A CLOSER LISTEN weekly #4
Support the Music of Ukraine
Listeners, I’m going to keep this installment relatively brief. Next week, we’ll have our first deviation from the bi-weekly model, as I hand over the reins to our friend Gianmarco Del Re presenting a series of short interviews with artists from Ukraine and Russia.
Of the recent reviews we’ve published since my last newsletter, I’d like to highlight Lynn Avery & Cole Pulice’s To Live & Die In Space & Time.:
To Live & Die In Space & Time is a weighty-sounding title, yet the music is gossamer-light. Avery’s soft keyboard tones and delicate piano playing sit unobtrusively under Pulice’s breathy saxophone. This is music to get lost in, to let the mind wander. […] Both artists have recorded and collaborated for Moon Glyph before, with Avery releasing music as Iceblink. The majority of this album originated from an improvisation made for the Drones Not Drones Festival for Doctors Without Borders, which you can still support.
The latest episode of Sound Propositions podcast, featuring Patrick Shiroishi, is now available for subscribers, with the full post published on the site this Friday. You can listen on SoundCloud or find the podcast at all the usual places. Shiroishi is a Japanese-American multi-instrumentalist & composer based in Los Angeles, whose 2021 album Hidemi was one of our favorites of the year. A prolific collaborator, Shiroishi can also be heard in various duos, trios, and larger ensembles, including the quartet Fuubutsushi, another group that has been in steady rotation at ACL. In this episode, we reminisce about elementary school concert band and Third Wave ska, discuss his introduction to various modes of improvisation, and explore his love of black metal. Shiroishi also unpacks the importance of family history and ancestry to his work, particularly against the recent rise in anti-Asian racism. And as live performances pick up again, he looks back on how the pandemic turned him into an unlikely proponent of online collaboration.
Richard Allen put together a post for Bandcamp Friday last week, encouraging our readers to support the artists and labels of Ukraine. While it may no longer be Friday, I’d like to share the entire post here, so that more people might continue to support and appreciate these artists.
We’ve scoured our resources to find 25 of the best instrumental and experimental releases from artists residing in the invaded nation, and in so doing, even made some new discoveries of our own. We’ve been listening to the sounds of Kyiv and Dnipro, mourning what has already been lost while hoping that our contributions can make a difference, however small. In ordinary times, the money that we spend on music helps to make more music, but today it may be needed for food, shelter, defense, escape, or in the very worst cases, hospital and funeral expenses. Presented with such a wealth of sounds, we know that you will find something to enjoy, and hope you’ll respond in turn. In addition, look for the many Bandcamp labels and artists around the world who are donating their proceeds to the defense and aid of Ukraine ~ we are encouraged by this international show of support.
Note: The collection below is by no means comprehensive! With one exception, all artists are known to reside in Ukraine, although we also love and acknowledge Ukrainian artists operating around the globe, including Lubomyr Melynk, Monocube, Oleksandr Demianenko, Dmytro Nikolaienko, Andrew Waslylk, VARIÁT, Marina Barinova and many, many more.
Here is a heartfelt message from Lubomyr [video] and a link to the Ukraine Crisis Media Center, where you may make donations.
We begin with a compilation from Flaming Pines: Kaleidoscope | Compilation of experimental music from Ukraine. Earlier this week, Kate Carr announced that the curator Igor Yalivec from Gamardah Fungus would be donating all proceeds to Ukrainian charities and the defense of his hometown Dnipro. We’ll use this compilation as a starting point and branch out from here.
The aforementioned Igor Yalivec is also a solo artist. 2021’s Still Life on Polar Seas was peaceful then, but seems heartbreaking now, given the description: “inspired by the beauty of old villages in the Carpathian forests of Ukraine, with their unhurried pace of life, calming atmosphere and wild nature.” Must this album be a time capsule? Can this bucolic life ever be recovered?
Heinali has been reviewed here before, his lovely ambient-electronic textures always capable of creating a sense of calm. Uncut magazine referred to Madrigals as “like re-entering the womb.” Over the past fifteen years, he’s never let us down. One of our favorite releases was 2014’s EP compilation, Music to Sleep Under Snow. His latest album is a blend of organic and electronic elements that comes across as entirely unified.
Heinali wrote a heartfelt letter on Monday, which we share in its entirety below.
Hello, I am Oleh Shpudeiko, a Ukrainian music composer working under Heinali moniker. Sadly, today Ukraine does not listen to music. Instead, we hear explosions, gunshots, cries, and moans. That’s why musicians are busy with things other than music.
