For the current episode of Ukrainian Field Notes we get a healthy dose of drone, coldwave, electronic and experimental music courtesy of Polje, Monotronique, Dronny Darko, Monoconda, Kurs Valüt and DZ’OB, taking us on a virtual tour of Odesa, Kharkiv, Prylukyin, Kyiv, Dnipro, Uzhhorod and Lviv.
Along the way we discuss divided families, volunteering and issues around language and identity.
How the war has been affecting women is instead the topic of conversation with the NGO Sphere, the feminist and LGBTQIA+ collective we first encountered in the previous episode, thanks to the fundraising compilation Sestro by система | system.
To round things off we get an update from Koloah with a teaser from his new audiovisual project, we add four more titles to our ever growing list of fundraising compilations courtesy of Green Fairy Records, Playneutral and the Colorado Modular Synth Society. And finally, we explore Ukraine in the company of Ukraїner and look at the latest despatch from Anton Somewhere filmed in the Kyiv region and touching on PTSD.
Apologies are also due for letting my spellcheck override the intention of many to have “russia” and “russian” in lower case in previous episodes. I am now sticking to the spelling choice of interviewees.
MAY 13 2022 – ODESA
Victor Konstantinov – Polje
My first concert experience was playing bass in Odesa-based post-punk band Blagodat’ somewhere in 2013. During that period I had started to record my first songs in GarageBand and then two projects appeared: Yoro King (bedroom rock inspired by music released by labels like Captured Tracks) and Поле (turned into Polje in 2017 and received the rest of the musical influences). The band Yoro King (consisting of 4 members including myself) was giving concerts from 2014 till 2017 and self-released a couple of EPs and some singles on Kyiv based label Worn Pop. I have started to perform as Polje with an electronic live set or as a DJ in 2017 and still do now. Polje’s 2 singles (“Schengen”, “Summer Rains”) and “Sorrow” EP were released by Worn Pop, “Seemed” EP was released last year by Berlin-based label Konglomerat, and “Kombinezon” LP was released recently by Odesa-based label система|system. Also, as Polje I have recorded some livecasts for 20ft Radio, Cxema and система|system. I have some side-projects as well: Luxe Prestige, sadlikedead and Local Joke, but those are not active anymore just as Yoro King.
If you listen to “Kombinezon”, you may notice that the tracks are made in different styles: jazz, kraut-rock, hip-hop, post-punk and others. At the same time, “Sorrow” EP is more about new wave and raw-synth. The problem that I encounter quite often while creating music is to put together very different songs for a single release. This issue is the result of the amount and variety of music I have listened to throughout my life. After finishing “Kombinezon” album I have realised that its sluggish sound reminds me of Connan Mockasin’s “Jassbusters” in some way. Odesa’s electronic scene influenced me a lot in a sense of understanding music and performing live. I’m glad to be a part of a community that includes such artists as Mlin Patz, Bryozone, Sasha meets Vova, Potreba, Hateyouall, Fleischesmarkt, Emil Asadov, Potreba, Undo Despot, xraketa, essentialmiks and many others. Thanks to Worn Pop and 20ft Radio, I also got a great concert and DJ experience while living in Kyiv.
What is your current studio setup, should you have one considering the circumstances you are currently living under?
Usually, my studio is located in a place where I live. It consists of my live setup (korg electribe sampler, Roland SP-404a, boss RC-202 looper, vocal processor and mic), monitors, computer, guitar, clarinet, turntable and some synths. A month before the full-scale war I moved to a new apartment, but still haven’t brought all the stuff here due to lack of space and other reasons. I will finish this process a bit later, but for now my “studio” is located in the hallway where I sit on pillows and mess around with SP-404a. The hallway is considered as a relatively safe place when there is a missile threat, so when the air raid alarm sounds, the sampler is already waiting for me there.
You’ve detailed the impact war has been having on you in the liner notes to your latest album Kombinezon, so instead of asking you to further elaborate, I’ll just quote from them in full, if I may.
I am currently staying in Odesa, my hometown. The general spectrum of emotions when a full-scale war intervenes in your life (in general it lasts 8 years) is approximately as follows: disorientation, anxiety, paranoia, stress, anger, hatred and alternation of despair and hope – and this in a relatively “calm” environment. It is interesting to understand that these emotional waves can be synchronized in a nation of 46 million.
Sometime on the third or fourth day of the war, my girlfriend Diana and I moved in with friends, and we have been living in the commune of five people for more than a month, so it’s calmer and easier to cooperate. I managed to relax and rest my head for the first time on the ninth day. The first 2 weeks were more active in terms of volunteering, but now I have returned to work and even create music. The rest of our team also focused on their work: they continue to volunteer, work as fixers with foreign journalists, just help other people, and so on. Many of my friends have gone either abroad or to the west of Ukraine – they are also trying to do something from there. About a week before the escalation, Diana and I were interviewed by a German journalist about how we felt and what we would do if the war became more active. We replied that it is difficult to predict, but we do not want to leave the country and will somehow cooperate with friends. We did not lie, as it turned out.
You’ve also explained in the linear notes why you’ve chosen to only use the Ukrainian language for artistic purposes. Again, I’ll quote in full.
It is difficult to look at what is happening to Ukraine and to our people.
