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This biography of Russian composer and electro-acoustic pioneer Edward Artemiev acts as a welcome introduction to the work of a musician who has explored and pushed forward the barriers of musical exploration. Set amidst a backdrop of Soviet Russia and its political and artistic repression, the composer studied classical music at state conservatories but his eagerness to discover new forms of music and ways to express them pushed him towards a new invention, the synthesiser. This book charts Edward Artemiev's life and struggles to achieve success both as a composer and explorer of the new musical dynamics that arrived in the 1960s. It is not often that those on the cutting edge of music also find artistic and commercial success, but this has happened to Artemiev, thanks to a move into writing soundtrack scores for Russian movies such as Solaris, Stalker and many other important movies, plus groundbreaking work for the Russian theatre. The success of this led him to being invited to Hollywood where he has provided scores for several movies and TV movies. Alongside this strand of his musical career, Artemiev has also explored what the synthesiser and the modern recording studio can create, creating a body of work that is highly experimental and yet still approachable. The book ends with a description of Artemiev's lifelong desire to turn the famous Russian novel Crime And Punishment by F.M. Dostoyevsky into an opera.
The ...Musical Universe is profusely illustrated with photographs, reviews of Artemiev's recorded releases, and a whole section of musical examples in the form of reprints from his scores for those who can read musical notation. The reader should be advised that this book is written for the academic musician and even in this English translation it is couched in the language of academia rather than conventional English. For a non-musician like myself it was not an 'easy' read, but anyone interested in how modern contemporary and experimental music has developed in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, and in particular Edward Artemiev, then it is an invaluable reference source.
Accompanying this book was a double CD set recording of the above mentioned Crime And Punishment opera - the music was composed by Edward Artemiev, with lyrics by A. Konchalovsky, M. Rozovsky and Y. Ryashentsev. I've never read the source book for this opera, and as it is sung in Russian I don't really have a clue what it is all about, but musically it is very interesting indeed. The opera is a melting pot of so many musical styles: from conventional orchestral to prog rock grandeur, electronic atmospherics to Brechtian and Broadway musical theatricality. This continual shift in musical styles certainly makes for stimulating listening, and I can only applaud the cast and musicians involved for a superb performance. Unfortunately, the CD packaging is all in Russian so I can't mention the musicians and singers by name. I have been told that an English language recording is due sometime during 2008 and I look forward to hearing that in the future.
I'm not sure if the CD set is part of a package with the book or available separately, so if you are interested in either or both items then I suggest you contact Artemiy Artemiev via the e-mail links on this web page for more information on availability.
These two newest releases from Electroshock mark a departure from the labels' strictly pro-electronic/experimental music stance and broaden out its remit to include orchestral music and in this case the scores for movies and theatrical plays.
So Weit Die Fusse Tragen is a movie I haven't come across, a Russian/German co-production it tells the story of a German soldier captured at the end of WWII and imprisoned in a Siberian labour camp - he escapes and it takes him three years to reach his family back in Germany. A dramatic storyline and one matched by an equally dramatic score by Edward Artemiev. With a total of thirty-eight tracks, lasting from under a minute to over four minutes in duration, these mini soundscapes convey a variety of expansive mind pictures, but I particularly enjoyed the longer pieces, especially those near the end of the album, some are very beautiful. Listening to a movie soundtrack without the visuals of the movie itself is always a problem as the two elements are so intrinsically entwined together, but I think that this album works well and elements of it could be condensed down into an orchestral suite for concert performance.
Shadows Of A Theatre, also by Edward Artemiev, is a collection of pieces he wrote for a variety of movies and plays. These are: Burial of the Rats, Kabala of Hypocrates, These Three Faithful Cards, A Visit To Minotaurus, and Entrance to the Labrynth. Again, the scores are all orchestral, with a dash of electronics here and there. The opening sequence of tracks [from Kabala...] are extremely enjoyable, they are in a jaunty near-baroque style that is both delightful and draws you into the rest of the album. I am impressed at how well this collection of music from five different movies and plays actually works together in this format - and works well as a cohesive album in its own right. I've always enjoyed Edward Artemiev's previous albums, and on this brace of soundtracks he shows himself to be skilled in the art of descriptive music. If you are a newcomer to this composer I suggest that you try Shadows Of A Theatre as an introduction, the musical payback is the most immediate.