Some of us are serving in the Armed Forces and Territorial Defense units, some are volunteering, helping refugees and people who have remained in the besieged cities. And some are forced to evacuate their families abroad for security reasons. On February 24, the Russian army invaded Ukraine. They kill our friends and family and destroy our peaceful cities.
In this letter, we want to inform you on how to effectively support Ukrainians and Ukraine in their struggle for life, independence, freedom, and democracy.
The crisis caused by the war provoked the flow of refugees to European countries. People are frightened and leave their homes, property, and jobs to save their lives and the lives of their children. They flee to foreign countries with just bare necessities and without means of subsistence. These people can be helped here:
Some did not have enough time to leave or could not leave and found themselves in the hell of constant shelling and bombing. Now they are isolated, there is a constant danger to their lives and health, they lack food, medicine, and hygiene. They need humanitarian and technical assistance:
The Ukrainian army, territorial defense, and volunteers are valiantly, sometimes at the cost of their lives, defending Ukraine and the entire civilized world from Russian aggression. You can help them here: https://cutt.ly/EAxbR4p
Russia is not just fighting with weapons. It wages war with the help of propaganda and fakes. And we need your aid in this information warfare. You can help by reading and sharing information from the trusted, reliable news sources: https://cutt.ly/CAxbPxE
You can also help us by organizing local actions in support of Ukraine in your own countries: https://cutt.ly/BAxbJvk
meerkur‘s landspaces is a memory of a happier, more idyllic time, which happens to be only a few months ago. The Kyiv artist’s keyboard compositions are peaceful and inviting, while the poem on the cover speaks of home, safety, and port, the storm long removed to sea.
Dark Ambient and Drone
58918012 may look like a phone number, but we don’t advise you to call it. The moniker of this Ukrainian artist is as mysterious as the music, which often recalls the scores of dark movies but has an inviting quality of its own. and fall through the time was released in January and tackles feelings of time distortion, a condition that has only continued to grow during the invasion.
Line Spectrum‘s Equidistance is described as an album of “pure mind,” recorded in Kyiv with the sounds of the area folded into thick, diverse drones. “Wind and Movement” is especially evocative, field recordings that yield to white noise, starting as anxiety but ultimately drowning it in peace.
Kyiv’s ProtoU has the distinction of releasing an album during the assault on her own city. The artist certainly did not intend her music to seem so prescient, but when listening to the deserted, spacious tracks of Memory Alpha, with the titles “Capsule of Decaying Dreams” and “Fragmented,” one cannot help but think that some inner muse had received a prophetic vision.
The music of dark ambient artist Motorpig sounds like rubble and desolation and the withering of hope. Tesla Coil is the music of mourning, attuned to the voices of ghosts new and old. Those who pause in this place may hear the suffering of millions, an abject despair permeating the crumbling streets.
Kyiv’s Standard Deviation label has only been around for 18 months and already is endangered. Their latest album, released February 9, is their finest to date; we hope it is not a bittersweet swan song. While Ukrainian-born Katarina Gryvul currently resides in Austria, we felt compelled to list her here because her sound ~ a shattering of beats, a splintering of vocals ~ is intense and unique. Tysha (Silence) is the sound of something new as the old world is falling apart, a title laden with multiple meanings, a cry in the wilderness like a falling tree.
The liner notes for Dog Rose begin, “The world is constantly changing. Sometimes we feel that changes are happening too fast, and we cannot keep up with the tempo.” These words refer to technology, industry and modernization, but are also applicable to the current siege. When the Kyiv artist NFNR titled his opener “Cards Against Humanity,” he was likely referring to the card game, not to the deck currently stacked against his home city.
Also from Kyiv, Pymin released his self-titled debut album less than a year ago, and we hope it won’t be his last. This contagious techno set was released during a time when clubs were closed, and it deserves to be heard on a large sound system. The artist takes a somnambulent break for “Insomnia” before returning even harder and more distorted on the propulsive “Distance.”
Andrey Sirotkin‘s mini-album Vyrij addresses the issue of deforestation, which may be the least of the current worries for this Kyiv artist signed to a Chernobyl label. These are club friendly tracks with a purpose, calling attention to a cause. The title, somewhat frighteningly, refers to “the abode of the souls of the dead and the wintering of birds and other animals.”
