UKRAINIAN FIELD NOTES

Nations Online Project

“For the past eight years, they kept telling us we were going to be invaded. We didn’t think it would actually happen.” And then it did. My friend from Cherkasy, told me that her first reaction to war was to freeze. Two weeks later, she has left Ukraine.

The music community has been quick to react with a number of charity compilations released across the divide and in neighbouring countries. To understand the reality on the ground, I sent a number of musicians a set list of questions. I kept them brief, as people had little time to respond and more urgent concerns. Their answers give an idea of the diversity and richness of the experimental music scene in Ukraine. They are in chronological order to give a sense of unfolding events.

‘We are in an uncertain world. It seems to be dissolving before our ears.’ [Tim Rutherford-Johnson, Music After the Fall – Modern composition and culture since 1989]

Our cover image is “Tablecloth,” by Ukrainian artist Mariya Oksentiyivna Prymachenko.


MARCH 5 2022 IVANO-FRANKIWŚK

photo by Krazhevska Olena

Yurii Popov 58918012 / noteaf.

I am a musician from Ukraine. I started to make music (relatively consciously) around 15 years ago. Of course, the first attempts were pretty naive and teenage-oriented. Something like a punk-rock band with a rehearsal base at my friend’s loft. Anyways, I now play guitar in the progressive / post-metal band NUG and have two more music projects: 58918012 — ambient / dark ambient / experimental, and noteaf, which is a lo-fi hip-hop / chillhop alias of mine. To be honest, I don’t even want to list artists that influenced me because the list would be incredibly long… from Cannibal Corpse to Robert Rich.

What is your set up and your favourite piece of gear?

Well, at this point I will talk only about my own projects (58918012 and noteaf). My setup is incredibly simple: iMac, DAW, small MIDI controller with a few faders and buttons, audio interface, monitor headphones, tape recorder, dynamic mic, and mobile phone recorder. Also, sometimes I use the guitar. I really like to mess with the tape recorder. It makes the sound very warm and gives that nice lo-fi taste. Lots of my ambient pieces are based on field recordings (recorded via my mobile phone).

How would you describe both the ambient and the post-metal music scene in Ivano-Frankiwśk and in Ukraine in general?

Hmm…it’s kinda difficult question for me. To be honest, in my city I don’t know post-metal or ambient projects at all. At least I may just don’t know about them. Overall in Ukraine, I know a few, like Endless Melancholy, The Memomachine, Octopus Kraft (which is a project of the vocalist of NUG). Can’t remember more. In general, the heavy and experimental music scene in the last few years has become much stronger than before. At least, that’s what I can say because we played some festival gigs before the pandemic and the WAR and I opened for a lot of strong bands.

NGU photo by Krazevska Olena

How has the live scene been impacted by the pandemic in the past couple of years and has lockdown curtailed your creative life?

The live scene, obviously, was hit pretty hard. Some bands tried to play online shows though (we also participated in one of them “Inter City”). But the creative side developed even more (at least for me). We began to work on our second album with NUG. I also released a lot of music from my projects during these years.

In your ambient work you address feelings of anxiety in albums like Four Days, but also veer towards a lighter tone with Lullabies that pays tribute to Ukrainian culture. Can music provide refuge in these dark times?

Of course — yes. As I said on my Bandcamp page: “Music is one of those things that makes me really happy and calm”. Unfortunately, since the war started I just can’t write music at all. I can only listen to relax a little. In general, the range of styles in the 58918012 project is incredibly wide. From dark techno, to ethnic, everything in between, and beyond.

Could you give us a sense of the current state of play on a day to day level in your own city? And what have been the more immediate changes in your life on a personal level?

At this point we can only talk about WAR as a fact. The Russian invasion is definitely perfidious, aggressive, and very bloody for Ukraine. But our army and population are stronger than ever. We are all literally holding hands with each other in defense of our freedom, democracy, and of course our motherland! My city is calm now. Sometimes we hear air raid sirens (which is also pretty unpleasant, especially in the middle of the night). But in general, the community is very strong and ready to defend. In any case, we’re doing our best to create a solid rear for our army and to help refugees from the cities on the front line.

Needle Tip by 58918012 released March 10 2022

What can one do to help the artistic community in Ukraine? And are there any local charities that operate in your town/region you would like to highlight?

