Tagged: Russia

Yaschichek, Little Box

Herewith four more cassettes from the Russian Spina!Rec label. Arrived here 20th December 2016.

Andrey Popovskiy is the St Petersburg composer whose work has been arriving here since 2014. If there’s any connection between his releases Rotonda and Kryukov, it might have something to do with the way sound behaves in an enclosed space, and the exigencies of recording devices in attempting to capture the elusive reality of acoustical behaviours. While Rotonda seemed to misfire for Jack Tatty, we liked the mysterious properties of Kryukov (his split tape with Dubcore) and the way it somehow summoned an aesthetically pleasing effect from such everyday banality. Even to call Popovskiy a “kitchen sink” composer would be to make it far too exotic; he’d be happy to occupy the cupboard under the sink, along with the cartons of bleach. Works For Voice Recorders 2011 (SR029) takes this pared-down approach to an even further extreme. On the A side, there are five short pieces documenting his experiments with voice recording devices (dictaphones, perhaps? If those things even exist any more), placed inside a room and capturing whatever external bumps and groans may come their way. There’s also something about the devices being used to record themselves – contact mics placed in their own innards, or something. All manner of recorded artefacts are generated in a refreshingly non-digital manner. I can’t account for why this unprepossessing, near-blank grind effect is so compelling, but I can’t stop listening to it.

On the flip is a long piece called Zvukovanie, and is a far more ambitious composition lasting some 34 mins. He’s created layers of sound from field recordings out in the streets, musical performances, and rehearsals, superimposing them into what is described as a “three-dimensional” piece. Percussionist Mikhail Kuleshin and improvising trumpeter Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky join him in this task. While this might seem a recipe for chaos, in Popovskiy’s hands it results in a very pleasing jumble of balmy strangeness, drifting and shifting in unexpected ways. The listener is not being “directed” to pay attention to any one element, and instead is free to wander in an open landscape of sound events, much like an exotic street bazaar, and picking up what trinkets they may. Delightful.

SR027 is a split. The side by Andrey Svibovitch did little for me; very ordinary sounds emerge from his synths (probably due to use of over-familiar filters or pre-set sounds) and he has a simplistic approach to playing chords, both of which point to under-developed techniques. He produces a stream of undemanding electronica with little structure or originality. The four parts of “What Hides The Voice” were originally presented as part of a multi-media installation with the work of visual artist Maxim Svishev. Svibovitch creates his music using voice samples, yet what ends up on the tape is so synthetic and processed it seems to have zero connection to anything as natural and human as a voice.

The side by Sergey Vandyshev is more engaging. The electronic music of this fellow is described as an experiment in “pure data”, and there are references to “digital generators” and “granular synthesis algorithms”…most of this is beyond my ken, but it seems to point to a process-based approach where machines do most of the work, but also indicates that Vandyshev is a skilled manipulator of digital data, perhaps doing it “at source” in some way. What I mean by that is he may bypass the conventional routes of feeding information through pre-sets and filters. Anyone who can run an algorithm at granular synthesis level is capable of anything. The sound of his untitled tracks is certainly quite clean, and feels uncluttered by unnecessary elaborations. I also like the loops, repetitions and insistent pulsations, which are set forth in a very porous, open-ended manner, as if he’s found a way to avoid the trap of the strict grid-systems imposed by digital sequencers. This reminds me very much of a more low-key version of Pimmon.

SR028 is a split. For this release we have a rare (for this label) instance of acoustic music played on musical instruments – as opposed to their standard electronic fare. Blank Disc Trio are a Serbian group of improvisers who have been at it since the late 1990s. It used by a duo of the core members Srdjan Muc and Robert Roža (guitar and electronics, respectively), but have since been joined by Georg Wissel, who puffs a “prepared” alto saxophone. For this tape, they were joined by the pianist Dušica Cajlan-Wissel and the electric guitarist Julien Baillod. What they play is a rather tentative version of the “electro-acoustic improv” thing, a form which in their hands takes a long time to get started and is littered with many half-baked stabs and much guesswork along the way. I like the abrasive textures they manage to summon up, and it’s good that they know when to shut up and leave gaps for each other, but overall there isn’t enough coherence or continuity in these wispy musical ideas to sustain my interest.

On the flipside we have Ex You, another three-piece of Serbian experimenters. Milan Milojković, László Lenkes and Filip Đurović blend electronics, guitar, and drums into a pleasing scrabbly mess of non-music, keeping it fairly low-key and resisting the temptation to create a hideous energy-noise blaroon-out. The addition of guest cello player Erno Zsadányi only increases our pleasure in this grumbly, meandering groan-fest. Like their Blank Disc brothers, this group sometimes finds it hard to crank up the old motor, but once they get it turning over we’re guaranteed a much more exciting drive through the old Serbian mountain tracks. I wish more drummers could act with the restraint and decency of Đurović; he doesn’t call attention to himself with fills and ornament, but his steady gentle pulsations give a surprisingly sturdy backbone to this music. Two members of the trio also play in Lenhart Tapes Orchestra, should you feel curious to investigate the Serbian “scene” further; their 2014 album Uživo Sa Karnevala Glavobolje looks like the one to go for.

