Tagged: Ukraine

All Change Please!

"...a petri-dish for musical metamorphosis..."
“…a petri-dish for musical metamorphosis…”

Andrey Kiritchenko
Chrysalis
UKRAINE NEXSOUND NS 68 LP (2012)

With a healthy swathe of over 40 recordings under belt, among which roisterings with the likes of Francisco López and Kim Cascone, Nexsound label founder (and occasional visitor to Sound Projector pages) Andrey Kiritchenko now unveils Chrysalis: a petri-dish for musical metamorphosis in which ‘acoustic instruments and electronics flow into one another, dissolve in devolution, decay in a space of interactions’ and experience ‘rebirth’. Well, there’s a palpable sense of dew-dropped newness and wonder throughout: a beguiling innocence that arises from the satisfying compositional integrity of a solid set of slow and graceful jazz numbers for an augmented quartet of clarinet, double bass and violin and whatever else Kiritchenko happens to deem apt for each occasion. Tracks stroll the gamut from mechanically precise electro-jazz shapes to lusher, more laconic orchestral outings, pleasant surprises abounding from one moment to the next.

Bass-driven with warm, round tone, ‘Vortex Singular’ establishes the quirky, hobbling rhythm that runs through much of the record; a clarinet mantra bobbing overhead, with an occasional riptide of electronic screech. Forgivably brief spells of synthetic string stabs do set teeth on edge, reminders of Innerzone Orchestra’s electro-jazz or ‘90s Ninja Tune (which no-one seemed to have a harsh word for, back in the day), standing out as the one undermining element of this otherwise mellifluous melange. An arguable disadvantage of adding computers to jazz I suppose. However, guest instruments such as xylophone, thumb piano and some crisp drumming add much to the music’s resonance, its patient, layer-by-layer development and minimal mood, redolent of organic machines in a Hiyao Miyazaki animation. Each piece artfully rephrases this formula, while never quite straying into parametric extremes, and sitting side by side most successfully on side B: ‘Momentum Derive’ being a personal highlight.

My only other fault with this record is a real first-world nit-pick: its paper-thin outer sleeve really does the beautiful silver-inked artwork a disservice, along with the attractive transparent grey vinyl and the music itself, of course. If only more records suffered such slight afflictions!

021

Andrey Kiritchenko on Soundcloud

Unseen Chariots


An intriguing mix of methods was used by Szilárd to realise his Spokes (PALAVER MUSIC PM001) album, which happens to be his solo debut and the first release on Palaver Press, and it arrived here from Brooklyn in December 2011. Ambient drones, plangent and suffused guitar playing, romantic piano music, field recordings of nature’s bounty (perhaps forests and bonfires) and spoken word using text from the French romantic poet Baudelaire, can all be heard on this gently beautiful album. All these elements are layered together so that the whole piece “rotates and shifts”, and gradually the suggestion of a narrative emerges from the textures, tones, and diverse droplets of information. It reminds me in places of a more subdued and discursive version of Joe Frawley, joined in places by a slow-motion Greg Malcolm. Szilárd is Jeremy Young who used to play the guitar in a post-rock band and is now making his first forays into experimental music, following a solo performance in Beijing at the behest of Yan Jun, the renowned Chinese sound artist and music critic. Young is clearly maintaining his Asian contact base, scoring films for Tomonari Nishikawa and inviting Aki Onda 1 to contribute to the present release, and there is a certain “zen-like” vibe emanating from his soothing electro-acoustical work. Spokes may be slow-moving and almost static in places, but does not wear out its welcome nor descend into trite sentimentalities.