Ujif_notfound may have an unwieldy name, but the Kyiv musician’s music is entirely accessible, a bright-toned form of IDM that brings a smile to the face of the dancer. NEUMATONIC was recorded live in the early days of the pandemic, and betrays none of the early fear associated with COVID. If only this alternate reality could become real!
“Formaldehyde” is the latest release from Kharkiv’s r.roo, collaborating with troxellemott for this immersive single. r.roo’s vast discography includes moody pieces interspersed with dance floor stormers, some vocal, many instrumental, a diversity of approaches that suits the artist well.
It’s been a long, strange trip for Kyiv’s Vroda, who has cycled through a number of phases, from industrial to trip-hop, and collaborated with r.roo above. On this year’s two-track Transcriptions, the artist invites listeners to the dance floor while maintaining a mood of mystique, reflecting his upbringing in a factory town.
V4w.enko is an unusual name, shorthand for the Kyiv IDM artist Evgeniy Vaschenko. Released in January 2021 on Chilean label G89, itself no stranger to code, Proc. Morphogenesis sounds like a lab of overflowing beakers, the scientists dancing jerkily yet rhythmically in their pressed white coats.
Andrey Kiritchenko‘s Cerebral was one of the last Kyiv albums to be released before the invasion, arriving on February 7 when the scepter of war was about to descend. As befits its title, the music is intelligent, intricate and eminently club worthy. Even “Slow Motion” isn’t that slow! Top pick: the driving bass of closing track “Daydreamer.”
Brownarium is not at all easy listening. The most experimental of the releases on this list is an improvised eurorack-sax-viola trio that makes quite a racket in honor of brown noise, but keeps it tongue in cheek with a photo of a brownie on the cover. Music this angular is usually not that popular, but today, all of life has been upended and strange sounds make much more sense.
Endless Melancholy is the most-reviewed Ukrainian artist on our site, and is likely familiar to our readers. As the founder of Kyiv’s Hidden Vibes, he has also been responsible for many a gorgeous release since its inception. A piano player at heart, he often branches out into fully orchestrated compositions; but his latest release, December’s Landmarks, is pure, pristine and solo.
We loved Egor Grushin‘s Once, which we reviewed back in 2016. Since then, the pianist has released The Carpathians and the sumptuous [Live1], which makes copious use of strings and creates a romantic aura. This is music for lovers, but it is also music for loss, a flexible set that touches on an array of emotions.
Rock and Post-Rock
When we hit the realm of post-rock and post-metal, we start to think of struggle, resistance, the nobility of an embattled populace. Everything about Way Station seems larger given the current situation. These songs might be blasted through the streets in order to encourage fighters to keep pressing on, against all odds, for love of family and the sovereignty of a nation. The bombastic 11-minute “Parallex” is particularly powerful.
We first encountered Kyiv band Sleeping Bear on a post-rock road trip in 2014, and since then they have only continued to impress. Their most recent release is the two-track EP Vorokhatah, which envelops listener in the warmth of crescendo and release. If we could, we’d bottle this warmth, put it in an envelope, and send it back with love.
The name of Dnipro The Orchestra of Mirrored Reflections is intriguing, and the music does not disappoint. This may be Ukraine’s best darkjazz band, a smoky back room from which a sporadic vocalist steps through the curtain for a brief rendezvous at the mike. Through the rain, through the mist, through the bombs, the band plays on.
Also hailing from Dnipro, and also making occasional but effective use of vocals, is The Wicker Man, a fascinating post-rock/folk project that includes cello and accordion in its lineup. We find it impossible to decide between 2021 album Cynefin and 2019’s Dammit! We’re back to Dystopia!, so we’re listing both here, the title of the latter now seeming oddly prescient.