The tape Povstrechal Gaute Granli (SR030) is a team-up between Mars-69 and Gaute Granli, another one of the Russian-Norway “hands across the water” affairs which this label does so well. Mars-69 are I assume Mars-96 with a slight change to the name – at any rate the core members of this Palmira trio appear to be intact. They’re about the most prolific bunch on the Spina!Rec label and we’ve enjoyed most of their disaffected noisy work. I always thought they were a guitar-bass-drums trio but here they’re spinning their craft with synths, syn-drums, and vocals. As for Gaute Granli, we’ve been enjoying the solo work and group work (in Freddy The Dyke) of this Norwegian loon for many years now, and can recommend anything he’s done for the Drid Machine and Skussmaal labels. He brought his electric guitar and voice to these Povstrechal sessions. With a line-up like that, I feel I have a right to expect some serious fireworks, which is why I felt gypped by this damp squib. With the possible exception of ‘Osa’, the opening track, the tape is a lacklustre set of pointless studio noodling, half-formed ideas trailing away, and occasional absurdist vocal dribble. One waits in vain for a single idea to catch fire or take off into the stratosphere. The band had a lot of sociable fun on the day (hint: that’s code for they all got drunk) – the press write-up seems to indicate as much – but that doesn’t justify the release of this self-indulgent nonsense.

Fyodor’s Wild Years

A real one-of-a-kind record is Russian Canon (FROZEN LIGHT FZL 037), a record credited to Fake Cats Project, a trio featuring Kirill Makushin, Igor Levshin, and Alexei Borisov, which they only started in 2015 yet they’re already produced four records, of which this is one. Can’t find out much about the project or the band, although Alexei Borisov is well known and respected on these pages, and is probably my favourite avant-garde Russian musician (along with Kurt Liedwart and Ilia Belorukov).

Russian Canon is a bizarre suite of songs and instrumentals which may amount to an opera, a song cycle, a parodic comment on modern urban society, or simply a series of surreal poems set to music. All is sung (and lyrics printed) in Russian, so I’m at a bit of a loss, but at least the titles are printed in English. You might be able to piece together a scenario from titles like ‘Falcon Theme’, ‘Clouds Of My Memory’, and ‘A Kitten Looks At Soldier’s Eyes’, but it’d be a pretty wild and hairy screenplay that you’d be submitting to your editor. The music is kind of all over the place too. I can discern tunes and ditties that might be Russian folk songs (a wild guess though; the accordion backing is my one and only clue here) and likewise songs that more resemble the sort of proletariat anthems that appear in my worst nightmares when I’m inventing newsreel footage from the days of Kruschev and Sputnik and screening these buy kamagra online next day delivery imaginary movies in my brain. Particularly the opening blast, ‘Everything Is Fine’, a fractured every-which-way composition whose waywardness makes it perfectly clear that whatever else is going on, everything is not fine. But that’s just my warped imagination.

The trio also play electronic synth drone tunes; a very distorted form of easy-listening jazz with the help of guest trumpeter Konstantin Sukhan, acting as the reverse Herb Alpert in this context; broken, minimal post-punk songs; and even on one track a song built on a famous Erik Satie tune, so that’s their classical music credentials also checking in for duty. Fake Cats Project perform in all these styles effortlessly, and are not attempting a mannered pastiche…and they play with utter conviction, maintaining a serious and slightly gloomy mood throughout the whole off-beat performance. Street singers and “baggers” – hopefully that’s the local slang for bag-men – are also sampled and their voices join in the rollicking fun in places.

It’s a remarkable tour de force, packed with much drama and musical invention. Now that I think of it, the nearest Western equivalent to this might be Tom Waits, but even he would probably hand over his last bottle of brown-bagged bourbon if he could produce something as cinematic, noirish, and unhinged as Russian Canon. Wish I could decode more of this, so I may just have to send a message to the band through their Bandcamp page. Very high recommendation for this lavish, layered, musical oddity. From 7th September 2016.

Frozen Warnings

Several items from the Russian Frozen Light label to follow. All are limited editions of 300 copies and arrived here 7th September 2016.

Exit In Grey used to be a duo, now it’s just one fellow, the Russian artiste Sergey Suhovik. Exit In Grey seem to have been creating and releasing their drone music since 2004, much of it released on the Daphnia Records label. I can’t find out much about the artistic intentions of Suhovik, although album titles such as Twilight Waters, Dim Lines, Storms, Nowadays Warm, and Environment Despair might give us some clues; a certain interest in the weather and other aspects of our natural surroundings, combined with a vague sense of inevitability about an approaching disaster. One Lumen In The Past (FZL 039) offers three long tracks of very foggy ambient drone; and on today’s spin, I’m afraid I can’t find much going on here to distinguish Exit In Grey from many other practitioners in the genre. Even the methods used are commonplace: a combination of guitars, keyboards, effects, radio signals and field recordings, layered into a gently shifting sea of mistiness. I do however like the time-travel theme of this release. The titles ‘Old Letters and Visions’ and ‘Whispers Time’ do much to evoke a curious nostalgia for the past. The same goes for the cover images, which apparently repurpose old photographs of Russian landscapes and train stations, some of them maybe even going back to the 19th century; they have been tinted in those chromalith colours that appealed to our Edwardian ancestors. These images do more to stimulate and inspire our collective fading memories than the rather ordinary music on the disc.

