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Multi-instrumentalist Argo Vals was born and raised in Estonia. Originally from the small, southern Ahja parish and a graduate of the local arts academy, Vals currently enjoys support from many Baltic music critics - not only as a solo artist, but also in his related ensembles of Animal Drama and the Viljandi Guitar Trio. His springtime appearance on these pages is prompted by the emergence of a brand-new instrumental EP, which is being released through FFM: "Oxymoron." The EP is, in actual fact, an extended and digital version of an earlier publication that emerged via Eesti Pops in Tallinn.
In the city of Samara is a female choir led by Dmitrii Kolevatykh: Roundelay. This substantial, shifting lineup of young woman creates a sound unique with modern Russian music. Combining an admirable amateurism with online savvy and a knowingly hip aesthetic, Roundelay have won some very distant admirers. The Moscow portal LookatMe recently invited more than six hundred performers and ensembles to submit material for a project called "Ten Young Musicians." At some point in the proceedings, 590 polite refusal letters would be required. Thanks to a system of expert juries and public voting, the numbers gradually shrank - and the quality increased. Once those ten lucky outfits remained, LookatMe then put them in touch with a range of Western producers, including Jeremy Gara (Arcade Fire), Ramona Gonzalez (Nite Jewel), and Andy Grier (Thieves Like Us). That professional boost was eventually extended further still with the chance to play at a couple of local - and prestigious - festivals. Roundelay were given Jeremy Gara. The same sense of emotional support, be it local or international, is especially important in a large collective. The more people are involved, the more they need to feel included. Kolevatykh adds: "It goes without saying that certain problems emerge when you've got so many people in a band. The more participants, the more individual scenarios or lifelines you'll find among them. It's considerably easier to gather four people than ten or fifteen! Our choir members can often get stuck in traffic jams [en route to rehearsals]... They might, conversely, just drive off somewhere, or do something different altogether. You must, somehow, hold eleven lifelines together. That means being attentive to each and every person." Why, though, does Roundelay exist amid mainstream music? As we hear from Dmitrii Kolevatykh himself, there's a more immediate - and local - need within Russia’s contemporary songwriting. Primetime product from Moscow has little, if any, relevance for concrete friends and families - in smaller, specific locations nationwide. Gathering eight young singers around an old piano seems a fine response. A helping hand from Montreal doesn't hurt, either.
Marble Boy are a duo from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv: Anton Shatokhin and the enigmatically named Ma De (aka Masha). Kharkiv is a major industrial location, reflecting in its scale the grand, sweeping vistas of Soviet aspiration. Today it is home to a couple of friends who first came together in a dusty basement, where they happened to discover a drum kit. Armed with nothing more than makeshift percussion and an acoustic guitar, private emotion started to sound forth. Matters have now come to include various keyboards, plugs, and sockets, but the spontaneity of semi-acoustic performance remains vital. Tales of love need to be mobile amid the imposing shapes of socialist monumentalism – both yesterday and today. Anton and Masha often turn to the issue of private destiny – and the increasing sense of some ubiquitous burden. Local history has not fostered an especially strong impression of self-determination. One of Marble Boy’s compositions even begins: "You thought you've been talking to the gods, but they're not smiling.” On a slightly more serious note, Masha then adds: “We can always wish for everything… because so much is lacking here. We’ve not got enough money, love, or harmony in our lives. There’s genuine stress everywhere. So everybody should just imagine life the way they’d like it to be. Let’s allow people to have what they want” - at least in fantasy. Very big hopes sound forth from a tiny underground location. Thus far, Marble Boy have played at the Kharkiv Jazz Festival (2011), the Euro 2012 Football Championships, the O.LIVE TV show (via Russia's A1 Alternative Music Channel), and – coming full circle - the prestigious Koketbel Jazz Festival in 2014
Aleksandr Spotovsky is a long-term resident of Saint Petersburg and best known for the excellent netlabel he founded, Subwise. The project’s various venues online usually contain a small and explicatory paragraph, sketching these endeavors for the uninitiated. Turned into English, it reads: “Subwise unites musicians who write experimental electronic music – together with some other genres, too. The organizers at Subwise used to publish recordings with a rather ‘harsh’ edge, but now they place an emphasis on softer works. That doesn’t mean to say, however, that things are going to be any less interesting!” The local press expresses gratitude for these adventures. Club reviews speak of a man who has shown himself to be “both professional and pragmatic. There’s something academic in the way he approaches compositions. It gives maturity to his ‘unfinished pieces for mechanical pianos.’” That unwieldy quote refers back to a 1977 film by Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov. Based upon a series of interweaving motifs from Chekhov, it paints a melancholy picture of time’s passage among the provincial intelligentsia, just before the Revolution. Put differently, Spotovsky's audiences see something profoundly local in his alleged “laconicism.” He gives voice to the minor, yet dignified culture of some northern periphery.