I lived in Kyiv for two and a half years of my life. During this period, I decided to abandon the use of russian language in art – this is despite the fact that russian is the first language in which I learned to speak and read. This is both a political and aesthetic decision:
1. My position is that Ukrainian culture should be created in the Ukrainian language
2. The probability of getting on some playlist called “best new russian music” (even purely because of the language) causes disgust, because I do not want to be associated with anything russian.
3. the Ukrainian language – the way it is arranged syntactically and phonetically – is a very convenient and flexible tool for music and poetry.
One of the most popular themes in Ukrainian contemporary art is historical memory and local contexts. Odesa is well known abroad, there are many myths, stereotypes, songs, poems, novels etc about it. At the same time, it is also integrated into the all-Ukrainian and Ukrainian-speaking contexts, but relatively weakly – despite the national and cultural diversity, the russian imperial narrative has been dominant here for a long time.
Today, Ukrainian culture is once again suffering losses from russian weapons. In the songs Pa and Yasne Mi, I used excerpts from poems by Mykola Bazhan and Maik Yohansen, representatives of the modernist generation of artists of the 1920s known as the “Executed Renaissance”. I often think about the fate of this generation. The lives of thousands of talented people have been ruined and their legacy – a huge layer of art – isolated from the world for half a century. This fact confuses me since school. Such incidents have no right to be repeated – however, on March 9, a russian shell damaged the “Slovo” house in Kharkiv, where the above-mentioned authors actually lived.
Well, I have also written a lot of songs in russian while being a Ukrainian musician. I think that it’s each artists’s personal decision what language(s) to use in his/her work. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of Andrey Kurkov’s books (by the way one of the recent ones was written in Ukrainian). There is an idea that post soviet countries should take away from russia its monopoly on russian language, similarly to what happened to English or Spanish. I don’t think it’s an option in case of russian language. Sadly, russia always uses its language as a tool in its imperialist expansion, e.g by claiming that they are “protecting the russian speaking population of Donbas” while destroying that region for 8 years and then starting a full scale war against Ukraine. Total russification has always been an integral part of russian politics for controlled areas during at least past 150 years.
Just out of curiosity, in terms of Odesa and the coastal buildings you filmed last year, I assume that stretch of the coast is no longer accessible?
The coast that I have filmed is already a sort of private territory that is pretty easy to access though. But yes, as long as there are still missiles and landing threats from russian fleet in the Black Sea, the beaches are mined and strictly not recommended to visit.
Could you describe a typical day for you in Odesa at present, if there is any such thing?
Currently, my daily routine is almost the same as it used to be before the 24th of February: I wake up, have breakfast, work till 6 pm, go out for a coffee or lunch or beer or walk with someone or on my own, then I come back home and do average stuff. All of the above is supported by checking the news feed and social media. Of course, the thought that the war is still going on doesn’t fade away. However, between the 2nd and 9th of May, the period was a bit more anxious and paranoid, due to the record numbers of air raid alarms and airstrikes in Odesa. On weekends, I like visiting the local flea market in Moldovanka area. Also, recently I have produced a couple of tracks for my friend’s upcoming punk project.
Is there a film / novel / podcast / series / artwork / radio show that best captures Ukraine for you?
I would recommend the short film “Enter Through the Balcony” that is available on Takflix, a platform where you can legally watch Ukrainian cinema, both classical and modern. I guess, this short film can show you around our country a bit. Then, if you want to go deeper, you may check on that same website such movies as: “Atlantis”, “Volcano”, “A Prayer for Hetman Mazepa”, “New Jerusalem” and many others.
For reading, I would recommend “A Sentimental Tale” by Mykola Khvylovy. I can’t say that it captures Ukraine globally, but it’s a good piece of literature.
MAY 13 2022 – INTERNALLY DISPLACED
Roman Kurhan – Monotronique
Hi everyone! I was born and raised in Kharkiv, Ukraine. I started my carrier as a hip-hop producer in 2013, then stepped into electronic production. My first EP came out in 2015. I subsequently released on Opal Tapes, Hyperboloid Records and Branch Points. I took part in compilations by Holding Hands, Shall Not Fade, Banoffee Pies and Shared Meanings by Mumdance. My latest release is on legendary Livity Sound.
My music background is very eclectic, as one can hear in my productions and especially in my DJ sets. In my childhood I listened a lot of Hip Hop, Hard House, Euro House as well as pop music of course. Later, I started to listen to UKG, Drum and Bass. In my teenage years I listened to a lot of radio stations with worldwide radio shows + Hip Hop and Trip Hop. So yeah… it was always everything in between.
What is your current set-up and what aspect would you say is most important to your sound?
Hahahah, you’ll laugh at this. All my setup from my very beginnings to date has been my old 2GB RAM laptop 🙂 I only have a AKAI MPK Mini, but I just used it for half-year I believe. Not because I don’t like physical synths and stuff. I did make a couple of tracks with some stuff from Korg and Doepfer (it was never released btw), but I don’t know, I just feel comfortable with my FL Studio and laptop. What’s really important – that’s monitors. The studio where I currently mix tracks has Genelec – one of my favourite monitors, definitely my kind of sound in it.
In the case of my sound, like most of the reviews say about my music it’s minimalistic, so yeah… I think minimalism is the main key of my production. Also the main feature in my sound is that it’s very bass influenced, because my main electronic background is bass music obviously.
How would you describe the electronic scene in Kharkiv and are there any distinctive features about it when compared to Kyiv or Odesa for example?