Ion & Sophus is also Sergey Suhovik, performing here under his alias [s]. Ion & Sophus have five releases that we know of, of which Love Of One (FZL 050) is their latest. Two long ambient drone pieces on this album, which are noticeably different from those executed in the Exit In Grey style. The Ion & Sophus approach is much cleaner; simple tones, almost like a slowed-down electric piano tune, backed by calming seashore effects apparently captured by the Black Sea. Where Exit In Grey’s music is extremely layered and shifting in three or four slightly different directions, this Love Of One record heads down a single path with a gentle but firm determination. As track one progresses – and it does indeed progress, more so than the stodgy One Lumen In The Past – the sounds of the Black Sea become more prominent, and the pleasant droning music undergoes a shift which might be taken to represent an epiphany, a realisation slowly dawning in the mind of the one who contemplates their “love of one”. This highly romantic interpretation is, I like to think, not inappropriate when faced with this rather tasteful background music. Let’s just hope the lover in question is not moving towards the cliff edge depicted on the front cover with a view to throwing themselves into the ocean below.

Karmiciel Wszy’s Torre Bert (FZL 034) is a much more cold and troubling offering than the two proceeding items, which at least admit the possibility of human emotions (love) and operations of the human brain (memory) into their world view. We’ve heard this Polish dark-ambient fellow before when we received his very limited Isdalskvinnen CDR in 2015. Wszy sometimes like to give out his name as KW, and prints these initials in a gothic font on his covers, such as on the cassette Murder Of Shanda Sharer. Torre Bert has no such Black Metal-ish leanings however, and simply proposes a series of bleak, emptied-out, and non-associative lengthy drones. Where Sergey Suhovik allows field recordings into the mix, the music of Karmiciel Wszy comes across as almost entirely processed-based and untouched by human hands, each chilling tone arriving as an unchangeable statement of fact. This stern tone is something that evidently has a certain attraction to Polish musicians, a sweeping generalisation which I propose to you based on releases from Monotype Records and Zoharum. But Zoharum artistes tend to cling to a sense of ritual and ceremony, whereas Wszy is beyond any of that humanistic nonsense, and clearly resigned to his unbelieving fate; he treads the world as a weary figure, despairing at the possibility of making emotional contact with anyone or anything. If this hermetic, sealed-off view appeals, by all means bend an ear to Torre Bert.

The record Hiding Place (FZL 036) is by Emerge. This is the work of Sascha Stadlmeier, a German sound artist who also happens to run the Attenuation Circuit label, whose unusual releases of electric noise have brought us much pleasure in recent years. I enjoyed this one as it seems to offer a slightly different approach to the idea of textured drones and processed sounds than the above. It also features more human elements – the voice work in particular, provided by Eljara from Prinzip Nemesis, and as a project it is open to the idea of collaboration (the Russian act Re-Drum appears on another track). The opening track ‘Flight 1’ is especially effective, a goodly dose of coarse, crackly rumbling suggestive of a frantic scramble across a pebble beach. Thereafter the record becomes more conventionally ambient and dark in its progress, although the general mood of claustrophobia and inescapable menace is well presented and well sustained. Emerge achieves this partially through a merciless use of repetition; when he finds an effect or sound he likes, he won’t hesitate to repeat it as needed, looping and repurposing as much as the market will bear. I can’t help reading the “hiding place” theme as a dark cave, as indicated by the vague stony images on the covers, the echoing sounds, the sense of confinement, and the tentative efforts to explore an imaginary space, such as on ‘Tension’ – a very successful acoustic sounding of the walls of the cave. The epic ‘Flight II’ at the end of the album is a thrilling episode using noise dynamics to its advantage. May not be as great as I’m making it sound, but an enjoyable mystery ride.

Long Overdue Part 11


The cassette micro-label Full Of Nothing is I think run by Ivan Afanasyev from Petrozavoosk. We have noted a few marginal items over the years, including releases by gkfoes vjgoaf, Banana Pill, and Charlatan and Clathrus. In Russia (fon38) is a 2012 cassette featuring a team-up, or at any rate friendly encounter, between three bands – Woodpecker Wooliams, Golden Cup, and Love Cult. Love Cult is in fact Ivan Afanasyev (one of many aliases) with Anya Kuts, and the other two are solo acts, I think from the UK and Italy. On these 2011 recordings, the artistes find common ground cavorting in slow motion inside a limpid, dream-like pool of warm and fuzzy syrups, floating in the type of extra-terrestrial droning soap bubble that used to be so common on the Digitalis label. ‘Saransk’ is the more soothing and ethereal of the two sides, while ‘Saint Petersburg’ finds the fluffy ones engaged in the production of slightly more eventful surfaces and effects. Distortion, lo-fi, ambient twittering, numbing repetitions and patterns, and indistinct textures are among the techniques deployed in pursuit of these otherly states. The collage of photos inside the box gives the nearest visual analogue to what we’re hearing – double exposures, shaky focus, colour flashes and fogs, all amounting to a modern impressionism, even when the subject matter is quite ordinary – streets, houses, and vehicles in suburban Russia. Quite nice.

Cultural and Educational Activity

Herewith the latest three cassette releases from Saint Petersburg’s finest underground label Spina!Rec, delivered here on 10 March 2016. As ever, the editions of physical product are tiny, and collectors of cassettes will have to move fast.


