Female Russian recording artist Galina Ozeran (also known as Chikiss) has teamed with Siberian tape label Klammklang to offer a work of stark beauty: four tracks, four seasons, four different colored tapes, four sets of photos taken by her father Vladimir. This is the second season-themed Klammklang release we’ve reviewed this month, on the heels of Nikita Bondarev’s black and blue edition Siberian Loner. The label is on a roll, and may have found its niche. Our only criticism: make more copies! This sort of keepsake makes a nice present, and some people will want additional tapes to give away.
Ozeran’s tracks are lengthy and complex. Together, the four total over 80 minutes, and would not fit on a single CD. The shortest entry is ten minutes long, and the longest half an hour. This allows the listener time to experience the changing nature of the seasons – week to week, month to month progressions with porous borders. “Winter Silver,” for example (my favorite of the four pieces, but everybody knows I love winter music), goes through timbre after timbre, mood after mood. At certain times it comes across as an ambient piece, fluttering like flurries; at other times it crackles like a campfire. Piano sections give it the life of a Russian gathering, huddled against the cold. Electronic pings echo like sleet. Ozeran occasionally offers a whisper or a fragment of song, as if stoking a fire. While listening, one gains an appreciation of the vagaries of winter, from comfort to chill and back again. This piece alone makes it worth the purchase.
“Emerald Spring” switches timbres, underlining the difference in the outside world. In this case, Ozeran begins with acoustic guitar and a persistent, newly-hatched chick (or a squeaky toy ~ either way, fun!). More experimental and abstract than the prior piece, “Emerald Spring” sounds like wild sprouts coming to life, awkward hatchlings stumbling around, and innocence. Layered vocals come into play – a late segment goes on too long, but there’s 20 minutes to play with, so the repetition is forgivable. Synths and sighs give way to softer melodies in the closing minutes.
The Siberian summer is short, with average July temperatures of +17 °C (63 °F). It’s no surprise that “Cold Cool Summer” is the shortest track, a playful batch of melodies and micro-melodies made sweeter by their brief life span. The tempo slows mid-piece, as if pausing to appreciate the one hot day in the middle of the warm; then it picks up speed like a calliope before crashing. This leaves only the long, slow “Autumn Gold”, a contemplative piece built on repetitions and modest shifts, representing the downturn of the year. Six and a half minutes in, the song stops and begins to whoosh like the autumn wind, blowing the sounds away until other winds blow them back in. Ozeran’s exhalations of breath seem like fear or exhilaration, it’s hard to tell which – but by the end, she’s reconciled herself once more to the cold. Things pick up in the 17th minute, with electric guitar and xylophone signaling the burst of gold. This is as exciting as ambient music gets, and the field needs more releases like this, unafraid to experiment and to poke through the placid surface. Seasons has brought us safely through another year. (Richard Allen)