No less generous when it comes to the delivery of atmospheric clouds of mixed sound is Nord/Ouest (NEXSOUND NS67), a three-part piece of performed electro-acoustic music made by four Ukrainians. Alla Zagaykevych composed this enigmatic and dense statement on the “geo-poetical” condition of the world today, and he performs live electronics, Theremin and computer programming on the record; Sergiy Okhrumchuk adds a skittery violin to induce further tensions and stormy headaches into the mix, while Vadim Jovich supplies restless and nervy percussion blows that resemble the rattling of dry twigs on parched bones. Lastly there’s the vocalist Iryna Klymenko, hollering her strident folk-music inflected ululations with a sinewy assurance, thus completing what is a tasty and nourishing blend of chamber instruments, electronics, and human voice. This judicious small-ensemble approach is undoubtedly what keeps the music sounding so intimate and vivid, even when the gaseous billows of atonal music are so wildly unfamiliar to the ears. There are musicians who attempt this sort of thing and can’t seem to escape the trap of “blended frequencies”, by which I mean a steady decline into a flat, soupy morass of similar-sounding droniness. The Electroacoustic’s Ensemble 2, by contrast, maintain crisp separation throughout, such that all performers are clearly identifiable as surely as if they were specimens of insects pinned to a board. Which brings us neatly to the underlying theme of this unusual and enlightening record, which draws its inspiration directly from the folklore of North-West region of the Ukraine, a culture which is apparently characterised by its untethered and free-spirited thinking, yet also remains sunk in a very closed-off, isolated enclave. These central conflicts, mixed with a healthy interest in “primitive mystery and elusiveness”, have produced the sumptuous blends we now enjoy. Zagaykevych is a graduate of the National Music Academy in Kyiv and has studied at IRCAM, but the academic programme has not transformed him into a dry, patronising composer who wishes to fossilise folk culture through the medium of serious music. On the contrary, when you spend 15 or 20 minutes in the company of this mystical warbler, you will find yourself instantly attuned to the natural energies of the birds, fish, snails, trees and flowers which adorn the cover drawn by Alex Vorodeyev. What dark secrets might that sentient bird hold in its skull?

By chance, the composer Lubomyr Melnyk also happens to have been born in the Ukraine, although is based in Canada where he released much of his work on the Bandura Records label in the 1980s. The Voice Of Trees (HINT 12) was originally written in 1983 and now surfaces on the Swiss Hinterzimmer label, with an evocative photo and engraving collage of a stag in a forest, and may indeed constitute a thoughtful reissue of the Bandura original. A dance piece scored for two pianos and three tubas, it’s a prime example of the composer’s “continuous music”, a musical form which is largely based around Melnyk’s own personal technique of playing the piano using large numbers of notes packed densely into a compacted space, quite often performed at some speed. The important thing is that he’s able to sustain this approach for a generous length of time, as these two suites – both over 30 minutes apiece – will attest. Contrasting with the very tonal and melodic arpeggios of the three high-speed multi-note pianos, we hear the tuba section holding down a slower and slightly more sober counter-melody. The combined effect of all this is little short of majestic. It would be a pleasure to recommend this beautiful record to all listeners who enjoy the arpeggiated sonorities of Glass, Palestine and Riley, but Melnyk is free from any sort of conceptual-minimalist expectations and is free to soar high on his romantic wings. The wings of a Golden Eagle.

Also arrived late December and also with trees featuring prominently on the cover is Frieda Harris (HEART & CROSSBONE HCB036) by Katchmare, which happens to be another alias for the American musician Nick Hoffman. Katchmare’s intention here is not to expound on the joys of nature, but rather to dwell on the occult rituals embedded in the Winter solstice, to arrive at a meditation on the cycles of life and death. The opening track ‘Winterreise’ is, in title at least, a nod in the direction of classical composer Franz Schubert, but the underlying theme of the record is rooted in occult matters and makes explicit its homage to Frieda Harris. She was the wife of a baronet in England, mostly known for her association with Aleister Crowley. She became a sorceress in her own right, developed the concept of Projective Synthetic Geometry, and applied its rules to the design of the Thoth tarot cards which she painted for Crowley. Katchmare evokes all of the above evil complexity by using musical designs of almost pristine simplicity and purity; the opening 25-minute track, described as a “saturnine and freezing drone”, is a superbly bleak piece of gently-pulsating music with a thin, lugubrious and eerie tone, and the piece turns into a brilliantly enigmatic conclusion of gentle thumping as of unwanted poltergeists in the attic space above. ‘Wind Canticle’ is, I suppose, more conventionally threatening and unlike its washed-out twin it has as much presence as the instant thunderstorm whipped out of nowhere by Karswell, the magician in ‘Casting The Runes’ by M.R. James. I also appreciate the creeped-out effects on ‘Shifting Snow’ and ‘Ulrikke’; both are quite short yet evoke infinite landscapes with an economy of means, and I like the way the uncertain electronic sounds morph into even more uncertain shapes. This is a fine release which improves significantly on the basic model of Depressive / Cold / Ambient Black Metal, by dint of its restraint, discipline, and intellectual subtext. Originally recorded in 2008; here it is as a limited CDR.