SR023 is a split betwixt Dubcore and Andrey Popovskiy. Dubcore sounds more like it ought to be the name of a label, or a genre, but here it’s an art project which experiments with found sounds and/or field recordings. They offer two pieces under the heading ‘Tea-N-Pepsi’, an endearing latterday cafe society proposal if ever there was. ‘Tuning In’ is a delicious jumble of sources, a fractured radio broadcast. Nothing spectacularly new in the approach of cutting up and random assemblage, but I happen to like the results on this occasion. The creators are genuinely capable of surprising the jaded listener with their juxtapositions and exciting cross cuts. A distinctly urban feel emerges; railway stations, media messages, street sounds, electronic noise, static, and beats. Everything is served up in aggressive micro-second slices, pandering to the minuscule attention spans of our atrophied brains. ‘Theyyam’ by Dubcore feels slightly less paranoid and tense, even admitting the possibility of some pastoral undercurrents, and quieter passages, to the overall mix of unpredictability. Here the listener is intrigued and puzzled. While not as subtle or inventive as the tapes we get from Staaltape and Rinus van Alebeek, Dubcore are operating in much the same area. “Six multilayered tracks full of sounds and changes,” is the description from the website, adding that Dubcore began life as something to do with exploring long tracts of silence. It so happens this tape is the exact opposite of that strategy, and has resulted in a glorious clutter of sonic detritus. A nice one.

Andrey Popovskiy occupies Side B with his 30-minute epic ‘Kryukov’. If credit list rings true, Popovskiy is operating various chunks of hardware for playback of pre-recorded elements (turntable, cassette player, dictaphone, CD player, etc), plus a violin, and e-bow, and additional field recordings. Hard to detect much of this equipment on the finished product, though. It comes across rather like 30 mins of a fellow stumbling about the room not really knowing what to do next, like a lethargic musician trying out ideas, opening the window, or turning the TV on. The recording doesn’t present the music, but documents the event, so that we pick up a good deal of room tone, random sounds, TV or radio in the next room, and general atmosphere of life in a Saint Petersburg apartment. This description may make it all appear infuriating and trivial, but in fact ‘Kryukov’ is a compelling listen. “Different kinds of interaction with environmental sounds,” is how the website describes this episode; “sometimes you can hear contingently appearing sounds of spaces, sometimes it’s prearranged processed recordings.” A lot to explore and get lost inside, varying textures, stories, and effects.


Open Readings (SR024) is a high-minded attempt to reclaim historic culture from the forces of Evil: “Barbarization of content, devaluation of moral and spiritual values and denial of cultural archetypes” are the declared Enemy, though the perpetrators don’t go into more detail about how this pernicious effect is coming about, or who are the agencies wreaking this vandalism. Are they talking about the media, television, movies, newspapers, the internet? I suspect many forces are culpable when it comes to dilution and bastardisation of culture. The retaliation from the Russian underground comes in the form of the spoken word, readings from “works of the best classical writers of the Silver Age”. In Russia, the Silver Age is the beginning of the 20th century, a highly productive time for experimental poetry, modernist novels, and short stories. On the A side, it’s done by Alexander Mashanov & Ilia Belorukov, who on ‘Blok’ (most likely named for the poet Alexander Blok) belt out short phrases and paragraphs, spoken in Russian, of course, as if words were weapons, to be fired like bullets from a gun. Inevitably, this approach soon develops into a clumsy form of rap music, the rhymes chanted aggressively over a clunky drum beat and tepid electro backing. In less than 11 mins, we’re barked to death. On the B side, the readings are done by Natasha Shamina with a musical backdrop by Sergey Kostyrko. Their ‘Vvedenskiy’ is less contrived than ‘Blok’, and instead of rapping the reading is delivered with the accompaniment of a menacing electronic growl, now and then turning into a nasty squeal, and contributing to the overall tension. The sense of purpose in Natasha Shamina’s steely speaking voice is unmistakeable; she may not be firing bullets, but you sense she’s staring at you with a disapproving eye, and is capable of acting as a silent assassin if the situation demands it. I prefer this B side; it makes zero concessions to entertainment, and demands your engagement with the content.


SR025 is another split and represents another chapter in this label’s friendly and ongoing collaboration with the Finnish underground. Umpio is the Finn, from Turku; Kryptogen Rundfunk is the Russian. Both are solo acts. Umpio turns in a typically over-baked stew of sounds on his ‘Rio De Venas, Gusanos, Pulso Insectal, Craneocapsula, Bajo Hielo’, and by typical I mean this is the sort of purposeless over-dubbed melange which the Finns have always done so well. This “cunning sound synthesis” as the website would have it is all done by electronic means, digital and analogue working together for that rich “swampy” sensation. ‘Rio De Venas’ doesn’t really progress anywhere, but as a half-realised vision of an alien world, it’s fairly convincing. Pentti Dassum is the fellow behind this pleasing gumbo, and he runs a record label called Nekorekords and was involved in the mastering of over 100 Finnish underground releases, besides the production of about 40 of his own solo records and split releases.

Kryptogen Rundfunk offer us a live recording from 2015 from a venue or event called ESG-21. Feedback and electronic noise are used to create slow and doomy textures…they lurch gradually out of the speakers like so much tar-encrusted sludge, and the outpouring won’t stop until every available surface is covered in this unpleasant morass. Some occasional nice effects are achieved by Kryptogen Rundfunk’s remorseless execution, but in the final analysis he creates the sort of environment that drives you away rather than invites exploration. Dank, grey, gloomy; saps the vitality of most humans, kills many forms of plant life, poisons the air. Artyom Ostapchuk is the creator of this dismalness, and he has made a few sporadic recordings of his brand of industrial ambient death music since 2004 onwards.

Post Dog Passionate

Two more cassettes from the Russian Spina! Rec label, received 2nd December 2015.