I think, the best way to support musicians is to stream/buy their music. And here is the link to support ZSU.

Finally could you recommend a book / film / artwork about Ukraine?

It may sound strange, but I don’t like to read, watch movies, etc. I think that the best way to feel the Ukrainian vibe is to visit it. But it’s not the best time to do that. I hope that this nightmare will end soon and people from around the world will be able to come out and see the beauty of Ukraine ❤



MARCH 5 2022 KYIV

TER.RAIN by Ujif_notfound

George Potopalsky (Kasprzhak) Ujif_notfound

I have been living in Kyiv since 2007, when I started a project called Ujif_notfound.
The main activity is the creation of multimedia systems based on algorithms of the kinetic relationship between man and program.
My “live” performances are based on the generation of audio and visual streams in real time. By controlling the prewritten programs (patches) Ujif_notfound, with each new startup creates a unique audio-visual space, which exists only during the performance. Any exact repeat is impossible.

I started playing music when I lived in Moscow, playing guitar in a hardcore (rap core) group. Then I became interested in experimental and electronic music. In the 90s, I listened to Autechre, Squarepusher, Aphex Twin.  Labels Ninja Tune, Warp. Label ~scape. Pan Sonic, Muslimgauze… a ton of music. I really liked the Flanger project (Burnt Friedman, Atom Heart). In 2007 I moved to Kyiv and dived into programming max/smp/jitter.

I then decided that I wanted to make music in close connection with the visuals. The benchmarks were Ryoji Ikeda, Alva Noto and others. At the same time, I became interested in the academic avant-garde. Stockhausen, Xenakis, Luigi Nono, Ligeti and others.

What is your set up and your favourite piece of gear?

Max has been at the heart of my studio for a long time. Only Max. With the help of the patches written in it, I recorded the first albums and made a number of interactive installations. Then I began to collect synthesizers. I have a few of them and for the most part they are cheap simple ones. Korg ms20 mini, Nord drum 2, Nord modular g2, Korg minilogue, Doepfer Darkenergy 2, a pair of guitar pedals from Strymon, EHX … these are probably the hard equipment I use most now. The software is still the same Max and now Ableton with max for live.

TER.RAIN by Ujif_notfound

What does Kyiv mean to you?

I fell in love with Kyiv as soon as I arrived here. For me, this is a city that combines ancient culture, traditions, and modernity. I love Kyiv for its anarchic spirit and unshakable will to freedom. I know that no matter what happens, no matter what severity and hardships fall on the local residents, they will still unite and defeat anyone who came to this earth with evil and destruction. “Volya about Smert” (Will or death) is the slogan of Ukraine.

How would you describe the experimental music scene in Kyiv and in Ukraine? 

The experimental scene is changing. I got acquainted with the experimental scene of Ukraine thanks to Dmitro Fedorenko (founder of the Kvitnu label), Katya Zavoloka, Alla Zagaykevich, Edward Sol, Andrey Kirichenko. Festival of “Detaili Zvuku”. This was in the early 2000s, when it was something new for Ukraine, then the situation changed. Because of technology and hype, the experimental scene has lost its original essence of protest and transgression. The search for something new has been replaced by flirting with fashion. I don’t see now what was the essence of experimental music for me, and I don’t see it in the whole world either. But this is a process. Time ruthlessly structures. Energy is transformed into other manifestations.

How has the live scene been impacted by the pandemic in the past couple of years and has lockdown curtailed your creative life? 

Of course the pandemic has had an effect. All the same, the music that I play requires live performance. Engagement. Having lost this opportunity, many locked themselves in the studio and took up recording and editing. This method of making music shifted the focus to post-production, more focus on quality and composition. During the pandemic, I only made a couple of interactive works. For the most, I was engaged in the development of new technologies, the study of new programs and entertained myself with recording live and new albums. Although I am lucky and thanks to the fact that my friends and I have a Fotinus studio, we are involved in many projects, I had the opportunity to show everything that I have been working on lately.


Could you give us a sense of the current state of play on a day to day level in Kyiv in terms of transport, food chain supply, medical care? And what have been the more immediate changes in your life on a personal level?

