Strong Measures

Latest cassette release from Urbsounds, our favourite Slovakian label of lively electronic racket and hummage, is a split item (URB044) credited to Makarov and Belorukov/Kostyrko. As such it’s a showcase for contemporary Russian malarkey, muscling in on the turf claimed by the labels Spina!Rec and Intonema. It also carries on the age-old divisions and hostilities between the Moscow and St Petersburg “scenes”, each faction claiming they invented everything and the other side stole all their ideas. One of these days a pitched battle will break out, refereed by the staff of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, with the winner being carried home in a golden samovar.

Oleg Makarov seems to be fairly new to this bloodthirsty game, but he’s a strong contender with his two scorching tracks here, of which the first is a splendid episode of coarse, broken, rumbly noise…once that concrete mixer is fired up, Oleg doesn’t quit until the factory whistle slaps him over the head, and even then he carries his work home with him in a plastic tub. Apparently he does it using a mix of DIY home-made electronics and synths, along with the more familiar Max/MSP software. Grinding along in this over-crowded, rough-hewn and highly textured mix we can hear something resembling badly-made factory equipment, a conveyor belt sending malformed consumer goods off to the packing department. What I appreciate is the complete lack of a regular, predictable pulse; the music is highly erratic, charged, and potentially dangerous. Makarov has a real flair for controlling his devices and this is a highly promising blast from the innards of his laptop. The second shorter piece is OK, showcasing the charms of close-miked objects tumbling about with a backdrop of gnat-like synths a buzzing. Makarov could turn out to be a Russian dsic; look forward to hearing more from his dented laptop.

More electronic music on the flip, this time from the ubiquitous Ilia Belorukov, the undisputed “king” of the St Petersburg honeycombs…he’s here with Sergey Kostyrko, the co-owner of Spina!Rec label, and we’ve heard his numerous contributions to several tapes on that imprint. Their ‘Unnecessarily Same Measure’ is a grisly sizzler lasting 23:47 and made using modular synths…it seems as though this modular way of working is really gaining ground with musicians these days, and I wish I knew more about how it all fits together. On this occasion Belorukov/Kostyrko really make the boxes sing for their dog-biscuits, turning them through 180 degrees and expecting triple back-flips into a bucket full of wet cement. The surface of this non-natural grindery stops short of being repellent; you could use its harsh qualities to turn the Prosecco sour, every time you walk past a bar full of yummy-mummies who have decided it’s gin o’clock. At least Makorov’s side lets you pause for a gulp of ether from the tanks every few minutes, but this Siamese fighting fish doesn’t believe in taking a tea-break, and once you’re strapped in to this lacerating funfair ride there’s nowhere else to go but forward into the wall of knives. Even so, the dynamics of this snakeroo are pretty extreme and crazy, showing just what two guys with industrial fans mounted in their chests can do. From 27th June 2019.

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