It has been quite some time since Electroshock Records have released a new album - 2002/2003 was taken up with a project that sadly failed to happen - so this new batch of eight albums will please collectors of this most exotic of Russian labels.
The first album is Polished Surface Of A Table by Alexei Borisev (ELCD 037). To say that this is literally an explosion of sound is to drastically simplify what sounds like a dramatically complex process. I also can't say that this, to me, is musical in the traditional sense of the definition - each track buzzes and fizzes with a cacaphonic selection of treated and sampled sounds. Shards of high frequency aural energy jar the psyche as they bludgeon the brain into quivering submission. In other words this ain't no easy listening album! It comes as a relief when track five After The Prime Time discards with the schizophrenia and turns ambient, with spoken and singing voices. Alas, this oasis of calm is once again fractured by the next tracks' scratchy sounds. I'm not sure that I could listen to any of the thirteen tracks of this album again for pleasure, it is most probably a once in a lifetime experience.
As with many of his albums, Artemiy Artemiev's Time, Desert And A Sound (ELCD 038) begins with an oriental soundscape, this time the opening track Beyond Bounds Of Reality sounds as if it is portraying the great steppes of Siberia, with what sounds like a Mongolian throat singer vying with flutes, choral loops floating over a bed of synths. This track is both highly atmospheric and restful, a feature that continues with the next track, Time, which suggests a cosmic spaciousness few other musicians can create. Desert is another mellow track to start with - acoustic guitars [courtesy of Valery Siver] lull one into a false sense of peace before some ambient/industrial sounds slowly take over the soundstage for a while before the guitar returns to bring some sort of peace again, finally fading into a single church bell slowly tolling. A Sound is a lengthy piece, nearly seventeen minutes long - a lone drum beats out a simple, almost mournful rhythm while a variety of sounds [buzzing synths, the return of the throat singer, various atmospherics] unfold slowly. This is another one of those tracks that is enhanced if you close your eyes and relaxe, letting it just wash over you - a strong sense of timelessness is your reward. The final track is Mysticism of Sound Part II, a thirty-six minute live recording from Artemiy's Euro-Siberian tour last year. This reprises the track from a previous album of the same name, but in an extended format, and encapsulating all of the musical signatures that identify Artemiy Artemiev's music: glacial clarity of sound, inventive use of regional ethnic influences and samples and a sense of spaciousness that pushes loudspeakers to the edge.
The next Electroshock album is by Antanas Jasenka - An Artist And A Plane (ELCD039) - and once again we have a 'no compromise ' attitude to what one normally comprehends as music. The opening track Inflight, starts with the simple rapid beat of an oscillator which then broadens out to treated voices and continuously shifting washes of electronic sound. It sounds a bit like a ghostly radio with a dodgy tuner. Ear-Mind Bodies is next, opening with slow moving atmospherics before some orchestra crashes and a voice come in, along with a variety of unmusical sounds that create a collage effect. Transmitter is a full blown blast of cacaphony that only a transistor would love! The next track is Tonus, an apt title for an exploration of pure tones. Skyjack Air begins with more atmospherics and repeated bursts of an orchestral chord, this slowly mutates into a slow piano sequence and that's about it. Final track Electronic Sutartines is pretty much an amalgam of everything that's gone before on the previous tracks, only in a more extreme way.
Electrified Music by Roderik De Man (ELCD040) has the unique feature of using a variety of conventional acoustic instruments throughout its eight tracks - but they are treated and altered to suit the composer/musicians' vision. The opening track Sin Descanso has a percussive, pulsing, feel to it even though only blockflutes and tape are used. Dark Intervals was created for tape and has that timeless feel to it as sounds seem to hang in the air motionless. Air To Air features a variety of brass, woodwind and tape collages, and has a sort of 50's classical modernism feel to it. The rest of the tracks on this album follow similar paths, a variety of conventional instruments used in classical music are mutated into new sounds and textures. Much of the music here has been commissioned for dance troupes or art installations, and should be of interest to anyone who follow the avant-garde in Art.