Not so long ago, we studied the 2nd World War from textbooks. Destroyed cities, millions of victims among the civilian population, Nazi atrocities. It all seemed crazy and impossible in the 21st century, but we were wrong. Everything that we saw in the pictures, we see now. Many cities of Ukraine are in ruins. People are dying. Children are dying. It’s impossible to describe. I have a little son, he turned 7 on February 14th. We hid in a bomb shelter, in parking lots under the house. They lay in the corridor while the siren howled and bombed Kyiv. We hardly slept for 5 days. One day I fell asleep for a few minutes and woke up because my son was screaming “Hurrah hurrah hurrah!” I asked him what “Hurrah”? He replied, “I’m awake and alive.” It’s scary in the city, there are shootings, it’s very dangerous on the street. Products are running out. Houses are being shelled. You can find many videos on the Internet – evidence of this.

What can one do to help the artistic community in Ukraine? On a more general level, are there any local charities that operate in your town/region you would like to highlight?

To be honest, the last thing I can think about during the war is creativity. Now I get a lot of offers to participate in residences and concerts, the European community is trying to help and support, but I just don’t think that I can participate in all this when my city is being bombed, my friends are being killed. It took me a lot of effort to even answer these questions, but I want other countries to know the truth. I hope to get back to creating when it’s all over… if it’s over.

And could you recommend a book / film / artwork about either your town or your country? 

Book: The City by Valerian Pidmohylny


MARCH 7 2022 LVIV

Egor Grushin

I’m from Ukraine. I am a neoclassical pianist and my career was highly influenced and inspired by musicians Ludovico Einaudi and Philip Glass and bands Muse and Okean Elzy.

Your chosen instrument is the piano, how has your compositional process developed over the years?

The pillars of my compositional process are harmony and melody. My music is not that complicated technically, but it always has a great deal of soul and a story within. It is able to set a certain mood and make you feel something that is not necessary around you.

How would you introduce Lviv to a tourist and which are your favorite things about it?

In my opinion Lviv is the best city in Ukraine. Its rich history, mind blowing architecture and kind people have been always contributing to my ability to create and to maintain an artistic mindset.

How would you describe the experimental music scene in Ukraine?

Music is definitely a vital part of our culture. Our experimental scene is broad, full of unprecedented mixes and unexpected takes. Being bold is in our blood and you can absolutely sense it in our music.


How has the live scene been impacted by the pandemic in the past couple of years and has lockdown curtailed your creative life?

Yes, the pandemic hit our musical scene as hard as it did around the world. In 2019 I had a Ukrainian concert tour supporting my album Ritorno, followed by a set of gigs in China and I had another tour for 2020 already planned, but the pandemic started and everything halted. Before 2020 I was doing around 40 live shows per year, but since March 2020 I managed to only perform 6 times, but it is what it is. We need to save lives first, of course. Despite the circumstances though, I keep writing music and releasing new material, no virus can change that.

photo by Lyana Trush

What is the situation currently like in Lviv?

The western part of the country right now is not suffering by active shelling or military actions, but we’re busy with providing 24/7 support for our army and helping refugees from other regions. At this moment we have food and medicine, provided both by my country and our European partners that keep actively helping us with fighting Russia. As for me personally, together with my friends, I have enrolled into the Civil Defense force and we’re trying to keep Lviv safe and free from Russian spies and infiltrators.

What can one do to help the artistic community in Ukraine? And on a more general level, are there any local charities that operate in your town/region you would like to highlight?

The usual stuff really. Keep listening to our music on streaming services, support us on Patreon and Bandcamp. Follow us on social media and make sure the world knows our music, we’ll need that after the war is over. In the near future our country will be focused on rebuilding the cities destroyed by this Russian war and unfortunately live shows or festivals won’t be on the menu here, but I will be glad if there will be a chance for me and my fellow musicians and artists to perform abroad. If you want to help us win this war, support people who became refugees or lost their loved ones, you can donate to Savelife fund.

MARCH 7 2022 KYIV

photo by Natalia Ribkin

Sasha protoU

I am a trained violinist and choir vocalist who grew up with an addiction to music. I have many musical projects but my main one is my ambient project protoU.

What is your current set up and your favourite piece of gear?

I barely have any gear actually. Mostly, I just use a midi controller and my macbook. I tend to love minimalistic and compact approach within what I do. I use stuff that makes sense to me. Fits my approach.