  1. Both Nishikawa and Onda live in NYC.
  2. Oh! I hate that apostrophe, but it seems to be part of their name.

Lunar Nokturnes


One hour of dank and clammy Swedish drone from Keränen, who spends the entire disc describing the lurid lighting effects of the Moon Over Torrelorca (LJUD & BILD PRODUCTION LBP002). The grey cover image entirely reflects the nature of the music, a charcoal drawing which in its semi-abstract way conjures up a black moon hovering in a sky that feels almost solid – perhaps clogged up with fog, smog, and life-threatening clouds of pollutive filth. This was recorded at the EMS electronic music studio in Stockholm, and Keränen must have spent many long hours labouring behind the digital capstans to produce this layered, burnished and near-oppressive sound. He applies filters so slowly and abstemiously, you’d think they were dispensed on a meter charging system at the EMS. Last heard from this guy in 2010 with his Bats In The Attic release for Pica Disk, which as I recall was quite a spiky package of strident noise; this Moon item is far more restrained, but still packs quite a wallop, even if the metal fist collides with your chin in slow motion.

Good old Dmytro Fedorenko used to co-manage the Nexsound label with Andrey Kiritichenko until 2007, and thereby kept my ears fed with fascinating musical reports of electric drone from the Ukraine. He’s been highly visible lately thanks to the Kvitnu label which is carrying on the Eastern European agenda with great purpose and import. Myths & Masks (KVITNU 18) is a showcase for eight Ukranians, all of them paying their musical and sonic tributes to Karol Szymanowski. No, I never heard of him either, but that’s our loss because this Polish classical composer who died in the 1930s is reckoned to be every bit as important as Chopin in his homeland, and the Director of the Polish Institute has personally endorsed this CD project thus confirming its cultural worth. The young musicians here are not classical pianists like Szymanowski, but have found ways of using their digital equipment, laptops and synths to abstract meaningful strands of information from Szymanowski’s work – whether it’s “emotional melodic structures”, “stylistic aspects” or the exploration of “new musical and harmony ideas”. Each contributor has a strong idea and vision; what results is some fascinatingly diverse experimental electronic music, each piece underpinned by a different conceptual structure. Of the names here, Andrey Kiritichenko, Kotra and Zavoloka are familiar to me; the others are Dunaewsky69, Nikolaienko, V4wenko, Ujif_Notfound, and Alla Zagaykevych. The latter has studied at the Kyiv Conservatory and at IRCAM; her ‘Mithe IV: K.S.’ is one of the most intriguing and starkly beautiful works on this set, featuring the violin work of Smovzh Orest in amongst a superbly dramatic swirl of electro-acoustic sounds, to create a powerful musical allegory full of symbols. Gorgeous embossed package design by Zavoloka too, with booklet of notes and photos bound in. A timely and effective affirmation of the meaning and power of modernist composition. History, continuity, influence, progress; this is how culture is supposed to work.

From Philadelphia, Starcircleanatomy (i.e. Izaak Schlossman) comes to us with Cold/Path (DEBACLE RECORDS DBL062) after a few years releasing cassettes and CDRs. His electronic music is in the dreamy-ambient mode and while his basic sounds may not be that inventive, his skill lies in the way he blurs and layers his edits together. You may not notice at first, but he is subtly disrupting the normal flow of musical information in engaging ways, particularly on the opener ‘Cold Gold’. Another successful piece is ‘Unline’ with its buried guitar loops and other elements which are gradually revealed within its pulsating rhythms. Lightweight techno music overall, infused with vaguely upbeat and sun-drenched impressions.

Glaswegian band Tattie Toes have released Turnip Famine (EGG 78) for Pickled Egg, a release which perhaps represents a slightly left-field departure for this label which has been home to lively and idiosyncratic pop music for some years. Tattie Toes are certainly idiosyncratic, blending various forms of folk music and song into their short compressed songs which often change tack two or three times in as many minutes. All-acoustic instrumentation is their choice – violin, accordion, bass and drums, plus there’s the extremely mannered vocalising of the Basque singer Nerea Bello. The band are versatile as heck too, and you get the feeling they could play you a song by Caetano Veloso, a Romanian gypsy dance tune, a Scottish sea-shanty and then do a Hungarian outlaw ballad as an encore, simply in response to requests from the crowd. I do like the sound of the blended instruments, especially the wayward violin and vocal effects (often it reminds me of Art Bears), but overall the pace of the album feels sluggish; they don’t really swing or rock out, even the lively songs collapse into a dirge quite quickly, they indulge their quirks once too often, and the singer’s mannerisms can become quite grating. Steven Ward did the recording, and while I imagine they’re pretty entertaining live, I feel the positive aspects of their energy haven’t quite translated successfully onto this release, and it fails to catch fire. The cover is nice; it’s a collection of their “trinkets, heirlooms and inanimates” which they have been curating and treasuring for years, treated to look like an old faded photograph.