Yney - Antarctina (ELCD041) returns to the more conventional electronic type of sound you expect from Electroshock... In fact the opening track Appearance From Above is quite funky with a looping bassline and what almost sounds like hip-hop-style scratching after the opening electronics buzz and saw for a minute or so. Stroll, again starts with a pulsing bassline and mingles with the synths - it all reminds me very much of the German music pioneers Can. In fact the entire album has that feel, a sense of rhythm and yes, playfulness, that one can find with music. I really like this album, the music exhibits a sense of quirky amiability not usually found on Electroshock releases - all the tracks have a well defined sense of rhythm and melody, and it sounds to me that the influences range from the previously mentioned Can, to Kraftwerk, The Yellow Magic Orchestra and Air. If one of the star dance scene remixers got their hands on this album I could see several of the tracks becoming club hits - and you don't expect to say that of an Electroshock album!
Anatoly Pereslegin's latest album is Passion Models (ELCD042), and it continues the biblical theme of his previous albums [reviews can be found on other pages of this Electroshock Records section]. this time the tracks are based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The music is a mixture of orchestral and instrumental samples, alongside synths and the other tools in a modern musicians' arsenal. The music is in the style of modern clasical, with electronic overtones, certainly more musical in the conventional sense of the word, compared to other albums in this review. It is certainly not as confrontational, which is a relief, and is quite listenable as music.
Reflections of Time, by Alexander Volodin (ELCD043), is the last of the single artist albums in this batch. The album's theme seems to be spiritual, if not pointing to a single religion, and opens with The Flower Is Growing Up, a collage of chopped up sounds, atmospheres and crescendos. Circles is a three part cycle featuring loops of sounds - time distortions and layerings of these sounds into something almost naturalistic. The next track, The Way To Star, is a thirty minute tone poem written for an exhibition on Leonardo Da Vinci, and I think that old Leo would have been intrigued by the sculpturing of sound that the composer has created here. Finally, The Music Of My Memory, is another suite of linked tracks, stylistically similar to the previous tracks. Not as cacaphonic as some of the other albums, Reflections... is quite soporific but does throw up the occasional sonic surprise to stop you going to sleep.
Finally, Electroshock Presents Electoacoustic Music Volume IX (ELCD044) is the labels' annual pick of the 'best of the rest'. The artists in this compilation include Gottfried Michael Koenig, Carl Stone, Rodrigo Sigal, Marc Cooley, Vivain Adelberg Rudow, Simon Wickham-Smith, Eternal Wanderers and Victor Cerulio - his epic length Rusalki is my favourite track, a spacious cosmic soundscape that harmonises the spheres! While all these artists have their own styles, I think it is fair to say that the atonality and cacaphony found on some of the above albums is also present here, along with a variety of atmospherics and ambient soundscapes which vary in their approachability by the listener. This is experimental music of the first order, so don't expect easy listening!
So that is the latest batch of albums from Electroshock - it strikes me that while human beings have created these artifacts one could be forgiven into thinking that almost all of these CDs were created by the machines themselves. That one is witnessing Art as conceived by silicon chip. While it is an interesting experience, I can't help but feel the loss of human spirit somewhere along the way - most of the music on these CDs is unremittingly dour and devoid of humanity. Perhaps that is what the composers wanted. I found the music on many of these CDs to be intriguing but mostly too extreme for repeated listening. But if you have an inquiring mind and wish to explore the outer limits of modern music then Electroshock is very much the place for you!