How would you describe Kyiv and which are your favourite things about it?

I think Kyiv is a beautiful city in many ways. I especially love the nightlife of Kyiv, the creative people that reside there. Different communities and boiling cultural life. Ukrainians are very friendly as well. The vibe is there. Of course it’s a post-soviet city with loads of old architecture that nobody cares about that much, but I think this serves as a nice contrast to the modern looks of the city. You just have to experience it on your own.

How would you describe the experimental music scene in Kyiv and in Ukraine in general? 

I would say we have very strong positions of experimental musicians. We have a few communities as well that do parties once in a while. I would especially point out this. You can find a lot of live videos from Ukraine with local and international guests.

How has the live scene been impacted by the pandemic in the past couple of years and has lockdown curtailed your creative life? 

Definitely less live shows but production definitely went up, as for every artist and bands during the pandemic with loads of free time at home. When the pandemic started we were deep into family stuff since it was just over 1 year that we had a baby so my production was not that fast as it used to be. We’re still elbows deep in the family stuff but it’s getting better. I always loved music and no pandemic can ever change that. 

What have been the more immediate changes in your life on a personal level?

Fortunately, I left the country with my son a few days after the war started. Our family and my husband transferred us to the border and the guys here took good care of us. As for Kyiv, from what I know, they hold the city pretty strong. The enemy still strikes, but we fight back and do it in a much more professional way as you might have heard from the news. Of course there are some dark stories, but it’s war after all. We saw death while driving to the border. I doubt I would ever forget that.

Are there any local charities that operate in Kyiv or Ukraine you would like to highlight?

Special fundraising account in support of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Donating would be of great help for us in fighting evil.

Old Man and Old Woman Carry a Turnip (1983) Mariya Oksentiyivna Prymachenko

Could you recommend a book / film / artwork about Ukraine? 

As a visual person I think I would recommend to look into the works of Mariya Oksentiyivna Prymachenko. She was a Ukrainian folk art painter, who worked in the native art style. A self-taught artist she worked in painting, embroidery and ceramics. Her works are amazing and the visuals really represent what the Ukrainian soul really is.



MARCH 8 2022 KYIV

Pymin Davidov Pymin

I am a Ukrainian electronic producer and musician. Previously I played music as Mund. A year ago I released the Ultrashell album, already under my own name.

When I got a Sony Walkman cassette player in my childhood, I started to be interested in music as well as sounds. I only had a few cassettes in my music collection. So, without hesitation, I was very into recording everything surrounding me: children’s voices on the playground, noises from construction sites, street dogs barking (in the 90s there were a lot of homeless animals in my city), my parent’s kitchen conversations, etc. I don’t know why, but when listening back to what I recorded, I always slowed down the playback speed, so what I heard was kind of ambient. Actually, I still use a similar scheme for working with sound: I record everything on tape, and then I cut samples from these recordings.

What setup do you have and what is your favorite gear?

My set is always different, but almost always I use a reel-to-reel tape recorder or a cassette deck and a laptop with Max/MSP software. From my equipment I single out Pulsar-23 and Lyra 8 synthesizers cause I always improvise with them, I get a new unusual sound. I love it. Also in my home studio are several vintage synthesizers Jupiter 8, Polivoks and Theremin, which, although often, but fragmentary, appear in my music. Among my monitors, I single out the Genelec 1032, I think they convey the details and every roughness of the sound incredibly.

How would you describe Kyiv and what do you like most about it?

Perhaps it will sound too infantile, but I associate Kyiv with spring. That spring that comes after a harsh and dark winter. My country has experienced a lot of wars, the famine, the pressure of Stalin and the Soviet Union in general, and sometimes the echo of these accidents can be heard in Kyiv, as well as in other Ukrainian cities. Despite this, Kyiv is a very free and brave city. The inhabitants of the capital are very different, and the views of different generations are completely different from each other, but when it comes to our freedom and independence… do you remember how many people united on the Maidan?

How would you describe the electronic and experimental music scene in your hometown and Ukraine in general?

