Kotra, Freigeist, Ukraine, Kvitnu, CD 56 (2018)
Kotra is the main art / music project of Ukrainian musician / producer / promoter Dmytro Fedorenko whose career in music stretches back to the early 1990s. Fedorenko started Kotra in 1998 and since then has built up a sizable discography. “Freigeist” is Kotra’s most recent release, having come out in January this year – and what a way to herald 2018, with throbbing, bubbling industrial power electronics that demands all your attention. Heard on headphones, the album builds up insistent pounding pressure deep inside your head until you can almost see the waves of pressure spreading behind your eyeballs through your brain and bouncing from one side of the cranium to the next. Frizzly drone tones peel off the pounding beat like scabs off a not-yet-healed wound. Repeating rhythms hold your brain cells in a hypnotic vise while low-groaning bass tones work insidiously on disconnecting them and then reconnecting them according to an alien agenda.
The album is best heard in one sitting (it’s about half an hour long) as the five tracks are pared right down to their most minimal elements: the beat, the rhythm and the constant repetition and interplay between these two. Sometimes individual tracks, like “Inhaling a Black Fog”, come close – accidentally perhaps – to creating a melody and an atmosphere of a menacing kind. “Acid Walk on a Boiling Tar” has a definite groove and, if heard loudly, could almost qualify as dance music. There is a very insistent, urgent quality to the beats that forces you to get up and move around, even if you end up shuffling a bit if the day happens to be a cold one. Crackles, clicks and purrs add to the undulating rhythm of the track and make it more enjoyable, even a little friendly, than something to be wary of.
For all its sparse harsh droning rhythms, the album does vary a lot, especially in the last track where effects are added to the pulses and rhythms to flesh out the music and create a more definite atmosphere and mood with which the listener can face the day – and perhaps the rest of the year. It does need to be heard loudly as each track features low-end bass drones that enhance or contrast with the pulsing beats and rhythms. Some listeners may find the album very powerful and even confronting, especially in its early tracks. The music does lighten up a little as it progresses but a bleak, forbidding feeling remains, even after the last track ends.