SR021 has a non-title that prints as llllllllllll – on my copy of the cassette, it’s written as a series of loops, like someone practising their penmanship and not getting very far with forming the lower-case letter e. Forsteppe and 231 is a collaborative team – Egor Klochikhin is Forsteppe, and 231 is described as a “family group”. The case of 231 is rather unusual; they seem to be a middle class family of architects in St Petersburg, who have been making documentary recordings of their family at home. From this process, they see fit to call themselves a family group, and they’ve apparently released seven albums of their output on Bandcamp. I haven’t investigated – frankly it sounds downright creepy to exploit your children in this way. Forsteppe makes lightweight ambient tunes out of toy instruments, objects, and field recordings – he also works at home, and so the label is trying to propose the present release as an interesting join-up of two related yet unrelated projects. Utterly banal from start to finish, say I; boring domestic sounds and chatter of no possible interest to anybody, yoked with twee and sentimental musical mush. I’m surprised to find this drivel released on such an otherwise radical and experimental label.


We fare better with SR022, which is a split between Mars-96 and Ich Bin N!ntendo. We’ve heard the odd record from Ich Bin N!ntendo, a trio from Norway who play guitar bass and drums with reckless abandon, and are great at warbling and shouting nonsense vocals on top of their energetic leapy work. Their team-up with sax monster Mats Gustaffson won’t be forgotten in a hurry, but they’ve also made a studio record – well, recorded in their rehearsal space – for the Van Fongool label in Norway. The four tracks here however are live recordings, captured from their recent tour of Japan. It’s the best I’ve heard from the Ich Bin men. Unadorned primitive noise, spirited percussive bashing, feedback squalls, joyous screams. If you can get past the surface clutter you’ll discover there’s quite a lot of structure and drive to really engage the mind and ears. In a lot of ways they remind me of mid-1980s English bands like Stump and Bogshed, who created a sort of messy and slightly ugly punkified guitar noise combined with elements of anything-goes free playing. Ich Bin N!ntendo are less stilted than Stump though, and have a sense of playfulness and absurdity that comes in loud and clear on these four untrammelled slices of raucous rough-housing. Great.

On the other side, four studio recordings by Mars-96, the rock group from Palmira. We’ve heard, I think, all of their previous published statements for this label; they come across slightly different every time, at any rate my immediate impressions of them vary from one tape to another. At one time they seem angsty and restless in the manner of a 1970s New Yorker, next time they’re downtrodden and alienated like a gritter version of some 1980s English shoe-gaze band. Here, they showcase many different musical styles – “improvised noise rock, no wave, psychedelia and drone” according to the website, and all of them delivered convincingly in one-take spontaneous outbursts where you can hear the amplifier hum buzzing and almost hear the band thinking as they decide what to do next. Abrasive, inventive, a jolt for the senses; each song ends very abruptly, adding to the sense of fractured communication.


Three more cassette tapes from the Russian Spina!Rec label which arrived here 26th October 2015. Once again the cassette runs were extremely limited – average 25 copies – and are all sold out at time of writing, but digital downloads are still for sale.


Wozzec’s 6 (SR018) is their sixth album. I think we’ve heard all five previous instalments of their work, which up to now has been released on CD on the Intonema label….every one another piece in the jigsaw of their grand plan, which is to undertake something radically different on every album. I’ve been horrified and fascinated by their wild experiments with noise, rock, and free improvisation. Up to now, that is. Ilia Belorukov, Mikhail Ershov and Konstantin Samolovov have turned in six tracks of monotonous disco beats, with minimal electronic pulsing…each track is slightly different in terms of the speed or the timbre, but that might have been achieved by just replaying the same material at different speeds. A high-concept piece that slightly misfires, for me, and not much fun to listen to. It’s like an ultra-minimal take on Suicide without vocals, or tunes. Or a sarcastic post-modern deconstruction of Techno music. Or perhaps a homage to the time when Neu! vari-speeded a single track several times, some would say out of desperation, in order to pad out their second LP. Something of an endurance test, which if I’d heard in isolation without knowing the rest of Wozzeck’s work, I might have been put off. Admittedly, it’s a bold coup in some ways. “Minimal sound and interaction between the musicians and programmed electronics,” is how they describe it. “Will soothe you for 90 minutes”. I however am very far from being soothed.


SR019 is a split between Benzolnye Mertvecy and Mars-96. Don’t think I’ve heard Benzolnye Mertvecy before, but we have heard some of their members in two spin-off groups, Glina and Harlekino. What they do here is full-on energetic noise rock, characterised by heavy-handed guitar mangling, drums thumped as if with iron mallets, and obnoxious screaming…a thick, clotted, sound results, and hems the listeners into an inescapable cardboard box (or padded cell). Even on a mere six tracks here they demonstrate a good deal of versatility, e.g. performing sub-Stooges heavy riffing with evil psychedelic guitar licks, feedback-laced rock in the stoner-doom-sludge modes, or manic free-form rhythm experiments reminiscent of early Boredoms. The band has been going for ten years and the label, wishing to celebrate this culturally significant milestone, claims “the energy suppresses and oppresses”. That sentence alone encapsulates quite well their airless, crushing vibe.

Mars-96 are the guitar-bass-drums trio from Palmira, who we’ve heard on two previous split tapes from this label. Their attenuated, near-wasted approach to playing rock is an acquired taste, but they are a complete contrast to the heaviness of the Benzolnye mob, intent on expressing internalised emotions and pained feelings as they stand aghast at the horrors of modern life. Each track treads a measured path, bubbling with suffused anger and raw sensations, and paying careful attention to pre-planned discordant effects. They have been livelier on SR003, when I likened them to US New Wave and No Wave bands of the 1970s, but in many ways I kind of prefer this heavily alienated and disaffected view of theirs, as they gaze at life through the wrong end of a telescope. “Lyrical sketches, psychedelic effects, minimum of overdrive,” is the label’s apt description of this cold and lonely music.