Olga Glazova is a graduate of the Saint Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory and the recipient of multiple awards, both at home and abroad. Her biography commences in the storied town of Pskov, where - still a girl - she was once invited to try an ancient and multi-stringed, plucked instrument, the gusli. A classical education would follow, leading to valued collaborations with the nation's most respected craftsmen - who would build her the rare and expensive tools needed for a professional career on stage. Her primary collaboration has been with gusli master Alexander Teplov, who built Olga the world's only gusli with thirty strings. Tools in hand, she would then commences a long series of performances, all across Northern Russia and Eastern Europe. Now a recognized virtuoso, Olga Glazova has done much to link her audiences and even future students to the evocative sounds of an antique Slavic tradition, first documented in chronicles of the Sixth Century.
Various artists
FFM037
Opening track: "The figure of Miyuki can be tricky to describe for a number of reasons. Not only do we have a Japanese moniker that's clearly designed to hide any mundane identity. A second layer of complexity then emerges from gendered assumptions about Russian electronica. In a performative realm where men outnumber women by an enormous margin, it becomes difficult to say whether a second, female, and evidently non-Slavic name is real. In other words, one of the Miyuki accounts is linked to the networking profile of a certain "Lera Bauer" in Novosibirsk...." "Far from Moscow” is a project designed to aggregate songs and sounds (i.e., texts and tunes) over a very wide area. We also release regular compilations, dedicated to varied genres and digital material that might otherwise go unnoticed. These albums should help to slow the rate at which young and impressive performers move across the horizon. The same collections should also help to nurture new audiences, both at home and… far from Moscow. The tracks on display - this time! - come from Russia and Ukraine. All were published during May and June 2013. Within each file you'll find photographic, geographic, and archival information concerning the artist or band in question
Various artists
FFM036
Opening track: Anna Pingina. "Songs are born at the intersection of times, cultures, and ethnicities... The most interesting aspect of their development happens when somebody hears a traditional song - and then sings it in their own, special way. In doing so, they extend the song's life whilst giving it a unique melody or signature. Songs flow from region to region - and from people to people, too. It's never possible to say where they began." * "Far from Moscow” is a project designed to aggregate songs and sounds (i.e., texts and tunes) over a very wide area. We also release regular compilations, dedicated to varied genres and digital material that might otherwise go unnoticed. These albums should help to slow the rate at which young and impressive performers move across the horizon. The same collections should also help to nurture new audiences, both at home and… far from Moscow. The tracks on display - this time! - come from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Uzbekistan. All were published during May and June 2013. Within each file you'll find photographic, geographic, and archival information concerning the artist or band in question
Various artists
FFM035
Opening track: "Xuman undoubtedly draw upon the synth-pop of the 1980s. It seems reasonable to suggest that the generally uplifting, optimistic outlook of that movement in the West forms a stark counterpart to the grim Russian experiences of the same decade. From a Slavic standpoint, therefore, it's a pleasing way to reconsider and redo one's youth. A 1980s' aesthetic redux." * "Far from Moscow” is a project designed to aggregate songs and sounds (i.e., texts and tunes) over a very wide area. We also release regular compilations, dedicated to varied genres and digital material that might otherwise go unnoticed. These albums should help to slow the rate at which young and impressive performers move across the horizon. The same collections should also help to nurture new audiences, both at home and… far from Moscow. The tracks on display - this time! - come from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. All were published during Spring 2013. Within each file you'll find photographic, geographic, and archival information concerning the artist or band in question
Various artists
FFM034
