Aquatic and Other Worlds: a throbbing, hypnotic introduction to the work of a Latin American electronic music pioneer

Oksana Linde, Aquatic and Other Worlds, Peru, Buh Records, BR160 limited edition 12″ vinyl (2022)

Astonishingly despite having played and composed music on synthesisers and other electronic instruments for 40 years, Venezuelan musician Oksana Linde is only now receiving recognition as a significant pioneer in Latin American electronic music in her own right with the release of her debut album “Aquatic and Other Worlds” on Peruvian label Buh Records. Born of Ukrainian refugee migrants in Caracas in 1948, Linde studied music from childhood onwards but was also drawn to the natural world. In the late 1960s, Linde studied and prepared for a career as a chemist and researcher in Venezuela’s oil industry, at the same time pursuing music (jazz, bossa nova, pop) as a serious hobby. In the early 1980s, Linde gave up research for health reasons and embarked on a second career as a composer of electronic music for radio, theatre and other media. At the same time her work was not being published in its own right so for many years Linde’s contributions to synthesiser and electronic music went unrecognised.

The music on this album is a compilation of work Linde created from 1983 to 1989: it appears to have been assembled in a way such that all twelve tracks seem to form a continuous tapestry of highly hypnotic, throbbing otherworldly music. Linde’s first synth composition “Descubrimiento” from 1983 even appears more than halfway through the album! The music often has a bleached, almost acid-like aura, probably because much of it if not all of it was lifted from old tape reels – certainly listeners may get a jolt hearing the shrill and lush Gothic piece “Viaje hacia la luz” with all its sickly decadence and decaying majesty. With this and all other pieces on the album, the melody is the dominant feature and Linde has an excellent talent for finding very memorable if often alien tunes around which entire tracks can evolve. “Playa Caribe” is an early highlight: soothing and playful space tunes hop on a journey through the cosmos and an ever-changing spectrum of sometimes shrill background synth violin ambience.

As the music continues, it passes through many changes of scenery, some of which can be quite dark and even a little sombre, and all with that sickly acid background that colours the music no matter how light, playful and intimate (as on “Mariposas Acuáticas”) or grandiose it might be. Apart from a couple of early tracks, most of the pieces featured on the compilation are short yet with their strong emphasis on melody and the acid sheen they are near unforgettable for the strange sci-fi visions they strike up. A sense of wonder, a desire to explore and a sense of optimism and joy even when shadows are approaching are present on several tracks. Some tracks like “Orinoco” and “Mariposas Acuáticas” seem to express a Romantic view of the world and have a Kraftwerk-like air even though the music is dense and lush in a way Kraftwerk’s music never was.

The entire album is a joy to hear with no filler tracks even though there is a lot of music and all tracks are affected by the transfer of the music from reel-to-reel tapes to digital formats. Beautiful emotion that probably shouldn’t be there appears and colours the music with warm radiance. Linde undoubtedly has been a very singular presence in the Latin American electronic music scene. It’s to be hoped that a follow-up album will not take long to appear that will help cement Linde’s reputation as a major electronic music pioneer in her part of the world.