SR020 is another split, and I think the first time this label has indulged in any form of collaboration with the Basque country. Normally they do it with their spiritual neighbours, the Finns. The A-side is all Russian though. Sergey Kostyrko and Kurt Liedwart turn in four tracks from the occasion of their first musical meeting in 2015. Sergey Kostyrko is the label’s other owner (along with Ilia) and he has teamed up with others at least twice on this label’s catalogue. Kurt Liedwart is the “other” big name in Russian avant-garde circles, owner of the superb Mikroton label, and performer / improviser in his own right; real name Vlad Kudryavstev, we’ve heard him on record in various collaborations and noted him in these pages. Their duets were realised using electronic instruments, minimal sequenced rhythms, controlled noise, and assorted electro-acoustic means…every piece is performed with supreme assurance, and some gorgeous warped emanations are the result. While remaining abrasive and uncomfortable, there’s still a strange compelling pull to this material, some of it even achieving a species of harmonic resolution in its non-musical drones. We could also note its very driven qualities…the sound of men making dark utterances against the world because they are compelled to it, as if under the spell of Circes or similar ancient sorceress. Superb.

The B-side is a single long track by Mubles, which is the duo of Miguel A Garcia and Alvaro Matilla. Their ‘Oh Pequeno Muble’ is a 22-minute jumble of audio sources, “mixing on one plate hardly combinable ingredients” as the label press would have it. If making underground noise music is like cooking, then Mubles do indeed serve a dish that succeeds in unexpected ways, even if it is laced with elements unfit for human consumption. Several found tapes taken from radio or television jabber endlessly in tinny tones, competing to be heard among a dismal fizzing murk of electronic / laptop malarkey, along with the sustained groans of the hapless diner who is being forced to consume this muck, giving him (and us) instant indigestion and painful stomach-ache. Distortion, confusion, and formlessness are the order of the day. A hugely enjoyable sprawl of sluggish, meaningless racket.

Etudes / Epihina Slan

Ready for some more cassettes from Spina! Rec, the underground Russian label? This package of two items sent to us by Ilia Belorukov from St Petersburg and arrived 29 June 2015.


First item is Etudes (SR015), a joint effort by both the label co-owners – Ilia Belorukov and Sergey Kostyrko who have teamed up to produce a series of analogue electronic noise-works, the basic modular synth sound and Korg Monoton being tempered with foreign radio sounds, effects pedals, and the iVCS3 app, the latter allowing any mobile device to become a virtual VCS3. I get the impression everything was recorded direct to tape without any post-production or mixing malarkey, which are for namby-pambies who can’t get it right first time. We should point out that the duo have been exceptionally prolific for this project, and in fact recorded 25 separate 14-minute pieces of crumbly noise music, each of which has been issued as an individual cassette, so with your purchase you get a short double-sided belter of solid electronic pemmican which is in fact only a small representative indication of the entire oeuvre. If so inclined, feel free to stream all 50 tracks from the bandcamp page. Every one is pretty much a punchy gem…nothing user-friendly or smooth about these lumpy sounds, which come out groaning, fizzing, burbling and squealing as if to demonstrate as many possibilities and settings in a single slice of real-time audio carpentry performed with violent furniture-hacking tools, such as the gouge or awl. Plenty to listen to on these maximal stabs. I also enjoy the generally dour tone and slightly obsessive nature, creating mental images of both unshaven Russians focussing on their work with the grim determination of an atomic scientist or medieval executioner. Each cassette in the edition also has a unique artwork, a drawing created by Alexander Korolev made while he was listening to the sessions. They didn’t just send him the tapes so he could draw at the comfort of his own drawing table, he was actually there in the studio enduring all this explosive and crazed mayhem exploding around him, and clearly his manic colourful scrawls reflect the mental torment and physical pain thereby induced. A real winner. Let’s start lobbying for the definitive 5-CD set of the Etudes sessions now…


Second item is a split (SR017) of ambient music. Kromeshna and Ego God take up the first side with their eerie and atmospheric ‘Epihina Slan’, which is explicitly designed to conjure visions of an “ancient swamp”. I like the idea that an “ancient” swamp is somehow more appealing to these ambient musicians than a more recent one, perhaps. Nothing short of a remnant from the Pleistocene era can satisfy them, I expect. Kromeshna is Vitaly Maklakov, who also appears as Light Collapse and other aliases, and has been creating ambient drone noise for about ten years. Ego God may be a German performer who’s more in the noise area, and the pair have more recently collaborated under a conflation of both nicknames, Ego Collapse. ‘Epihina Slan’ is certainly a mesmerising and strange 30 mins, producing its main hypnotic effect with a simple pulsating loop which is punctuated by sounds from the swampy insects and other strange creatures and monsters who dwell in its muddy depths. The only trick which wears bit thin is the constant layer of “crackle” on top, a device which is overused in this genre to somehow convey the audio-equivalent of “old photographs” to the listener.