Unfortunately, at the moment, most of Ukrainians prefer only dance electronic music. Alternative directions of electronic music are poorly supported by Kyiv clubs. Hopefully in the near future we will have scenes for experimental, noise, industrial or ambient music. But I know many Ukrainian artists (Edward Sol, Kadaitcha, DZ’OB, Radiant Futur, ϘUE) who despite this continue to create and release music.


How has the pandemic over the last couple of years affected the live scene and has the lockdown limited your creative life?

During the pandemic, I recorded quite a lot of music, after which I released the Ultrashell album. On my creative side, this period had a beneficial effect, as there was enough free time for solitude in the studio and I was able to realize my long-standing musical ideas.

photo by Pymin Davidov

How has the country reacted to the invasion?

Today, more than ever, we are Ukrainians, show the world how strong we are. Every day I see how strangers share bread among themselves, help and support each other, no matter what. In the current state of affairs, across the country, thousands of volunteers are helping with food and medicine to many in need. In my hometown of Uzhgorod, (the westernmost city in the country), there are now more people who want to help than those who need it. But, in truth, there are cities that are less fortunate with transport and food, for example, Mariupol. The reason for this is the Russian military, who every day fire at medical workers and volunteers with food and water. So the city is completely cut off from aid.

Now I am in Kyiv. Together with my friends we help military volunteers and everyone who has no food left. By doing this, I feel a little calmer in my soul, despite the explosions and the sounds of alarm sirens.

How can one help the creative community of Ukraine?

It is always important to support creativity and talk about it. I think that now it will be more effective to pay more attention to Ukrainian independent artists. This is especially true for festivals and concert venues. I know that most music festivals give too much attention to the number of followers and views on a musician’s Instagram and similar things, forgetting that popular music does not always equal quality.

Could you recommend a book/movie/work of art about your city or country?

I like to re-read the works of Mikhail Bulgakov, in whose works there is a lot of Kyiv. Living and walking in the narrow streets of Kyiv, this Russian writer wrote many masterpieces, such as The Master and Margarita. And even now you can feel in the evening Kyiv, what the author wrote about, “mystically charged air and stars shining over the city, reflected in the windows of ancient buildings.”



MARCH 10 2022 DNIPRO

photo by Antoine Miroshnichenko

Igor Yalivec

Gamardah Fungus is a duo of sound artist Igor Yalivec and guitar player Sergey Yagoda from Dnipro, Ukraine, who works in the fields of ambient and electroacoustic music.
We started our activities in the 90s, but only in 2009 we founded our joint project that is focused on interaction of complex sound objects, modular synthesis and processed guitars with nature and field recordings, with a special interest in human perception of environment and ethnography.
The creative aesthetic of Gamardah Fungus is based on Zen philosophy and metaphysics. It relies on meditative practices, travelling and spiritual contemplation of the Universe, trying to overhear, understand and approach the sacramental sound of our planet.

What is your set up and your favourite piece of gear?

Sergey played guitar and bass in punk rock and jazz bands for many years. Therefore, today the guitar is his favorite instrument. I was interested in electro-acoustic and experimental music from the very beginning. Therefore, after many years of practice, I came to a modular synthesizer as the most convenient tool for implementing any ideas. I also have my own YouTube channel where I put some video sketches with my modular.

Gamardah Fungus – Live @ Art-Kvartira, Dnipro, Ukraine 12.02.2016 from Gamardah Fungus on Vimeo.

How would you describe Dnipro and which are your favourite aspects about it?

Dnipro is a large industrial city, very beautiful, controversial and complicated. Here, large business and industrial companies, the largest Jewish community in Europe, creative intellectuals and art institutions all coexist side by side. This is the whole charm and unusualness of this city. It seems that it has absorbed a little of everything from the most diverse aspects of the existence of the modern world. And each of these aspects successfully coexists with the other, and no one interferes with anyone.

How would you describe the experimental music scene in Dnipro and in Ukraine?

In the last few years, experimental music in Ukraine has developed very well. Kyiv was even called the new capital of techno music in Europe, in the broad sense of the word techno. There were huge raves like Схема and Boiler Room, many interesting musical projects and promotional groups, both in dance and experimental music. It is impossible not to mention CLOSER – the most famous club in Ukraine. As for musicians, there are some famous experimentalists from Kyiv known all over the world: Heinali, Andrey Kiritchenko, Zavoloka, Kotra, Endless Melancholy etc.

