Parasomnia and Pirates on the High Seas: Seedart and Cream Child

Behind the stage name of Seedart we find the Moscow duo Dmitrii Shchiprov (above) and Sergei Beliakov (below, left), who have been performing together since 2004. The former maintains that he plays the romantic role of Seedart's "heart and soul," whereas the latter fulfills the more pragmatic functions of "brain and liver." Although these two men began making music purely as a hobby, they now say that their compositions are suited - in more serious fashion - to "the kind of audience that's ready to listen intently, not superficially." Random experiment has become a form of dedicated enterprise; that relationship between illogicality and fidelity only increases for Seedart, as we'll explain.

The year 2006 saw a debut album - and, soon after, the initial concept of various "thematic evenings" hosted around the Russian capital for "lovers of non-standard, noncommercial music." The last year or so has witnessed the extension of those evenings to club-based performances. Venues grow, as does influence, yet the pressure to somehow define this enterprise also increases. The briefest of manifestoes is required.

We tend to create an 'image' of music...

Currently, Shchiprov and Beliakov are able to distill their artistic credo to a few programmatic sentences: "We tend to create an 'image' of music [rather than anything canonical]. It's a sonic style that gives rise to all kinds of related imagery in the minds of listeners, too; it produces various emotions. These [semi-rational] experiments, however, are not designed for everyone."

Mr. Beliakov's expression does not suggest easy listening.

In the same adventurous, irrational spirit, a Seedart blog was recently formed "for those people brave enough to experiment with sound." The benchmark for these efforts was made perfectly clear: "Promoters, concert organizers, and people in general - please bring Aphex Twin to Russia... We're not the only folks who want to hear the GOD OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC. Not on YouTube - but with our own eyes! [If this happens] we will probably DIE FROM HAPPINESS." 

Promoters, concert organizers, and people in general - please bring Aphex Twin to Russia...

That maximalism - at the expense of logic and other behavorial norms - is equally evident in other comments from the duo. Here, amid those wayward quips, we can find additional help for interpreting the Seedart catalog. First and foremost is the desire to abandon all forms of legal or commercial bondage. Put differently, Shchiprov and Beliakov have admitted their "very positive" attitude towards the workings and consequences of piracy. Material loss is to be encouraged if it leads to artistic gain.

Such contrariness, however, may strike some readers as silly. Have, comes the question, Seedart ever suffered financially from piracy themselves?

The answer: "Only in our nightmares. And only if you mean the kind of pirates who storm ships and drink liters of rum." They then list some of the stereotypical catchphrases associated with members of the seafaring public: none of them are decent. Subversion and sedition are the order of the day. Clarity gives way to a vague, sometimes dizzying, yet productive flurry of activity.

Ending on a brief and civic note, Shchiprov and Beliakov declare that "creative work should be free for all!" In fact, they also insist - en route to fiscal collapse - that any audience members who've ever paid for a Seedart release have been shamelessly duped. "Don't ever buy our music!" they shout...

This is the spirit of happy demise that colors all of Seedart's discography. As their stage name suggests, this intricate, glitch-heavy idm is designed to celebrate complexity, decentered networks, and the flourishing - fleeting! - beauty of natural processes. None of which benefit from cash or cupidity.

Don't ever buy our music!

For this reason, Shchiprov and Beliakov have spoken in elegiac terms of a kindred spirit from the late nineteenth century, Thaddeus Cahill. He invented an enormous musical instrument called the telharmonium. A form of electric organ, it was incredibly unwieldy: one model reportedly weighed 200 tons. This story was never likely to end well.

And indeed, due to those monstrous dimensions, the amount of electricity needed, and various legal issues with a patent, the telharmonium was not popular. It was an intriguing, if not grotesque oddity. Cahill, unable to commercialize his huge machine, died in 1934 - and the final example of the instrument had been destroyed by the early 1960s. No recordings exist. Sounds were made, broadcast, and then vanished forever. These scientific and fiscal failures, however, have only helped to make Cahill's life a cause celebre for fans of electronic music.  