Opening track: Malefique. "This music requires a slightly different level of awareness than you'd expect to see in 70% of the music in today's market. These are tracks designed for thought, laughter.. and melancholy, too. Each of them contains a little story, together with some feelings. They may not be the kind of stories that everyone has encountered [in their private lives]- but they could well find a little resonance in your heart and soul." * "Far from Moscow” is a project designed to aggregate songs and sounds (i.e., texts and tunes) over a very wide area. We also release regular compilations, dedicated to varied genres and digital material that might otherwise go unnoticed. These albums should help to slow the rate at which young and impressive performers move across the horizon. The same collections should also help to nurture new audiences, both at home and… far from Moscow. The tracks on display - this time! - come from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. All were published during Spring 2013. Within each file you'll find photographic, geographic, and archival information concerning the artist or band in question
Various artists
FM033
Opening track: Aleph. "I don't think I'd ever write a [creative] manifesto. Maybe my tracks play that role. If you start toying with manifestos and your head gets full of words, then language itself can easily lose its power... If people worldwide could simply comprehend the profound and fundamental meaning of art [in silence] and experience it, then everything would be different." * "Far from Moscow” is a project designed to aggregate songs and sounds (i.e., texts and tunes) over a very wide area. We also release regular compilations, dedicated to varied genres and digital material that might otherwise go unnoticed. These albums should help to slow the rate at which young and impressive performers move across the horizon. The same collections should also help to nurture new audiences, both at home and… far from Moscow. The tracks on display - this time! - come from Russia and Ukraine. All were published during Spring 2013 Within each file you'll find photographic, geographic, and archival information concerning the artist or band in question.
Various artists
FFM32
Opening track: InfiniteWays. Far from the classical architecture of Saint Petersburg, we find the young and equally diligent project known as InfiniteWays. That compound noun refers to a couple of young men, who extend the romance of their stage-name with two more monikers: they also call themselves "111beats" (Vladislav Shalaev) and "PiroMaino" (Aleksandr Ilyunichev). Together on Vkontakte they head their collective webpage with a brief phrase in Russian, explaining why they work so hard in order to flee everyday experience: "We're looking for inspiration..." * "Far from Moscow” is a project designed to aggregate songs and sounds (i.e., texts and tunes) over a very wide area. We also release regular compilations, dedicated to varied genres and digital material that might otherwise go unnoticed. These albums should help to slow the rate at which young and impressive performers move across the horizon. The same collections should also help to nurture new audiences, both at home and… far from Moscow. The tracks on display - this time! - come from Russia and Belarus. All were published during Spring 2013. Within each file you'll find photographic, geographic, and archival information concerning the artist or band in question.
Various artists
FFM031
Opening track: Zmitser von Holzman, perhaps not surprisingly, is not this artist's real name. Were we to rummage through his pockets, somewhere would be official proof of his parallel existence in dull reality - as Dmitrii Gol'tsman, a resident of St Petersburg. This evidently false or "stagy" identity is underscored in other ways, since Gol'tsman's activity is not easily defined by the activities of any one musical outfit. His full discography or creative output needs to be chased in various directions if one hopes to speak with confidence of his work. He has, in short, multiple identities and responsibilities. * "Far from Moscow” is a project designed to aggregate songs and sounds (i.e., texts and tunes) over a very wide area. We also release regular compilations, dedicated to varied genres and digital material that might otherwise go unnoticed. These albums should help to slow the rate at which young and impressive performers move across the horizon. The same collections should also help to nurture new audiences, both at home and… far from Moscow. The tracks on display - this time! - come from Russia and Ukraine, Belarus. All were published during December 2012. Within each file you'll find photographic, geographic, and archival information concerning the artist or band in question
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