Edward Artemiev is one of Russia's most prominent composers of music for the concert hall, cinema and TV, and a pioneer of experimental electronic and electro-acoustic music. The Nutcracker & The Rat King is his latest album from the Electroshock label - a re-imagining of seminal music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky along with new music in the same style by Edward Artemiev. The music is also the soundtrack for a film or stage performance [I'm a little confused by the sleevenotes] called The Nutcracker & The Rat King that was scripted by noted director Andrei Konchalovsky. Not sure if it was actually filmed and released. Drawing on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet, Symphony #5 and #6 and his Concerto for piano and orchestra, plus the new music by Mr Artemiev we have a seamless new piece that is orchestral and vocal, with some rock elements and new [I think] lyrics set to the music by Yuri Ryashentsev. Performed by the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Murad Annamamedov, with added rock band, vocalists and choirs, this is a very impressive and listenable work. Very approachable. I'm sure that Tchaikovsky purists may not like it on the grounds of a 'sacred text' being changed, but you'd be surprised that even an occasional Tchaikovsky listener like myself could easily recognise the work of the Master throughout. There is a definite theatrical feel to the music and even shorn of the visual element the music stands together very well and makes for an extremely entertaining and listenable album.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.electroshock.ru though as this website hasn't been updated for a while you should email firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering information.
For those unaware of Edward Artemiev, he is one of Russia's premiere sonic explorers: a composer of film and tv music, a pioneer of electronic music and a musical theorist. Connecting Spaces is a double disc set of live recordings made during a recent concert tour of Siberia. Focussing on orchestral music he has written for the cinema, tv and theatre, there is still space to incorporate some of his signature electronic sounds and music as well. The recordings are taken from concerts in Barnaul, Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, Timsk and Omsk, all major cities in that huge area of Eastern Russia called Siberia. There are twenty five tracks spread across the two discs, with the music drawn from Mr Artemiev's film and stage work, and the music on each track varies between thirty seconds to eight minutes plus. Most of the music on this album is drawn from the following films: Stalker, Solaris, A Slave Of Love, Burnt By The Sun, The Barber of Siberia, the tv version of Doctor Zhivago, and The Odyssey. Edited as near continuous performances, these individual pieces become almost symphonic in scope and atmosphere, and thanks to the orchestral colourings become new music. Each of the listed cities provided their own symphony orchestras for the concerts, and these were all conducted by Cezar Alvarez. This album set is for the Russian market only so consequently the inlay booklet and back panel are in Russian - therefore I am not sure if Edward Artemiev performed as a soloist during the performances or simply directed the rehearsals before the concerts. Either way, Connecting Spaces is a wonderful introduction to the orchestral music of one of Russia's best contemporary composers. And it is interesting to note that Hollywood doesn't have all the best soundtrack magicians. It will be a great shame if this music is not released outside Russia as well, it deserves a wider audience. Highly recommended.
This CD EP or mini album, comes direct from Russia and features a band that cover so many different genres of rock music in their sound that you may wish to consider them the lodestone of the rock music of the future. Their previous album For Those Who Can See Dreams Vol. 1 was a profoundly impressive album with its mix of heavy metal riffing, Goth stylings and operatic vocals. Shitrock continues this sound with four more stonkingly loud and epic- scale soundstage assaults to the senses. The four tracks are [in English] Shitrock, Black Earth, Our Motherland Is The USSR, and Royal Wedding. As before the vocals are in Russian so I have no idea what the songs are about. As I understand it this EP is a preview of a new album to be released on Electroshock in November 2012, and this EP is only on release in Russia. I can't wait for the album, if it is as good as these tracks then it then I will be in heaven. I am assuming that the band are the same as for the first album, so they are: Sergey Kalugin - vocals, guitar; Alex Burkov - guitars, mandolin, keyboards, percussion, vocals; Yuriy Ruslanov - flutes, guitar, percussion, vocals; Artemiy Bondarenko - bass, keyboards, guitar, percussion, vocals; Alexander Vetkhov - drums. You also get a soprano or two, a children's choir and a powerful brass section. Shitrock is an overload for the senses, in a good way, and Orgia Pravednikov deserve to be heard in the West. This is such an overwhelmingly great band and they need to be heard to be believed. I'm not sure if Shitrock is going to be available outside Russia, I guess you could contact Electroshock or the band itself on www.orgia.ru to buy a copy of this impressive CD.