The Kharkiv electronic scene is really warm-hearted, in my opinion. Our scene is more about unity. For example when we had the first lockdown in 2020, the local club Kultura Zvuku made a 36.6 live stream which was broadcasted for 36.6 hours. On this stream lots of residents and DJ’s from different crews payed. And we have a party called YAMA – a free party on Mondays, which works on the popularity of electronic music in a city. Same stuff with line-ups there. And that’s how the scene works here.
The main thing is that we have our own vision and take on the industry. For example we have a club called Zhivot – it’s the oldest club in the country, where I play as a resident. From 1998 to date it has been faithful to underground culture bringing top sound to the people. That’s what the true electronic scene spirit is.
Compared with Kyiv we also bring the culture to the youngsters. Younger audiences want to rave and want to start their carries as producers and DJs which is absolutely important. With Odesa we’ve got the same kinda vibe in terms of selecting artists. For example from time to time Kultura Zvuku (Kharkiv) and Port (Odesa) bring in the same headliner.
Are you still in Kharkiv and if so, what is the current situation on the ground?
Unfortunately my girlfriend and I decided to leave Kharkiv. But we hope to come back in June. My parents and grandma have remained there since the first day of the war. They don’t wanna leave their home, which is a typical situation here and I can understand their choice. Because that’s their home and their lives are there, plus granny is very old and that’s tough for her.
I believe it was for the best.
The war has had a particularly catastrophic impact on you hometown, what have your coping mechanisms been?
That’s an unimaginable struggle, honestly, when you realised that’s all happening for real. It’s painful to see the streets where you walk, talk, chill, drink, eat, meet your friends, reduced to such conditions. But every day and night we stay strong and every day we closer and closer to victory!
Can one ever grow used to alarm sirens and how would you say the concepts of space and time have changed, if at all, for you since the war started?
That’s an interesting question, and honestly I don’t know how to answer it. You just try to adapt to situations. For example, during the first days when I was in Kharkiv, me and some guys were unloading milk from a car when a Russian plane flew just above us after dropping a bomb on a nearby neighbourhood. You just really need to stay strong and pull yourself together, cause that’s the situation.
With Kharkiv being so close to the border, did you and / or your friends and family have close ties with your Russian neighbours?
Not sure about close ties, honestly. And we don’t need any “Russian peace” or “Russian world” here. Every city of Ukraine is a Ukrainian city. Period.
You’ve released your EP No Other Place Like Home back in April. How difficult do you find it to listen to music and to produce new tracks at present, and how would you say the experience of war has altered your sound, if at all?
Fortunately, I had finished my new material just before the war. So when the war started I just took all of my music with me. I think after a couple of weeks I realised I needed to start releasing some music. I just thought, “Why do I need to keep it, if there’s a possibility I’m gonna die tomorrow for example?”, so the answer in my head was absolutely clear.
Also, releasing music and taking part in compilations is an opportunity for me to help my country. And that’s the best thing I can do right now.
How would you say the international music community has responded to the Russian invasion?
Many people from the industry supported Ukraine. Big thank you to them. And many producers and labels made charity compilations and releases, which has absolutely helped, not least psychologically.
Are you able to think about the future?
Yeah. I think Ukraine and Kharkiv will shine once more. Even more so than before. There’s no question about that.
Finally, could you recommend a film / book / work of art / podcast / blog / tv series / app that best captures Ukraine for you?
Sure! I just picked some of my favs: Film – Homeward (Додому) – dir. Nariman Aliev 2019; Atlantis (Атлантида) – dir. Valentyn Vasyanovych 2019; The Tribe (Плем’я) – dir. Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi 2014.
Book – I am (Romance) (Я, Романтика) by Mykola Khvylovy.
Work of Art – Mariya Oksentiyivna Prymachenko, if you are looking for the classic. But we have a lot of contemporary artists like Nikita Kadan, Danyl Rachinskyi, Nikita Laptinov and Victoria Orlova aka Smotri.
Podcast – Mincultpryvit by Nariman Aliev.
Blog – Anton Somewhere by Anton Ptushkin.
TV Series – Перші Ластівки (First Letters) Season 1 by Gregory Grishaev and Valentyn Shpakov
MAY 16 2022 – PRYLUKY
Oleh Puzan – Dronny Darko
I started listening to music from my very early years since my father likes music a lot and knows much about it as well. Even from a very young age I had tapes of different bands like Pink Floyd, Scorpions, Rainbow, etc. My dad was always introducing new stuff to me and wanted me to enjoy and love music the same way I think. So I started as a metalhead then slowly added synthetic electronic music to my list. Been a huge fan of mathcore and breakcore for most of my teenage years. I really enjoyed complex tunes that fascinated the mind and the imagination. Then I got more and more into electronic side of things with me playing in a band on keyboards and essentially doing everything that doesn’t sound like a real instrument. That got me fascinated in sound design and slowly but surely I got into more abstract electronics which really fulled my mind towards what I do now.
What is your studio setup and what aspect of music would you say is most important to your sound?
I barely have any setup. I’m using an iMac with Ableton Live 11 and a Novation midi controller as well as a pair of Sennheiser HD650. I’m very minimal towards gear and I must say I’m mostly a digital guy. I would love to obtain some gear and play around with it someday but for now I definitely feel much more inspired with my current setup. The most important aspect to any sound is how you approach it and why you do it. Everything goes from there.
How would you describe the drone and dark ambient scene in Kyiv and Ukraine?