Banana Pill are Sasha and Dmitri from Finland, and the presence of Finns here continues what is now almost a tradition of Russian-Finnish collaborations on this label. We’ve heard this loveable pair before on a self-titled tape from Full Of Nothing in 2012, and they’ve also collaborated with Wozzeck to great effect on a tape for Already Dead. Their ‘Decada’ may have been produced using their treated guitar and violin method, and what results is a 30-minute drone of highly melodic proportions, the blended instruments resembling a sort of idealised version of an accordion squeeze-box with golden keys and inflated with the oxygen of Paradise. Where the ‘Epihina Slan’ is intended to pass on a mild frisson of terror and is clearly set at twilight, ‘Decada’ is unfolding under bright sunshine and may aspire to be used as the backing tape for a meditative episode.

Fast Forward Through The Gates

Another four cassette tapes from Spina!Rec kindly sent to us by Sergey Kostyrko (the co-founder of the label) from Izotova in Russia. Said parcel arrived 21 April 2015. We last had one sent here in December 2014. Considering how small the editions here, I (and you, listener) need to be quick off the mark if a physical copy is wanted to sit on your shelves. At time of writing, all 25 copies of each title are sold out. Even my copies are marked “Edition 2”.


Sergey Kostyrko plays on the first item, Beginner’s Luck (SR010) along with Rutger Zuydervelt, the famed Dutch king of enigmatic electronic bloops and uncertain murmurings. A live recording in two parts from the Fulldozer Festival in St-Petersburg, where the duo wowed the crowd in 2014. The label seem especially proud of the all-analogue production chain that created the finished product – originally performed on analogue synths, and mastered direct from magnetic tape. Even the mastering unit had valve tubes. The music itself is a gloomy and bleak episode of alienating grey moans, sometimes punctuated with tuneful static messages beamed to us from the Planet Zohar. While tentative and inconclusive, these statements have an unusually beautiful hue to contrast with their blank starkness.


ADDZ (SR012) by ADDZ is a much livelier electronic album which demonstrates its commitment to binary code (or to numbers, at any rate) by emphatically printing bold numerical characters on its cover. It’s certainly the one to grab if you like beats and rhythms, albeit said beats are presented in a minimal and clinical manner. The duo of Alexander Zaitsev and Dmitriy Dubov are specialists in “intelligent electronics”, if that means anything to you; to me it means they feel entitled to behave like robots equipped with stethoscopes. I liked the clean sound of their productions, but the melodies are barely there, each tune seems unfinished, and there’s a general sense of purposelessness to their twittering sequences that is unsatisfying. Imagine a Depeche Mode backing track being carved on the face of the Moon by astronauts using hand-held lasers, who give up trying after 25 mins.


SR011 with its gorgeous blue cover art is a split item. The duo of Jelena Glazova & Grigorij Avrorin came about when Jelena (visiting from Riga) appeared at the Fulldozer Festival and got involved in creating some form of accompaniment for Grigorij’s minimal synth solos. Six tracks of disconcerting bleak industrial noise were the result, music which I find impressive for its near-complete lack of humanity, unpredictable moments, and highly Spartan arrangements filled with weird gaps. I’d like to think the pair found their way to this unique, unrepeatable place through purely intuitive methods. Their grim sonic pronouncements would make ideal background music for a visit to an urban “development”, of which there seem to be a lot in London just now; it’s the sound of claustrophobia and blocked pathways. It’s rather rare to find women involved in this genre of music, so Jelena’s imaginative approach is most welcome; she comes to it from a background in visual art and poetry.

Bisamratta offers a single track, ‘Beregu’, on his side of the split, some 28 minutes of advanced guitar ambient drone. Vladimir Luchansky is one of the burgeoning Novosibirsk crowd who clearly pits himself against the “stupid happy Techno music” which currently entertains Russia’s youth (he would probably see it as a blight), and instead frequents the many seedy cabaret bars in that city in search of alternative sounds. He ain’t no Robert Fripp on the strength of this recording, but his effects-laden guitar music quickly drops down to reach the ice-cold temperatures that are required for Spina!Recs admissibility. The sustained near-magnetic humming drone is undercut later on with puzzling field recording additions of speaking voices, radio samples, water effects, and solar winds from outer space. It almost becomes the soundtrack to a Russian cosmonaut sci-fi movie of the 1960s.


SR016 is another split. Smola, a duo from St-Petersburg, appear on side A with ‘Burning Bamboo’ – a spectacular 18 minute performance of mesmerising acid-space-rock that in fact contains three separate tracks used to “hammer” the audience into submission at a live set. Lovely stuff; I’d happily face that mallet any day of the week. You’ll be glad to learn the spirit of Hawkwind lives on in this convincing update on early 1970s festival rock, taken by way of the usual suspects – e.g. The Stooges, Black Sabbath, and even Spacemen 3 who continue to cast a long shadow. They temper their hypnotic and heavy guitar-drummy numbing rhythms with shouty punk vocals and, most enticingly, their mean use of the wah-wah pedal. Not heard retro-rock as straightforward as this since the glory days of High-Rise and Mainliner did it in Tokyo…great!

Mars-96 have three lengthy tracks…the work of this combo is described by the label as “thoughtful melodies are turning into chaotic massacre in the end”. I found their highly disjunctive guitar-bass-drum stylings a little irksome to begin with, but thought that its abiding air of studied futility is bound to appeal to diehards who enjoyed listening to Vibing Up The Senile Man in 1978. However, once they liven up and find the “groove”, they start to resemble 1974-period King Crimson in terms of malevolent guitar violence and remorseless repetitions, which is not a bad place to be. While Mars-96’s performances are somewhat haphazard, it’s possible to discern their intentions and glimpse the tricky zone they’re trying to push themselves into, and the listener will urge them to complete the journey.