This album is something of a shift, a radical one at that, for Electroshock - renowned for their experimental and avant-garde electronic music, this is a full-blooded rock album. In fact, For Those Who Can See Dreams is a prog-rock-metal album with a big, big sound. Orgia Pravednikov remind me a little of the Slovenian band Laibach, perhaps not so electronic but with a huge, punchy sound, basso-profundo vocals, metal guitars, brass section and a lot more. The band consist of five members but there is an army of guest musicians and vocalists spread across the ten tracks. The vocals are sung in Russian but the inlay booklet provides a translation and I think the album is themed around a concept of Teutonic Knights searching for a route to the northern land of Hyperborea. Then again I may be wrong and it could be about pushing through the barriers of accepted conformity. Whatever, this is one hell of a great album, probably the best rock album I have heard in a long time - there are great tunes with melodic hooks, big guitar sound - I really loved the epic Catcher in the Rye. There are also softer songs, with delicate flutes - check out White On White to hear what I mean. The band are: Sergey Kalugin - vocals, guitar; Alex Burkov - guitars, mandolin, keyboards, percussion, vocals; Yuriy Ruslanov - flutes, guitar, percussion, vocals; Artemiy Bondarenko - bass, keyboards, guitar, percussion, vocals; Alexander Vetkhov - drums. As you can see there are a lot of multi-instrumentalists there, and that flexibility helps to build up each track into these giant slabs of sound. This is a powerful album, I could see Orgia Pravednikov taking on Metallica and beating them hands down. For Those Who Can See Dreams is probably the best rock album to ever come out of Russia and it needs to be heard in the west - this should be on the playlist for Q Radio, Planet Rock and even BBC6. It needs maximum publicity and radio play to find the rock fans who will love it. Highly recommended.
Spring 2010 Releases
After a five year hiatus to pursue other artistic projects, composer/musician and label boss Artemiy Artimiev has revived Electroshock Records, Russia's premiere label for electronic and experimental music. 2010 will be quite a landmark year for ER, with twelve new album releases this spring, and perhaps up to twenty more due at the end of the year or early in the new year. That is, by any independent record label's lights a very optimistic and confident look to the future. So here, album by album, is a detailed look at these new Spring releases.
This is a modern version of the Latin Mass, the text taken from texts from the Apocrypha, an addendum to the traditional bible. The music is composed and performed by Roman Stolyar utilising a number of electronic keyboards, and the vocals are performed by the Sharamov Vocal Ensemble. There are six sections to the mass: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. There is a strong prog-rock element to the music, and I can envisage that fans of Rick Wakeman's religious music should find an affinity to this as well. The music is quite propulsive, the intertwining vocals pushing the flow of the music this way and that. The overall sound at times is quite sparse, the five voices devoid of instrumentation and double tracking. While it may, initially, not sound too different to other latin-based religious music, it is quite radical, with its fast pace and the soaring and suddenly dropping vocals. For those looking for new religious experiences then you should check out Missa Apocryph, the liner notes include the full text in both Latin and English.
Xenophobia is really hard core electronic avant garde 'music', the sort of thing that Electroshock Records have championed for many years. Anatoly Pereslegin is an uncompromising composer sound sculpturist, using huge megalithic washes of sound and volume to create sound installations to rival anything that nature can create. There are three tracks: Kiss White Dwarf, which could well be the soundtrack to the birth of a white dwarf star for all I know. A neighbour I played this to described it as the sound of teeth being pulled out! It certainly is an unyielding, raging soundscape of sawtooth electronic aural ferocity. Rape Quantum may be slightly milder, but only slightly - a slowly undulating wave of white noise lasting twenty-seven minutes. Finally, Heteroemergency, a monolithic amalgam of the previous tracks, lasting twenty minutes, and probably destroying your speakers by the end. I can't say that Xenophobia is comfortable listening - it encapsulates to an absurd degree the noise that permeates our lives, the electronic wash from billions of mobile phones, wi-fi transmitters, radio and TV, and of course computers. It is a unique, twenty-first century sound that has frightening consequences for the future of humanity.