Our city Dnipro has always been one of the most interesting in terms of experimental music in Ukraine. Even 20 years ago, when we started our creative activity in other bands, we had interesting underground events, festivals, and people. Now in Dnipro, the main flow of musicians involved in experimental music is concentrated around the Module art club. Here are some of them: Dz’Ob, Kurs Valüt, Gamardah Fungus, I, Iteration, Monotonne etc.

photo by Yuriy Bulychev

How has the live scene been impacted by the pandemic in the past couple of years and has lockdown curtailed your creative life?

The pandemic has certainly affected all musicians and event organizers, as many concerts and performances have been canceled due to restrictions and lockdown, and venues have been closed. However, we have much more time for studio work. We’ve been concentrating on recording new material and have written a lot of new music that has to be released soon. But only my debut solo album Still Life was released, which was recorded during the pandemic. The rest of the albums now had to be put on hold due to the war with Russia.

There has been conflict in the Donbas region for a number of years but war has now broken out throughout the whole of Ukraine. Granted that the situation on the ground is evolving very quickly and dramatically, could you give us a sense of the current state of play on a day to day level in your own city in terms of transport, food chain supply, medical care? And what have been the more immediate changes in your life on a personal level?

Firstly, the world needs to understand that all these years there was not a conflict in the Donbas, but a military invasion of Russian troops that destroyed the civilian population. And also the fact that Russia sponsored terrorist organizations, which included Russian troops and a very small percentage of Ukrainian pro-Russian militants. We have a lot of friends left Donbas in connection with the bombing and were forced to look for new opportunities and livelihoods. Therefore, for us personally, it was not a surprise when, a few years later, Russia launched a full-scale invasion across the entire territory of Ukraine.

photo by Vlad Lemm

Due to the fact that the Dnipro region where we live is located near the Donbas, our authorities were ready for such an invasion, and today, March 10, we are holding on and have full access to all the resources necessary for life. However, the country is under martial law and there are a number of restrictions that are designed to save people’s lives. Also we are trying to help the army financially, informationally and with everything we can. During all days of the war in Ukraine, with the help of Kate Carr, our musician friend and Flaming Pines label owner, we made an international fundraiser and raised more than 2000 euro with the music. All money went to the Ukrainian army and supporters. Here is a link to this fundraiser compilation with Ukrainian music where we collect money with Kate –

What can one do to help the artistic community in Ukraine? And on a more general level, are there any local charities that operate in your town/region you would like to highlight?

Yes. Please, here is a superb website with a list of verified projects to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine and humanitarian charities: We are very grateful for any help!

Self-portrait by Taras Shevchenko, 1845

And could you recommend a book / film / artwork about either your town or your country?

As for books, the greatest is Kobzar, a book of poems by the most famous and iconic Ukrainian poet and painter Taras Shevchenko, who himself is the symbol of the Ukrainian national and literary revival.
As for film, my favorite is without doubt Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors also known in English under the alternative title Wild Horses of Fire and under the mistaken title of In the Shadow of the Past. It is a 1965 Ukrainian film by Sergei Parajanov based on the novel Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Ukrainian writer Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky that tells a “Romeo and Juliet tale” of young Ukrainian Hutsul lovers trapped on opposite sides of a Carpathian family blood feud.
As for the artwork, I highly recommend works by Mariya Oksentiyivna Prymachenko, a Ukrainian village folk art painter, representative of naïve art, a real treasure of Ukrainian culture, whose museum with a great collection of her works was burned down by Russians a few days ago.



MARCH 11 2022 IRPIN

photo by Olexii Karpovych

Anton Boldenko, Pavlo Lisovsky, Stanislav Bobrytsky brainhack_musicbox

AB: My first impression was from the video “You wanna fight for your right” by the Beastie Boys, that I saw when I was three y.o. I think. I immediately realized that I wanted to be a musician. After that many things changed in my life, I became a violinist, then violist, I was deep into classical music. I studied for almost 20 years, finished musical college in Sumy, and later University of Culture and Arts in Kyiv. But I always remember my first impression, I kept this powerful punk rock flame. I love that kid inside me, that’s why I’m into this kind of music now.