Four cassettes on the Spina!Rec label sent from the Russian home of Ilya Belorukov…all arrived 5th December 2014…


Padla Bear Outfit play and sing some lively alienated psychedelic rock songs on Sunday Morning Tapes (SR007), heavily in debt to Spacemen 3, in particular Spacemen 3 playing that Red Krayola hit ‘Transparent Radiation’, to which the opening cut here bears an uncanny resemblance…the trio of Pisarev, Samolov and Morozov evince that same mode of studied and poised icy-cool indifference in their performances, as though they were past caring about anything and can barely summon enough spirit in their numbed frames to start hacking away at their guitars. Matters improve on this retro fuzz-fest however when they start leaning on their FX pedals and the whole mess becomes swamped in distortion, delay, echo, reverb, and anything else that transforms guitars into a godless acid-fried noise. At this point it becomes clearer that the band may also be harbouring an ambition to emulate Les Rallizes Denudes, the Japanese black-leather brigade who turned the garage-rock mode inside out and projected in their music a vision of pure strung-out wastedness. To their credit, these plucky rockers keep thrashing and strumming and howling their way well past the limits of decency and good taste. “A combination of brutal and tender feelings” is the quality savoured by Alexander Gorbachev, the magazine writer who’s a major fan of PBO. The title refers to the first track on the first Velvet Underground LP, whereas the cover painting looks like something that Ghost would have snapped up in a minute.

ilia bel

SR009 is a split tape. On side one (I have to assume, as neither side I marked on the tape) we hear the duo of Ilia Belourkov and Lauri Hyvärinen playing four tracks that were recorded in Helsinki some two years ago now. It’s improvised noise, made with saxophone, electric guitar, and amplified objects, and it projects that particular form of abrasiveness and cold despair that the Russians (and the Finns) do so well. If hearing English improv is like taking a bath in 5 gallons of lukewarm tea, this tape is like being washed in ice-cold water and scrubbed with wire wool. The guitarist Lauri has been active since around 2009 and has performed in lots of bands, projects, and collaborations, including Neue Haas Grotesk – a promising sounding synth-guitar-drum noise band. Here the duo describe themselves as “a creative unit dedicated to acoustic improv with the involvement of small electronic devices.” A splendid instance of bitter, abstracted, cold music.

One side two of this split Alexey Sysoev and Denis Sorokin provide the “electronic” half of the act, using amplified objects, the no-input mixing desk, electronics, and manipulation of signals using MaxMSP. Their tracks were recorded at the Teni Zvuka Festival in St Petersburg in June 2014. I’ve rarely heard such tentative and incompetent fumbling…the results are shabby, disorganised, and virtually unlistenable, but at least the sound they make is repulsive in an original way. My guess is these guys have some serious “issues” they want to work out of their system, using incoherent electronic noise as therapy for their fractured minds. I’m hoping to develop more of a taste for this one over time.

kaka and wozzeck

SR006 is another split. We kick off with some fruity noise malarkey from Kakaokamkami and Wozzeck, another Helsinki-Saint-Petersburg meeting of talents. We’ve been enjoying Wozzeck’s missives on the Intonema label for some time now, each release different to the last as they cheerfully violate one musical taboo after another in their quest to seal their reputations as the most “extreme” band in Russia today. For the three tracks on their side of the tape, they may have reined in some of their heavier demons to assist in the general bonhomie, and the results are a totally hopped-up gumbo of futuristic disco-electronic music moving in about sixteen directions at once…the synths and guitars are just having the times of their lives in this loopy festival of madness. If you want more from the Finnish half of the act, seek out their 2010 CDR Snowballs on Jozik Records.

On the other side, the trio Harlekino which comprises more members from Benzolnye Mertvecy – we heard another of their spin-offs, Glina, the last time we received a crop of these Spina Recs. Very groovy they are too, in a menacing and spooked-out way…their smoky, jazz-inflected brand of stoner rock is shot through with unusual elements, such as evil muttered vocals and wailing synths that sound totally possessed by evil spirits. Lovely sound, and it’s intriguing to watch them lumber around the seedy back streets like a washed-up private detective, but I keep waiting for the moment when they kick things up a notch and stop cruising in neutral.


Lastly we have the oddball item Svyashennaya Govyadina (SR008) which I think is credited to Nazoilivye Bliznecy, a project which may or may not be a meld of two other Russian bands, Benzolnye Mertvecy and Studiya Neosoznannoi Muzyki. Apparently it’s a big deal for a band from Saint-Petersburg to play with another one from Tomsk. When they met up in the Spina studios, this joyous racket resulted – an indescribable mix of free rock, free noise, free jazz, scattered liberally throughout with gibbering voices and insane saxophone howls. It’s almost as good as if the first Amon Düül band of commune-hippies had managed to join forces with an unknown New York free jazz combo, and then persuaded ESP-Disk to record them for an album that went on to sell three copies. A truly maximal noise, messy and splurgy…this freakeroonie manages to stay on two feet even when everyone at the party is reeling drunk, and despite all the lumbering and thrashing from the rhythm section, the tunes don’t get stuck in the slough of despond. Needless to say that despair is only a heartbeat away, however, despite all the frenetic attempts at jumping in the air and rejoicing…those manic grunts and howls thinly conceal the bitter grimace of sorrow. Even so, this is the sort of collective mad whoopery which Feeding Tube should investigate, rather than those posey clowns from Moscow AWOTT.