It's this nervous, ill-advised reverie - a committed stance contra mundum - that also underlies the new release from Cream Child, "Parasomnia." The title refers to a state between sleep and waking - and the perceptions thereof. These include sleepwalking, the stressful grinding of teeth, various spasms, rapid eye movements, and so forth as the body struggles against unconsciousness. An investigation of those experiences by our musician leads to their defintion as a passage "from the light into darkness. Parasomnia is a road leading in bizarre directions..."

This is a tentative engagement both of "deep, hypnotic illusions and [of] secret desires." Where desire travels, rationality would rather not. Hence the spasms.

I'm always troubled by a ton of ideas...

A recent interview shows how any such movement operates in real life. Cream Child begins by retreating from the sensible operations of a typical day: "I'm just not the kind of person who can go home, have dinner, watch TV, and then sleep! I'm always troubled by a ton of ideas... Once I bought some music software, installed it - yet didn't understand a thing, so I deleted it all. But then, six months later, I took another look and got to grips with it!"

This kind of endlessly interrupted creativity was good preparation for the broken beats of "Parasomnia." Some gestures more than others lead us to expect surprises.

The basic setting for unexpectedness is a recent spell of influenza - when Cream Child was unable to think straight: "The work for this album was done over three months. I was ill at the time and - when I was sickest of all - I had a real fever. In other words, I had a high temperature and was rambling - waking up in a cold sweat. When that happens, you look around for a few seconds before falling back into a dreamlike state. Whatever you see in those two or three seconds gets incorporated into an ongoing dream. That's how the tracks came to be."

He broadens the context in telling ways. "And then, at the same time, I was under the strong influence of Aubrey Beardsley. I was walking through a flea market and found a book of his drawings - together with the works of Poe, Moliere, and Wilde. There's such a mystical air to those drawings, I fell in love with them!"

I was under the strong influence of Aubrey Beardsley

"Parasomnia," in other words, is directly influenced by a leading light of English decadence, whose fragile frame succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of twenty-five. Fever no longer troubled a male physique to aesthetic ends; it ravaged it.

This dubious enthusiasm for demise or deceleration leads Cream Child to imagine the perfect life: "I'd wake up, do a few things, go for a stroll, think a little, do a few more things. I'd never get tired of that routine!" He then offers some words of advice to his listeners: "Never give up. Everything will work out if you try!" The act of never giving up, though, will clearly involve failure(s). True, unflinching commitment is only possible by failing, falling, or collapsing - in order then to continue... despite everything. Endurance beyond collapse is the only proof that one "never" surrenders. 

A suitably dramatic pose is struck in anticipation of that challenge.

The folks at Cream Child's label, Ritmo Sportivo, place listeners in a properly vague, even worrying mood beforehand. "You're hearing voices, but you can't make out the words. Where are you now?" Extending the romance of nervousness and failure, the label warns that these recordings may cause "insomnia, if not uncontrollable anxiety for the untrained ear. You may experience something like acoustic vertigo."

That vertiginous state comes from an interplay of effort and failure;  success, according to the same logic, needs ugly moments of frustration - and fiasco, even. From this awkward relationship comes the appeal of Beardsley, no doubt. Towards the end of his brief life, he famously said: "Of course, I have one aim - the grotesque. If I am not grotesque, I am nothing." That state, born of beauty and horror, served to show the depths to which grace had fallen - and the heroic effort required to salvage it.

A lost cause was a worthy cause. As Thaddeus Cahill knew.

Aubrey Beardsley: 'I have one aim - the grotesque. If I am not grotesque, I am nothing'

Dmitrii Shchiprov and Sergei Beliakov use their project of Seedart - and some dark humor - to celebrate the kind of broken, limping, and noncommercial rhythms that lie beyond profit. It's only with a transgression of fiscally-determined success that aesthetic value can, allegedly, be discovered. If so, then bankruptcy and beauty become longterm partners. That dismissal of materialism, popular among the manufacturers of 200-ton organs, finds related expression in the new work of Cream Child.

Infirmity becomes the gateway to insight. Again we have a suitable pose; Mr. Beardsley would approve.

Audio

Seedart – Auctor
Seedart – Eve
Cream Child – One Day, Not Today
Cream Child – Past the Coast of Paper
Cream Child – Sound Flower One

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