It’s pretty great, I think. We have a lot of interesting experimental acts and the shows are pretty fantastic too. With huge wall of sound and stuff. Would love the gigs to get going again. It’s been a while since there was a proper event taking place since the covid took over.
You have been separated from Sasha since your family fled Kyiv at the beginning of the war. How have you been dealing with the enforced separation, especially considering you have a young child?
It’s been weird for sure. I definitely miss them a lot, but knowing they are safe makes it a lot easier. We have some plans to meet though. I’m currently with my dad at our hometown and it’s pretty safe here for now at least. I mean it’s not like in the beginning of the war when everyone was confused and didn’t know what to do. It’s pretty straightforward now and much less confusion. My family has been taking good care of in Poland and I would very much like to join them and continue our lives there, but unfortunately I can’t leave the country as you might already know [under martial law, men aged 18- 60 are not allowed to leave the country].
Are you currently back in Kyiv or are you internally displaced? And could you describe a typical day for you at present, if there is any such thing?
I’m with my dad at my hometown Pryluky. We used to live in the western part of the country for a month and then decided to comeback since the situation became a bit clearer and there was no point to stay there for longer.
As I’ve been working from home since the covid hit – I continue to do so. Also helping my dad with the house renovations, going to the gym, running, donating to our boys and girls that are fighting against russia and helping the country in other random ways. Also constantly having calls with my family.
With the threat of a nuclear attack and the danger faced by nuclear plants in Ukraine, your album Radioactive Immersion sounds eerily ominous. How has or how will the direct experience of war influence your work and your sound?
Yeah that one turned out pretty sick as the war unfolded here. Well, I doubt it influenced my sound much. I don’t think I feel inspired to create another war themed album or something. It’s a pretty dark feeling when you actually live it yourself. We saw death while driving to the border. I felt fear. This feeling does not bring inspiration. Such things can never serve as one.
Would you say the experience of Maidan and of the ongoing war in Donbas from 2014 prepared the music community in their response to the invasion, and on a personal level what has been the impact of those events on you?
Music wise I already changed a few things from 2014 when russia took part of the country already that year. I will just continue to not accept any collaborations connected to russians and any art related to this parody of a country would be sabotaged by me as soon as I get a chance.
There have been many fundraising compilations released since the 24th of February, including Liberty out on Flaming Pines where you contributed a track together with protoU. How would you say the international music community has reacted to the Russian invasion?
It’s cool how compilations and fundraisers like that began to emerge after the war started. I think it really helps our boys and girls a lot. It’s just another medium through which people are getting to know that russia is a country that supports terrorism and it must be sabotaged in every way possible. Art was always against wars and the kind of stuff going on today in my country. It’s definitely good to let people know what their face truly is.
In the linear notes for your album collaborative album The Sea of Potentials you write, “In the darkest places, there’s always a light,” can you see a light in the present situation and what are your thoughts about the future?
Oh I definitely see the light. I tend to do it in every situation in life. I’m a very positive person probably despite a popular belief from the kind of music I make as Dronny Darko. The future holds one thing only and I bet everybody knows what it is. There were many attempts of defeating us throughout history but we fought back and all of those pathetic aggressions didn’t end well. This one won’t either. I hope Moscow will be bursting in flames once we kick the bastards out of our land.
Finally, could you recommend a film / book / work of art / podcast / blog / tv series that best captures Ukraine for you?
I think the best way to know our culture is to see the works of Maria Oksentiyivna Prymachenko. Her vision captured what our soul really looks like. And also taste our food. Oh god I’m telling you our cuisine is the best in the world 🙂
MAY 17 2022 – KARKHIV
Ruslana Hnatchenko spokeperson for SPHERE
NGO Women Association Sphere is a feminist and LGBTQI+ organisation based in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Sphere has been working in the field of human rights for women and LGBTQI+ people since 2008. Sphere conducts educational events, film screenings and actions in defence of the rights of LGBTQI+ people and women in Kharkiv; the Sphere team acts as experts in matters of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity at national and international conferences, discussions, round tables; Sphere members regularly take part in national and international LGBTQI+ events and openly position ourselves as a lesbian-feminist organisation, the only one in Kharkiv.
Sphere has 3 main long-term projects – Women’s Solidarity Weeks, community centre PrideHub and KharkivPride, the biggest and the most visible LGBTQI+ event in east Ukraine.
Sphere was founded in 2006 with official registration coming into place in 2008. What are the main changes you have witnessed over the years both in terms of feminist issues and lesbian visibility in Kharkiv and Ukraine?
Both movements grew significantly in Ukraine, though there is still much room for visibility and agency improvement. The most significant changes have happened after the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. It was a shift in values for the society and for the political elites. With EU integration intensifying, more and more people became vocal about their support of human right movements, feminist and LGBTQI+ movements in particular. Active groups such as Sphere and others across Ukraine became more confident in organising very public events like Prides and Marches.
However, there has been and still is some opposition to those movements, mostly from the far-right movements. Before the war, we have experienced attacks on individual activists and our community centre. Nevertheless, we remain hopeful that with our victory in this war, we will be able to find some common ground and live peacefully together!
An exact number and location of our activists in Kharkiv I can’t disclose for security reasons as the situation can still change. But overall, we have people on the ground, including our Program Director Anna, who organises performances even now (you can look them up on our KharkivPride Instagram).
