trains, and automobiles justice. Kruchenykh went further than most, working with so many neologisms that his poetry - and that of kindred spirits - came to be known as zaum, a term that is sometimes translated as "trans-rational.' Logic was left behind altogether.

Kruchenykh's most famous poem, from 1913, reads as follows; there's really nothing to translate.

Dyr bul shchyl
ubeshchur
skum
vy so bu
r l ez

It makes little (obvious) sense in Russian, either.

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If we take that influence of Kruchenykh - whose ardent artwork is shown above - and combine it with the abbreviation "etc." at the end of Lezin's jumbled genres, the logical "next step" in that progression of snowballing influences is also taken. We move beyond language into music, and beyond graphic arts into radical abstraction. Lezin claims to be equally influenced by the American (and severely schizophrenic) busker Wesley Willis (below), German performance artist Joseph Beuys, American experimental artist Cy Twombly, and other - equally contrary - souls.

Rationality is replaced by a random tinkling across an unexpected keyboard.

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Nudged onwards by these influences, Lezin has now produced a brand-new, two-track EP called "The Inflation of Abstractionism."It is initially unclear whether he means abstractionism in terms of art or philosophy, but in either case, we're dealing with an idea that the substance of our creative or cognitive work is "abstracted" from something more fundamental. Something that cannot be expressed through standard, studied forms of communication. That basic, maybe primordial source of our experiences is certainly a realm that was investigated by Kruchenykh's work. His verse - and artwork - were fueled by the presumed influence of a pre-modern, pre-rational force that can only come to the surface through neologisms or other types of radical experimentation.

Like throwing paint at a wall.

Without even looking.

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These ideas and various artistic heritages bring us to the raison d'etre of the two new tracks from Togliatti, entitled (in Russian) "Canvas, Oil [Paints]" and "Canvas, Acrylic." Immediately we're inclined to see the philosophical aspects of abstractionism through Lezin's heroes like Beuys and Twombly (above).

The first recording lasts more than ten minutes; the second lasts more than twenty. These are the sounds of slow decay, especially when "Canvas, Oil" begins with a long, drunken rant about the predominance of bad news - everywhere and all the time. As those ten minutes stumble onwards, one of the secondary motifs comes to the fore. It is a phrase from the early Soviet Union that was used to mock the system's pretensions towards industrial triumphs in all realms of human endeavor: "Russia is [Even] the Homeland of Elephants." Excessively zealous planning and production had become unnervingly passionate... to the point of illogicality. As Lenin's work passed into the hands of Stalin, this and other satirical quips took on a nightmarish undertone.

With the decline of Togliatti, one wonders whether the EP is a similar lament for heavy industry.

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And then there's the cover. We're inclined to interpret it in the light of the title, as the "abstraction" of something - in this case water - from a larger, older body of significance. The photograph seems to include a little self-mockery, because the silliness of a bike-hauled bathtub as somehow allowing the the rider to say "I Have Water" can be interpreted in musical or poetic terms, too. Lezin's 30 minutes of disorderly, lo-fi grumbling try to offer us abstract images of "bad news" from the world of industrial collapse, but he knows that there's a much greater realm or force - the very essence of "collapse" - that remains ineffable. The bathtub abstracts a laughable amount of water from "water" per se - from a flood or deluge that has yet to come.

And then the news will be really bad, turning these two tracks - as Kruchenykh said in the poems shown below - into "A Game Played in Hell."

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Audio

Pokhot' – Canvas, Acrylic
Pokhot' – Canvas, Oils

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