PL: My earliest and strongest musical impressions were The Birthday Party and The Stooges. Later, NY no-wave bands were added to this list too, especially DNA. The projects by John Zorn and Mats Gustaffson also influenced me a lot.SB: For a long period of time, I was dissatisfied with music surrounding me, until I met avant-prog & rock-in-opposition at the age of 23-24. Univers Zero, Present, Aksaq Maboul, Thinking Plague, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, miRthkon, Höyry-Kone and many others were groundbreaking and mindblowing discoveries for me. I still think Henry Cow is the greatest (and the most unappreciated) band of all time, and I have learned a lot from analyzing organ solos by Mike Rattlidge of Soft Machine. At some point I realized I needed to play in an avant-prog band – which resulted in Cthulhu Rise (2007-2017). All of this inevitably led to free-jazz – from late Coltrane (Ascension, Meditations and Transition never get old) and Sun Ra, to Mats Gustafsson and Craig Taborn. Not surprising that free-jazz led me to free-improv – AMM, Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Tony Oxley, Peter Evans, Sam Pluta just to name a few. And when one gets to this point – it becomes obvious that Stockhausen, Schaeffer, Babbitt and Max Mathews are not far from there.

You combine modular with sax and alto. What is your compositional process?

SB: Strictly speaking, we have no compositional process – it’s all improvised music. Instead, we develop all the building blocks while rehearsing – timbres, tone clusters, textures, dynamics and overall plan, but it’s quite abstract outlines. I believe it’s better to feel the music and each other than playing “compositions”. That’s why we don’t have traditional tracks, which is usual for “experimental” music (I hate this term but we don’t have a better one).

How would you describe the experimental music scene in Kyiv and in Ukraine in general?

AB:
I think that we don’t have such a thing as the “Ukrainian experimental music scene”. Almost in every big city we have some individuals, some bands, maybe some people who are friends of these bands, and that’s it. Unfortunately we don’t have unity. Experimental music in Ukraine is a big puzzle, and it’s hard to put everything together.

PL: Besides the global influences, the experimental music scene of Kyiv is, to some extent, based on the local music scene of the 1980-90s (Kollezhsky Assessor, Ivanov Down, Svitlana Nianio, Yuriy Zmorovych). I think the most interesting processes always happen at the point of genre intersection – a bit away from rock, jazz and traditional trends in electronic music.

SB: Unfortunately, I don’t have a general vision of the scene. I know some people and follow their music, some resonate with me, some not – but it’s still not enough to make a conclusion. Also I may be wrong but, to be honest, I don’t feel that we have a “scene” – just some enthusiastic individuals barely connected to each other, everyone on their own. One of the reasons that I can see – everyone has their own, contradictory interpretation of what is “experimental”, and even what is “music”.

photo by Olexii Karpovych

How has the live scene been impacted by the pandemic in the past couple of years and has lockdown curtailed your creative life?

PL: Particularly as a result of the pandemic, the number of online concerts increased a lot, which allowed us to get better knowledge of Europe’s experimental music scene. 

SB: Our live scene was never big enough. Some (including us) moved to internet streaming, others returned back to small closed parties for micro audiences when quarantine restrictions became lighter. For me, the pandemic had minimal impact, because I never was that social. Even better – no need to spend an hour to get to the job anymore (especially when the job is not about music), no need to visit places you don’t like, no need to spend all the health dragging a ton of analog equipment across the city just to play 30 minutes for 5-10 people who may not like it. Pandemic simplified all that – everything is online, if some people like our music they can watch a stream or recording on youtube whenever they want. If that’s not someone’s cup of tea – they don’t watch, that’s it. And vice versa – if I want to watch/listen to some cool stuff I can do it any time without being afraid of skipping an “event of the year” just because that night I was too busy. Even more – since we have got a little more time for music making and online presence, we gain more global followers (from what I can see, Ukraine is not the best place for such kind of music – our audience is mostly elsewhere on the internet).

Drone/noise studio improvisation in duo format (Stanislav Bobrytsky and Anton Boldenko – modular + didgeridoo)

Can music provide refuge in these dark times?

AB: It’s hard to think about music, when helicopters and missiles are flying above the roof of your house. I was thinking about just how to survive. I was in İrpin city too when the war started. I’m in Lviv now, it’s much safer here, so it’s quite possible to start expressing my experience in sounds, but I will think about it later. There are many things to do as a volunteer now to help our people in this struggle for our freedom. 

PL: These days most of us are busy with survival and active resistance. Maybe someday the battles will become more local and less active, then we’ll be able to think about music. But definitely not now.

SB: Yes and no. It depends. When I’ve been surviving a heavy bombarding of the Irpin city, without electricity, warmth, water, internet and even cellphone connection – music was the last thing I could think of, although some dumb crazy melodies were playing in my head from time to time.

photo by Olexii Karpovych

And what have been the more immediate changes in your personal lives?

SB: At the beginning of the year, I moved to a quiet suburb, a place without industry, smog and endless car parking instead of streets. Since I have a ton of synths, it was hard enough to move all my stuff – and then war started. For the first few days I was more or less okay, until the lights went off and the first missiles hit civilian buildings (“we’re bombing only military objects”, that terrorists still use to say – that’s everything you need to know about Russia). Irpin city is just 7 km from Kyiv, but it’s connected to other cities with many bridges, all of which were destroyed in the first days of war – so no transport and no food supply. Even more – these mutants (they really appear to behave like neither homo nor sapiens – since the first days they try to blow up our nuclear power plants!!! What kind of headless, suicidal lifeform are they?) started bombarding hospitals and ambulance cars. Finally, they even started shooting “green corridors”, killing civilians trying to evacuate… 

After 3.5 days of total blockade, with continuously discharging batteries, trembling windows and food & water supplies running out, I finally managed to leave the city with a group of people (that was the first humanitarian corridor with nobody being shot) – by walking across the river, under the destroyed bridge where the rescuers waited to help us – army, police, National Service of Emergency Situations and a lot of press. Thanks to my friends who kept constantly in touch with me all that time. I was afraid that when my phone would completely discharge – I’d just disappear from their radars with low chances to be rescued (which actually happened to many people who are still there needing help but have no connections to the outside world).

All my synths (some of which are really rare) are still there. If I’ll be lucky enough and no missile will hit my house, someday I’ll be able to return and save my equipment, or even continue living there. But for now, it’s impossibile, even theoretically. Now I’m back in Kyiv where I spent my previous 15 years, and it looks like the most protected place at the moment. There is no bread in the groceries, but the food supply and the city infrastructure are still working (I can even see Uber cars on the streets). Some parts of the subway are running for free, some are being used as a bomb shelter. There are people from the territorial defence volunteering at checkpoints here and there, and air raid sirens can be heard many times a day – but this all feels much more safe compared to Irpin (at least there are no bombers above my head and no explosions around).

And my story is still just a child’s play compared to Bucha (another Kyiv suburb close to Irpin) which got destroyed to such an extent that people have almost no places to hide (and no humanitarian corridors for now). Everything that’s going on here now is more than pure evil. This is not an ordinary war, since the enemy does not respect any rules or conventions. This kind of enemy does not even respect oneself.

AB: As I have already told, I was in İrpin too, when the war started. I spent one week there, I think. Then I evacuated to Kyiv and Lviv on the last train. Russian terrorists destroyed the rails. So for now it’s very hard to get out of İrpin. I was getting my stuff quickly, I couldn’t take my instruments with me, so I left them there. I took only a recorder, drymba (Carpathian Jew’s harp) and harmonica, because it’s small and it fits in my pocket.

Photograph of Fedir Tetyanych provided by the PinchukArtCentre © 2017. Photographed by Sergey Illin.

What can one do to help the artistic community in Ukraine? And are there any local charities that operate in your town/region you would like to highlight?

SB: All friendly musicians usually write the following: if you want to help me – please donate to the Ukrainian Army. I have nothing to add to this – if we don’t win this war everything else would not make sense. As a good example of a trusted and verified organization, I would like to name Come Back Alive, which is one of the biggest non-governmental crowdfunding helping both military and volunteers.

Finally could you recommend a book / film / artwork about Kyiv / and or Ukraine?

AB: I can recommend some old stuff – films of Sergei Parajanov. There are few about Ukraine and shooted in Ukraine. Also music, films and artworks of Kyivan underground artists Yuriy Zmorovych (Zmorro) and Fedir Tetyanych (Freepulya).

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