It was a challenging time for Sphere, just as it was for many other NGOs in Ukraine. We are now scattered across Ukraine and beyond and most haven’t seen each other for months. This is affecting our work because we are used to seeing each other often, we are a very close team. People experience burnout and mental issues more often, but we have psychological consultations set up for those who need it. Overall, it has been difficult but we are motivated to keep on working for the benefit of our beneficiaries – women and the LGBTQI+ community!
Those needs can be generally placed in 3 categories – social, mental and physical. Social needs include socialisation at their places of resettlement, reconnecting with the community and opening up about their identities. Mental are mostly about coping with the war and its consequences, in all senses. On national and personal levels. And physical are lack of financial resources, comfortable accommodation, not being able to see their loved ones etc.
The members of your team and your volunteers participate in humanitarian aid efforts on the ground. Could you give an idea of the main areas you operate in and organisations you work with?
We have provided direct financial aid covering basic needs such as food, hygienic products, medicine, transport etc. Up to this date, our support has amounted to approximately 35 000 USD and helped over 450 people. We have limited humanitarian efforts in terms of giving actual physical packages rather than allocating funds due to the security situation that didn’t improve in Kharkiv until recently. At the moment, as the situation is getting better, we are considering expanding our work on the ground in Kharkiv.
Do you have an estimate of the number of women currently serving in the armed forces?
We do not have that estimate. I believe you can look it up on the official website of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. [The precise number of women in the Ukrainian military is not currently available for security reasons, but according to a report from March 2021 by ArmyInform, an information agency for the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the number totalled 31,757 (i.e. 15.6 percent of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.)]
The International LGBTQIA+ community has been very supportive of us and our cause. We receive lots of messages of support, offers for aid and help with relocation. We are also very grateful to all the donor organisations and funds who have been helping Sphere and other LGBTQIA+ organisations in Ukraine, your support is invaluable!
And how would you qualify the response of the international feminist community?
We have been supported directly by the Polish feminist community with funding and by the Lithuanian community with sexual assault kits and contraceptives. On the broad community level, we have witnessed multiple actions of women’s support and solidarity, which are very important for us.
At the moment, we have not been able to specifically track individual feminist voices that support us due to a lot of work and stress we have been experiencing. However, we have experienced great community support for us! We hope that after our victory we will be able to reflect on this experience within the feminist community altogether.
Regarding speaking together with russian and Belarusian feminists, the calls for us to do it together have always been there. In general, in the feminist movement, there has always been a need to ‘add’ someone who could ‘highlight’ your voice. Such as we were often forced to bring men into the discussions and give them the ultimate space to speak out, a similar situation is taking place with russian and Belarusian feminist taking over talks about Ukraine. The russian troops are raping Ukrainians and the russian ideology and worldview are toxic. Thus, it is extremely hard for us to share events and be in the same space. And we are very sorry that some of the organisers of the events still can’t understand that.
MAY 18 2022 – KYIV
Oleksandr Filonenko – Monoconda
Hello. I’m Oleksandr Filonenko. A music composer, a sound producer, working under the moniker Monoconda. I’m a self-trained multi-instrumentalist with about 15 years of experience in music production. I started with a guitar and then mastered many other things like bass, keys, drums, synths, recording techniques. I do bespoke music for commercials, theatre, movies. I perform live as Monoconda where I put all my experience on stage.
What is your current studio and live setup and what aspect of music would you say is most important to your sound?
My studio setup for now is an Antelope Discrete 8 sound card, Dynaudio BM6 monitors, three Moogs (DFAM, Little Phatty, Sirin), my Rickenbacker 330 guitar and a Fender Precision American Deluxe bass. I do everything in Ableton Live so I got Ableton Push 2. Also an SL99 Studio keyboard by Studiologic and loads of digital stuff, that is getting better every year. Like Arturia V Collection, Addictive Drums, Soundtoys, Plugin Alliance and so on.
For my live setup I use Ableton Push, Moog DFAM and a guitar with a couple pedal effects. All the rest goes to playback and is being affected with Push on the go. But it’s changing all the time. A year ago I played dawless with a bunch of Elektron machines and hardware effects.
Music is an explorational journey and a research for me. I love the process much more than the result that can occur. And this, actually, is what defines my sound the most. The desire to experiment and find something new. so I wouldn’t get bored of myself, so the people wouldn’t. I’ve always been in love with Moog synths, so they also impact my sound in a way. I made my recent release using just 3 of them.
How would you describe the electronic scene in Kyiv and Ukraine and would you say it is well represented and catered for both in terms of labels and clubs?
RIght now, when the war is going on, it brings so many additional senses to our tracks and releases. I feel like each one of us has grown up. Like childhood has suddenly ended for all of us. Even before that mess you could easily make a festival with local acts only and it’d be quite a happening and an experience. And now we definitely have more power. For sure, we all need better artist management, money and awareness than we currently have but that will inevitably happen as we grow up as a community and a cultural society, so let’s be patient.
You produced your new album Identity just before the war and it has now come out on Vera Logdanidi label Kashtan. Your statement in the liner notice is powerful.
How would you say the war has affected your own sense of Identity and has it changed your perception of time and space? Also, could you describe a typical day for you at present, if there is any such thing?