With an evocative and emotionally sensitive title such as Twin Towers, you don't really need to have it spelt out to you what the subject matter of this album is concerned with. However, the bulk of the album is a collection of nine sonic collages consisting of found sounds, treated sounds and loops. Most are more sound affects than music, for instance Knock And The Door Shall Be Opened, is based on recordings of the noises made by the door into the gentlemen's washroom at the State Library in Berlin. These recordings of the door banging shut are treated in different ways to produce a rhythmic piece. And so it is with all the pieces on this album - each has its own concept and you'll need to read the inlay notes to see if you think the composer has succeeded. As for the Twin Towers section itself, this is based around a series of poems written and read by Meena Alexander, unfortunately the sound level of her voice is so low that even with full volume one has trouble making out her voice and her words. The following soundscape represents the towers falling. There is, of course, a strong emotional resonance to this that only the thick skinned will find unmoving.
I'm not sure if this album title was intended to be humorous but to the British sense of scatological humour it does offer a smile or two. That aside this is a very interesting album by composer and multi-instrumentalist Dmitry Mazurov. The opening tracks Abyss and Luminous are gentle orchestral pieces full of melody that build up to a brief crescendo intimating some sort of Doom. This is sort of resolved on Burevo, which starts with the orchestra and then transforms into an electronic soundscape. Many of the tracks [the electronic ones] tend to be just on the crest of normal playback hearing levels, suggesting unseen ... Lovecraftian horrors, perhaps - at other times it sounds like it is the lost soundtrack to a Hitchcock thriller. You really do have to work at listening to this album - the shifting perceptions of the sound is unsettling, to say the least - but not unlistenable. There is definitely a strong impression of this being a soundtrack for a non-existent movie [or even movies] across all eleven tracks. It is a very enigmatic album, continually switching between orchestral and electronic elements, always leaving the listener wrong-footed as to what to expect next. I am not sure how often I will listen to Creature On A Lavatory Pan, I think it is a mood piece and the listener really needs to be in the mood for it.
I'm not actually sure whether Safe Passage is music as we know it. The ten tracks on the album are soundscapes made up of location recordings, special effects, editing and audio treatments. Having said that I found the album a fascinating document of modern life and the systems that cocoon us throughout it. J.C.Combs is more of an audio sculpturist, and I imagine that these ten tracks work best in a museum or exhibition space with some sort of corresponding video accompaniment. While listening to the CD I was reminded constantly of the old BBC Radiophonic and Sound Effect library discs that were so popular back in the 70s and 80s. But in this instance the sounds have been collated to tell a story or create an image in your head. Many of the tracks are quite short, sort of fragments caught on the ether, while others are longer and have more substance - some even have a psychedelic hue to them. A central core that runs throughout are the sounds of the city and that of the transit systems carrying people through its veins. Track titles include Rikke's Harbor, Cross Station, Dispatch, November 13, 2009, Abysmal, The Giant Eye of the 5th Dimension, X503, Unrelated, Safe Passage and Trinity 666 - The Last Train To Hell. I find myself playing Safe Passage quite frequently, hearing new sounds and collages with each listen. This is the soundtrack to exactly what I am not sure, but working out that is part of the fun of this album.
This album by Alexander Volodin is a very difficult creature to describe - 100% experimental, some tracks seem to be made up of unrelated sound effects and treated sounds, all jumbled up. The opening track, Different Things, is split into three sections: The Faucet, Drums & Domra and Saxophonia, all of which consist of random sounds sequenced into random sequences of unrelated sounds. Though Saxophonia does, as the title suggests, include a sax. It is intriguing to listen to, if only to find out what happens next but as most of it is recorded at low levels much of it is just on the threshold of your hearing. With no listening notes by the composer/musician one is left wondering just what is happening. In my mind's eye, while this was playing, I had a vision of an early Pixar-like animation synching with the sounds. Track four, Silver Thread, begins with a voice screaming, being treated by various sonic enhancements and then fading into an electronic whirlpool of sound created by 'prepared' electric guitar. The final track is called There, House Stood, and lasts for forty-one minutes, an epic tone poem in the literal sense of the word and arguably the most incoherent of all the pieces on this album. In fact it sounds like a nightmare we would all hope to avoid. So, Alexander Volodin has created an album of extremely uneasy listening, an Unfinished Journey to insanity.