Asher Gamedze ~ out side work | two duets with xristian espinoza and Alan bishop (Astral Spirits, 1 April)
Brian Wenner ~ Black River Hymnal (1 April)
DJ Travella ~ Mr Mixondo (Nyege Nyege Tapes, 1 April)
Field Works ~ Stations (Temporary Residence Ltd., 1 April)
John Dikeman, Pat Thomas, John Edwards, Steve Noble ~ Volume 1 (577 Records, 1 April)
Julian Curwin ~ Second Sight (Romero, 1 April)
Lea Bertucci & Ben Vida ~ Murmurations (Cibachrome Editions, 1 April)
Lucient ~ Sa Casa des Carbó (Lapsus, 1 April)
Lustmord ~ The Others [Lustmord Deconstructed] (Pelagic, 1 April)
Pascal Battus ~ Cymbale Ouverte (akousis, 1 April)
Regno Maggiore – Esasummà (FILM, 1 April)
Rob Clearfield & Quin Kirchner ~ Concentric Circles (Astral Spirits, 1 April)
Rumpistol ~ Isola (Raske Plader, 1 April)
Sid Le Rock ~ Invisible Nation (Beachcoma, 1 April)
Tomáš Niesner ~ Bečvou (Warm Winters Ltd., 1 April)
Various Artists ~ Music for kō (Erased Tapes, 1 April)
Scanner ~ La Fenêtre Magique (Werra Forma, 4 April)
Bruno Duplant, Frederic Tentellier, Massimo Magee ~ 344 (Orbit577, 5 April)
Distant Fires Burning ~ Inperspectycon Vol. 2 (Audiobulb, 6 April)
Kotra ~ Radness Methods (Prostir, 7 April)
Billow Observatory ~ Stareside (Felte, 8 April)
Branko ~ OBG (Enchufada, 8 April)
Ken Ikeda, Massimo Magee, Eddie Prevost, Joshua Weitzel ~ Easter Monday Music (577 Records, 8 April)
Michael Scott Dawson ~ Music for Listening (We Are Busy Bodies, 8 April)
Post Moves ~ Heart Music (Where to Now?, 8 April)
Simon Klee ~ The Light of Elevation (Subexotic, 8 April)
Širom ~ The Liquified Throne of Simplicity (Glitterbeat, 8 April)
Sontag Shogun x Lau Nau ~ Valo Siroutuu (Ricco/Beacon Sound, 8 April)
Swartz Et ~ Desert Meditations (8 April)
Taylor Barefoot ~ Distressed Signals (8 April)
V/A ~ Nervous Horizon Vol. 4 (Nervous Horizon, 8 April)
Whatever the Weather ~ S/T (Ghostly International, 8 April)
Andrew Weathers ~ Sciatic Assemblage (Flaming Pines, 15 April)
Carmel Smickersgill ~ We Get What We Get & We Don’t Get Upset (PRAH, 15 April)
City of Dawn ~ As the Universe, So the Soul (Somewherecold, 15 April)
DIMWIND/Breaths ~ Seasons (Trepanation Recordings, 15 April)
Earthen Sea ~ Ghost Poems (Kranky, 15 April)
High Pulp ~ Pursuit of Ends (Anti-, 15 April)
Isobel Bess ~ Light Play (Grimalkin, 15 April)
Matthew Shipp, Chad Fowler ~ Old Stories (Mahakala Music, 15 April)
Gaf & the Love Supreme Arkestra ~ Garden Island (Keroxen, 16 April)
Jörg Zemmler ~ Piano Bar (16 April)
Sebastiano De Gennaro ~ Musica Rationale (19’40”, 17 April)
G Clef Fusion ~ QB1-OS (19 April)
James Heather ~ Invisible Forces (Ahead of Our Time, 22 April)
John the Silent ~ Mungo Sessions (Somewherecold, 22 April)
Jon Porras ~ Aroyo (Thrill Jockey, 22 April)
Ohyung ~ imagine naked! (NNA Tapes, 22 April)
Instruments of Happiness ~ Slow, Quiet Music in Search of Happiness (Redshift, 23 April)
Shonky ~ On the Run (Third Ear, 25 April)
Gintas K ~ Lėti (Cronica, 26 April)
Federico Mosconi ~ Air Sculptures (Lost Tribe Sound, 29 April)
KHOMPA ~ Perceive Reality (Monotreme, 29 April)
Lydian Dunbar ~ Blue Sleep (Room40, 29 April)
Soñder ~ Broken in Place (Somewherecold, 29 April)
Adrian Copeland ~ If This Were My Body (Lost Tribe Sound, 6 May)
Reyes/Stokowy Duo ~ Northern: Ashroud Is My Country (American Dreams, 6 May)
TONED ~ S/T (6 May)
Zimoun ~ Guitar Studies I-III (Room40, 6 May)
Manel Fortià ~ Despertar (Segell Microscopi, 12 May)
The Corrupting Sea ~ Talking to Trees (Histamine Tapes, 13 May)
Martin Küchen ~ Utopia (Thanatosis, 13 May)
Joe Rainey ~ Niineta (37d03d, 20 May)
Matmos ~ Regards/Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer (Thrill Jockey, 20 May)
Peter Coccoma ~ A Place to Begin (Whatever’s Clever, 20 May)
Black Sky Giant ~ Falling Mothership (Made of Stone, 30 July)