Speaking of an Identity, I couldn’t have said it better than I’ve done in my album’s press-release. One of the things I forgot to mention — is that I now speak Ukrainian most of my time. And like 80% of my friends do. In Kyiv we mostly spoke Russian before the war because that’s what Russians were trying to do for years — to erase our identity. And identity starts with a word, with a language you speak, the books you read at school and so on. Now I often catch myself even thinking Ukrainian and I like it.
Also, I now have a more complete understanding of what my home is, after I was absent for two months. These are the things that define a social human-being, I guess. As I’m in Kyiv at the moment and it’s relatively safe here — my typical day is more like the times before the war. I have breakfast and go create some stuff till I’m tired. Taking an air-raid siren break from time to time. And I had my first live performance since the invasion. It happened at an event called “Art is a weapon” where we raised some pots of dough for the army. That was massive and emotional.
What you say about the language is echoed by others I have spoken to.
Putin has made Ukraine way more Ukrainian than it was before.
In terms of the perception of space and time, I have heard people in Ukraine describing living in a state of “extreme present” and never talking about the past. Thankfully not many of us have a direct experience of war, the only approximation has perhaps been throughout the pandemic and lockdown. Granted that the reality of war is hardly even imaginable for those of us who haven’t lived through it, are the two experiences in any way comparable in terms of psychological impact purely in the way one may perceive both space and time?
I don’t think we can compare. Because the virus hasn’t been stealing our washing machines like Russians do. If you know what I mean. The virus didn’t rape our children and women. The virus is not evil by its nature, it’s part of life on Earth, whether we like it or not. So you don’t see and feel this enormous amount of anger and hatred every day from all around. That’s the principal difference for me. But at the same time, I’ve seen even bigger amounts of kindness, glory and mercy. And I have just learnt that Apocalypse means revelation and disclosure, but not the end of the world. So here it is.
You have been making music for commercials, theatre and public places. Have you still been able to work under the current circumstances and would you say the experience of war has had an impact on the way you consider sound?
Well, I had a job all the time since Russia hit us. It wasn’t the amount I got used to, but that kept me running things. I did a couple of jobs for our army, mixed and mastered an album, did a couple commercials for foreign clients. Besides all that, I’ve recorded my first song in Ukrainian with Sasha Chemerov, made an EP with my friend Koloah, released my own record on Kashtan and I continue. For me it’s very important to keep going no matter what. That’s also about Identity, I guess. Speaking of sound — It wasn’t the war that affected my sound, but the Antelope Audio and my new Moog DFAM, I bought some few months before.
Well, the support is really huge. Even Bono has played in our subway. Many artists around the globe have said and made quite a lot. Would love to see some support from the Russian electronic scene but I don’t. They’re being ignorant and afraid, I guess. Will keep that in mind for the future. We’ve won the Eurovision recently. I don’t respect this contest too much like any music contest, actually, cause there’s nothing to compete about, but it shows the unity of the musical and political community.
Are you able to think about the future?
Good one. Let’s say, not that far. Russians hit us with 10-15 missiles on a daily basis. Once the rocket hit a building 800 meters from my home. So we have a bit of a different perception of time and space at the moment. I’m trying to get used to it, to continue my way, to find some more ways to make money with music for a living. Things were going pretty good before the war, I started a new musical business, got my favourite job as a composer, recorded choirs and orchestras, made cool things happen. Miss all that too much, hoping for better times to come. Learning to survive harsh ones.
Finally, could you recommend a film / book / work of art / podcast / blog / tv series that best captures Ukraine for you?
The movie — Stop Zemlia by Kateryna Gornostay.
The podcast — АШОШ by Oleh Shpudeiko (Heinali) and Oleksii Shmurak
The book I’m reading now is Ethics by Aristotle. It’s not that much about Ukraine, but in the end it’s about all of us and everything inside us.
MAY 18 2022 – Dnipro and Uzhhorod
Eugene Gordeev and Eugene Kasian – Kurs Valüt
KV: There two of us in Kurs Valüt: Eugene Gordeev, main music and lyrics, and Eugene Kasian, music and sound engineer on live shows. We met at the Module club in Dnipro.
When we formed Kurs Valüt, Gordeev had been living in Dnipro for 2 years after moving from Donbas in 2014. When the Module club opened, Gordeev played there with his Ksztalt project at the art festival Construction becoming part of the Module club community.
Eugene Kasian was an art-director of Module and before then he was known in Dnipro as a drum’n’bass DJ and organizer of d’n’b parties.
What is your current studio configuration and live setup and what aspect of music would you say is most important to your sound?
KV: We use Ableton as a main DAW with one additional VST synth: Arturia Analog Lab. For the live shows we want to avoid computers so the live setup is a combination of Akai MPC 2500+Micro Korg synthesizer+voice and sometimes one more voice+vocoder. The most important thing for us is to keep the sound minimalistic and punchy, which works best on dance-floors.
The experimental scene in Dnipro comprises bands like Gamardah Fungus and DZ’OB, labels such as Dnipropop and clubs like Module. Would you say there is a specific “Dnipro sound” and how does the experimental music scene in your hometown compare to that of the rest of the country?
KV: Yes, of course, the above projects have earned the right to be considered as the core sound of the city. About Dnipropop: what was created as a genre-oriented (minimal wave and conceptual techno) label, from the very first release turned into something bigger, just like a “marriage registration” for the Dnipro electronic music fans and creators. Risk-taking and healthy non-commercial snobbery are valued. This story is definitely not about pandering to the commercial market. Also, the number of received demo-tracks is impressive. It comes from the desire to join a noble adventure.