Multiple Tongues is a collection of sound collages based on the voices of a series of collaborators. Each voice has been electronically treated and filtered to such an extent that the humanity of the voice has almost been done away with, and what remains barely exists, surfacing in brief flashes throughout their tracks. The track sequences are: Juskidding, Songs And Dreams The Whalers Weave, Három Denéver, ... Al Tempo Del Dolci Sospiri ... , and Jäätynyt, Aurinko. Most of these tracks are quite harsh sounding, high in the treble section of the hearing spectrum, which makes for very uneasy listening - it certainly seems to have an adverse effect on the birds in the garden the day I played this with the window open! I'm not sure that I could call this an album easy to listen to - and as with some of the other albums in this Spring release, I get the impression that Multiple Tongues is more of an installation piece for an exhibition area, rather than one's home.
This is an album where contemporary music and Russian literary tradition come together into one art form. Valery Siver and Kirill Trefakov's Music From The Russian Pages takes its musical invention from the work of a variety of Russian writers and their poems and novels. So if you are a student of Russian literature then this album is most definitely for you - the writers include: V. Nabokov, A. Pushkin, Boris Pasternak, M. Gorky, N. Gogol and many more. Musically speaking, this is a very interesting and listenable album, it mixes avant garde and experimental with music that is cinematic in scope - it even encroaches on pop, rock and electronica at times [check out Patterns and Childhood In The USSR to see what I mean]. Which makes for a very enriching listening experience. Valery Siver composed the music and plays piano and guitar, while Kirill Trepakov arranged the music and played bass, keyboards and the electronic treatments. If I was a well read person I would, of course, be familiar with these Russian authors and could say whether these musical pieces actually caught the essence of their work. I can't 'cos I have never read any of these authors books, but I feel they would be proud to be the source for this music. Music From The Russian Pages is certainly one of the most listenable of the current new release crops of albums [along with those of Edward Artemiev], and probably the most approachable to ears not used to the sound of experimental music.
Edward Artemiev is a respected pioneer in Russian electronic music, but he is also renowned for his film and stage soundtrack music. His new album combines both of these elements of his music in a compilation of recent TV and movie soundtracks plus some of his more accessible personal music. The album begins with a thirty minute - 3-track - triptych based on Lithuanian and Russian poems: White Dove/Summer/Astral Downpour. This lengthy work features two female vocalists and the music ranges right across Mr Artemiev's musical spectrum - sparse instrumentation, electronic, rock guitar and large orchestral sections. It is very atmospheric, almost ethereal in places, rocking out in others [especially the second track], very beautiful indeed - some of it brought to mind the futuristic cityscape in the movie Blade Runner, and you could imagine some of this fitting in well with Vangelis' score for that movie. The remaining twelve tracks feature pieces from his soundtrack work plus a couple of instrumentals from his archive. While servicing the dynamics of the movie or TV programme, this music also showcases Mr Artemiev's skills as composer and musician. Invitation To Reminiscences is probably the most approachable album of the new set of releases. The music is full of melody and whether executed on Mr Artemiev's beloved synthesisers or electric guitar or orchestra, it doesn't matter, this is a lovely music full of tunes and atmosphere.
I found Give To Grow a fascinating album - it is a collaboration between Serbian composer/musician Millica Paranosic and a choir of Ghanaian school children, along with poetry written and performed by Roger Bonair-Agard. This is the nearest thing to a 'world music' album that Electroshock has issued so far. The album's remit is very broad, the musical core is Serbian heritage, mixed with South American influences and of course the African voices and the poetry on a couple of tracks. There is, of course, an electronic experimental element as well, otherwise it wouldn't be an Electroshock album, but this is very subtly applied across the eight tracks and tends to be mostly drones and special effects. The sound is very choral, with a simple piano accompaniment most of the time. Reminiscent of eastern European chanting I've heard before, the music is extremely haunting and beautiful, and the poetry on Venus Song and I Am A Bird immediate and direct. The remaining tracks are: Lastavice/Departure, Kisa Pada, Bojano, Lulla, Duet, and Lastavice II/Arrival. This is an album I have played several times for pleasure, the mixture of roots music and electronics is beguiling to say the least. It hints of the past as much as of the future, and brings together three very disparate cultures into something pretty magical.
Point Circle pretty much pushes the envelope as far as it will stretch when defining what is exactly music and when sound is just that... sound. The album is made up of two distinct sections - the first is called In/Out, and over its six lengthy tracks it individually features drones created by flute, organ, trombone, siren, electric piano and CPU which are then treated by software on the computer to sound... Well, sound like anything but what they originally did. Sometimes these drones change only minutely while others do gradually evolve into something slightly more musical. This is machine or system music at its most pure, and one could imagine the Cyborgs in the Terminator movies grooving to these mathematically created 'boogies' on their internal sound systems while slaughtering the remnants of Mankind. The final piece on the album is called Out Of Ciurlionis, which is performed by string quartet and live electronics. This features drones and dissonances created by the Chordos String quartet, while Antana Jasenka and Antana Kucinskas treat this sound live and create new sounds mixed in with the original. It seems reminiscent to what Stockhausen used to do, and I don't feel equipped to judge it any further. Point Circle is an album which will have a job finding a home in any regular music collection - mainly because the music has been stripped down to its primal core, just the basic elements of sound.
Yney is musician/composer Igor Shaposhnikov and his new album Micro Macro is his second album for Electroshock. The album consists of nine tracks, most quite lengthy, and the music is restrained electro, some of it gently funky but with ambient sounds and audio washes layered over the tunes. It might not sound very palatable but it surprisingly is - experimental music with melody underneath the sounds. I was rather taken with Morn & Even, a mixture of slow bass rhythms and the electronics overlaid on top, which still managed to sound pastoral and menacing at the same time. Deep Sleeping Transportation is even more languid, but with more electro-experimentation on top - ironically the birds were singing loudly outside my window while playing this album and their chittering actually seemed to fit the sounds and feel of this album. Erotic Summerspective, with its feminine yelps of pleasure pretty much speaks for itself. Underground Sea sounds very BBC Radiophonic Workshop and something created for an episode of Doctor Who. Micro Macro is an album that will take some time to grow on you, but it does and you will end up playing it again and again as the sounds seem to rearrange themselves with each replay. I rather like the music of Yney, it is experimental but it is also restrained and quirky enough that it doesn't bring up the shutters in less shuttered ears.
This new album by Russian composer/electronic music pioneer Edward Artemiev is a companion volume to his recent album, Invitation To Remembrances, in that Mood Pictures is another compilation of his music for a number of movies and TV shows, both international and for Russian consumption. As before, the emphasis is on his orchestral work, with some electronic music mixed in there for atmospherical purposes. The eighteen tracks cover quite a representation of his move and TV work, the music swinging between quite commercial work for Hollywood and then his signature electronic music for projects aimed at the art house. As with Invitation..., the album works very well as a collection of instrumental pieces, with just a few tracks featuring voices and choirs. But this album is full of one thing, atmosphere - each track creates a different mood or ambience, different ways of using musical language to convey a movie or TV show's storyline. The album opens with the theme to Siberiada, a big movie theme in all the right ways: slow burn start, rousing anthemic melody and big choir topping it off. The next track, Swing, is also from the same movie, but has a more electronic ambience and is much more cosmic sounding - while track 3, another slice from Siberiada, is electronic with a rock band mixed in there for more oomph. And that is just the first three tracks! I have to admit that none of the movies or TV shows these soundtracks are from are familiar to me, but that doesn't really matter as if you take the album as a whole it is a varied and fascinating showcase of the musical world of one of Russia's most successful composers and musicians.