Gordeev: All stories are unique and they change dynamically. Globally, everything can be divided into a combat zone, a front-line zone (which is the whole Ukraine at the moment) and emigration. My relatives who’ve fled the country are currently well. And we should thank our European partners for this.
As for us, we stayed in Ukraine, and this can be described as an emotional rollercoaster caused by separation, depression, experiencing the deaths of both individuals and entire cities, and bursts of joy over saved friends. While I am writing these lines, I am anxious, because there is a chance we could be reunited with loved ones who have escaped from real hell.
Kasian: My life fits in a backpack now, part of my family is still in Dnipro, and part is abroad. During this war period I changed 4 cities and it now seems like I have finally found a safe place to stay, at least for time being. For me, the main impact was the feeling of nullification, like you are in a state of free fall and weightlessness for a while and you need to regroup quickly in order to land on your feet. War is a hard test on the ability for every day self-actualization, an opportunity to check how valuable is your social netwrok and what you can do for others, and check your adaptiveness to new life scenarios and psychological stability in general.
Are you still in Dnipro and if so, what is the current situation on the ground and could you describe a typical day for you, if there’s any such thing?
Gordeev: Yes, I am in Dnipro. Anything can happen during the day here: volunteering, charity music, live shows, interviews with foreign media or nothing happens, or anxiety, or just calmness. Resources that are allocated for creativity are critically small, nevertheless there are some.
Kasian: I am in Uzhhorod at present. It is very close to the European border and probably the safest place in Ukraine right now. The city is untouched, there is no curfew, only sirens from time to time, but not a lot in comparison to other regions. It was very unusual to find a place in Ukraine which was still peaceful and where life carried on almost as normal and this became a healing factor for me.
My day can be in general described as volunteering for the first part of the day and networking and city research for the rest of the day.
KV: Siren sounds magnificent. Audiophiles are almost unanimous in this opinion, but it is difficult to get used to the reason behind these alerts.
The experience of living life now is so deep and meaningful that the perception of time, space and yourself changes day by day.
You have both been volunteering, what are the main areas you have been involved in and what are the most pressing concerns at present in your city and region?
Gordeev: Collecting donations, purchasing equipment, sending food and medicines, shipment of resources between the West of Ukraine and the front, editing material for the media.
Kasian: Apart from the above, I am also volunteering in a cafe for refugees washing dishes. We feed 4,000 people every day for free. Recently I started again to organize music events where we play synth music jams and collect donations for the army. The main issue for this region now is overpopulation, but I would not consider this as a problem, it’s just an unusual thing for this very quiet city.
KV: The news feed is literally outside the window. There is nothing that local baristas or front-line soldiers do not know. In terms of online news the main source comes from Telegram messenger.
How difficult is it for you to listen to and produce music at present?
Gordeev: I want to listen to and create music that gives energy both to the listener and the composer. The energy of the will to live. It’s difficult, but possible.
Kasian: Until last week it was impossible for me to work with music, I used to try a few times with weak intentions and practically zero results, my attention was focused elsewhere. Recently, I started listening to music again and I now continue with my mixing-mastering work, as this is my main source of financial income to cover rent and daily expenses.
KV: A lot of people from abroad are supporting us with money for our “Module” civil defenders squad and with kind words and this support is ultimate. It inspires and keeps us motivated to carry on doing what we are doing right now. We are very grateful for this to our friends and fans. We even got emotional when we saw the return of Portishead to the scene and the themed t-shirt on Geoff Barrow.
Are you able to think about the future?
Gordeev: It is painful but necessary.
Kasian: I can only plan for the immediate future, and dream about the rest.
Finally, could you recommend a film / book / work of art / podcast / blog / tv series / app that best captures Ukraine for you?
KV: This quote of Hryhoriy Skovoroda (1722-1794) captures Ukraine for us in the best way: “To Every City Its Customs & Laws.”
MAY 23 2022 – LVIV
Oleksii Badin – DZ’OB
My name is Oleksii Badin, I am the founder and the DZ’OB ideologist. I have a master’s degree in music and mathematics and theoretical mechanics. That probably affected my music and creative approach. From an early age, I had access to my grandfather’s nice selection of vinyl, mostly jazz and classical. Also, a significant impact on the forming of my musical taste was electronic raves in different abandoned places around the Dnipro – plants, bomb shelters (who could even imagine those days that in 20 years they will be used as intended), etc. So all that incompatible mix somehow transformed, digested, and germinated into the DZ’OB ensemble.
Almost all other members of the ensemble also have a master’s degree in music and work in Dnipro Philharmonic.
You draw from a wide range of influences from classical music to Aphex Twin mixing classical instruments with electronics. At the same time, you place great emphasis on collaborations with “deconstructions” by the likes of Ujif_notfound and Stanislav Tolkachev amongst others, being an important part of your musical practice. Could you describe the compositional process and how you generally put together an album?
There is no typical compositional process or creative method (unfortunately). All compositions are started from sketches or ideas. It could be some electronic pattern or some motif or rhythm. After that, a long journey of experiments is started. It is quite easy to create some draft motif, phrase, or pattern, and a real challenge to create a final piece. Probably perfectionism is among the biggest enemies in this process. As a rule, some absolutely different bits of music in different styles are combined and sometimes it is quite hard to make them get along well, seamless or not fall into kitsch. Production of one composition can take months – composing electronic parts, creating partiture for the acoustic instruments, rehearsals with some updates to the electronic or acoustic parts, recordings with some updates to the electronic or acoustic, post-production with… OK you’ve got it. But after receiving plenty of pain you decided to put a full stop.
How would you describe the electroacoustic and experimental scene in Dnipro and Ukraine in general and how would you say it compares to that of neighbouring countries?
It is hard to compare the experimental scene in Ukraine with other neighboring countries because I don’t know deep what is going on there but in the last eight years in Ukraine, a lot of new musical projects appeared. Dnipro is not an exception – some quite interesting jazz composers, indie artists, and experimental musicians.
What has the impact of the war been on you all?
The war started in 2014 after russia annexed Crimea and the so-called DNR [Donetsk People’s Republic] and LNR [Luhansk People’s Republic] were claimed. All these tragic events affected the huge growth in all spheres of culture. The exigency in self-identification and authenticity was blurred by the soviet occupation of Ukraine, building the new senses and finding rethinking cultural heritage brings all those new voices in the music scene.
You have released Deconstruction back in 2020. Do you have any plans on releasing any new material in the near future or is everything on standby for the time being?
Currently, I’m working on the post-production of the new album. This has been in progress since 2019 with different levels of intensity. Hope it will be released by the end of the year or in early 2023.
This album started as music for the silent movie “The sketch of the soviet city” which was filmed in 1929 as propaganda of the soviet regime and “the great life of the workers and farmers” in soviet Ukraine. In this movie mostly the Kharkiv is filmed – the city that was badly damaged by the shelling and bombings in the last months.
Another important thing is that soviet propaganda depicted Ukraine as an agricultural country with primitive culture, so-called sharovarshina (Ukrainian national pants) and in parallel destroyed the real culture, russiffied a huge number of the Ukrainians and killed prominent cultural figures.
Our music evolved a lot from silent movie music to an independent music piece. We reflected and re-thought that process and tried to create another dimension of that narrative, and draw parallels with today’s events.
Considering first the pandemic and now the war, when was the last time you played live, and can you envisage a time when you’ll be able to give live concerts again?
The last time we played at the Lviv MozArt last year was in August. That was our last big concert.
Finally, could you recommend a film / book /work of art / podcast / blog / tv series / app that best captures Ukraine for you?
Ukrainer – a media project aimed toward advocates of intellectual mass media, unexpected geographical discoveries, and multiculturalism in Ukraine.
It is hard to choose something particular because today there are so many Ukrainian writers, artists, composers, musicians that deserve attention. If you dig in some genre you’ll definitely find something interesting.
Like many, Dmitriy Avksentiev aka Koloah (Ukrainian Field Notes III) is now back in Kyiv and busy at work on his new live, an audiovisual project on the impact of war in Ukraine, he’s hoping to present it at Nuits Sonores, should he get permission from the Ministry of Culture to cross the border, which is by no means guaranteed.
As a teaser he has produced a new video directed by Mykyta Bereg for Overlook, a track from his latest album Serenity released on April 1, 2022.
“The purpose of the video is to remind the world what horrors our country is living with right now. The longer this goes on, the less the international community pays attention to what is happening here. We need to show people in different ways over and over again how the ‘russian world’ is trying to destroy Ukraine” – he told DTF Magazine.
“This is not pretty music because the circumstances are not pretty and this is not easy music because times are difficult. But it is music full of emotion because these trying times demand it and each part was created from the heart because others need us.
It is our response to aggression with which we do not agree.
It’s our protest against the animalistic urges, for which there is neither place nor consent in the 21st century.”
Green Fairy Records, the Polish label home for contemporary electronic music with a taste for using unobvious instruments has released one of the best fundraising compilations for those willing to be stimulated.
Combining noise and randomness, textures and chaos, left field sound improv and fragments of field recordings, spoken poetry and sonic musings, ominous beats, feedback and samples, plaintive melodies and warning sirens in 38 tracks ranging from 1’23” to over 10 minutes. Proceeds go to UNICEF UKRAINE. A studiously curated album lovingly put together down to the cover art based on “Cityscape. Kiev.” by Oleksandr Bogomazov (1880 – 1930).
We’re all shocked by the tragic events in Ukraine and, following a conversation with Tom from Good Weather for an Airstrike, decided to ask artists if they would be able to contribute a track for a compilation to support the war victims in Ukraine.
While this compilation is free, we’d like to encourage and invite you to give whatever you can.
All money goes to the Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal.”
A roll call of familiar names to ACL listeners, including machinefabriek, Aidan Baker, Yellow 6, Simon Scott, Kenneth Kirschner, Dirk Serries, and Library Tapes. From ambient to gentle beats this is a soothing and thought provoking compilation.
Drones for Peace Vol 1 and Vol 2
“Drones for Peace is a modular synth drone music showcase and fundraiser to help those affected by the war in Ukraine. Songs were submitted by artists from around the world and are spread across two volumes. All sales from Drones For Peace will be donated to humanitarian groups working to help the people of Ukraine.
Below are links to the organizations we suggest you consider donating to, alongside modular synth manufacturers that are donating sales. Sales from the album will be donated to Project C.U.R.E.“
(if you made a donation please visit our code generator to receive a free download coloradomodularsynthsociety.com/drones-for-peace-discount-code/ )
Modular Synth Companies donating sales: