Ukrainian Field Notes XI

Black Beast by Maryia Primachenko

For the current episode of Ukrainian Field Notes we speak to r.roo, who managed to reunite with his family in Germany, about the difficulty of making long term plans while Yuliia Vlaskina in Berlin talks to us about grief and putting things in perspective in the face of full scale war.

We also get acquainted with the bandura, a Ukrainian plucked string instrument combining elements of the zither and lute, courtesy of Volodymyr Voyt.

Back in Kyiv, Last Void Quarrel explains how war can take one by surprise even when one has been preparing for it, whereas Mark Golos explains Darkness Theory to us.

And finally, Cluster Lizard talk about burnout and Westerners misconceptions while Yakiv Tsvietinskyi discusses Ukrainian jazz.

In the updates section, Nina Eba gives us a new episode of her essential Air Raid Siren podcast. In terms of mix sets, the latest from система | system for Rinse FM takes us on a two hour ambient and experimental ride with Le Dessin Observé & Oleksii Makarenko; Macka gives a selection of Ukrainian jazz from the 60s and early 70s; Maryana Klochko delivers a special mix for DTF Magazine and Dick Jockey produces a UA War Mix.

On the fundraising compilation front, we’ve added a further 10+10 to the list, taking us comfortably well over the 100 mark, and that is mostly covering the ambient, electronic, noise, and experimental fields with occasional forays into metal and indie. We’ve not looked at more traditional genres, but to our knowledge this is the biggest display of solidarity we have seen from the international music community.

In the Art department, we’d like to highlight the work of Anton Shebetko who portrays the queer history of Ukraine with the show To Know Us Better on until 31 August at Foam in Amsterdam.

To round things off, in our Viewing Room we’ve included a teaser from Antonio Lukich‘s new film Luxembourg Luxembourg, premiering at the Venice Film Festival (31.08.22-10.09.22) with the main roles being played by Amil Nasirov and Ramil Nasirov from the band Kurgan & Agregat. Furthermore, we’ve embedded the 2014 documentary Prysmerk (with English subtitles) by Valentyn Vasyanovych, better known for his feature Atlantis, as well as an interview with Ivan Semesyuk and an episode of Ukrainian Palaces (The Golden Age: Izyaslav and Slavuta), where history researcher Akim Galimov‘s team recreate destroyed Ukrainian palaces in 3D. And thanks to Yakiv Tsvietinskyi’s suggestion we end with Yevhen Stankovych‘s Chamber Symphony n.3.

Happy reading, listening, and viewing. We’ll be back in September with more interviews and updates from Ukraine.

 

JULY 31 2022 – GERMANY

r.roo

Hello! My name is Andrii and music is my life’s work. I got into it in a simple way – thanks to my parents who sent me to music school when I was a child. I studied piano and quickly became interested in composing music. Around the 5th grade, I began to replay the sonatas and etudes that I learned in my own way.

After music school, I played in metal bands where I met Sith (Цепь Мандрагоры, Sorrow Leads to Salvation). He introduced me to the DAWs. We made a joint project (Sound Wave Pressure) where we wrote music for a few years. Then our paths diverged to solo projects.

What is your current studio setup?

Unfortunately, due to the war, I have problems with a normal studio. I have a small mixer ZMX862 and Beyerdynamic DT 990. So far without monitors.

How would you describe the electronic music scene in Kyiv and what makes it special?

This scene is very lively, impulsive. I have been out of it for the last few years, but until 2019 I can say with confidence that I felt the maximum devotion to music among my compatriots. I think that this is how it continued and continues to this day. I am sure that the war only strengthened the existential spirit of the Kyiv public.

As I understand you have been separated from your partner because of the invasion. How have you been dealing with this?

Yes, I did not see my wife and child for several months. I played with my son on the webcam, for example, inflated a balloon, then it deflated and flew away, and together we looked for it in the space of my room.

We remotely walked with my wife. We had an eventful family life through the monitor screen.

Where are you now and have you been displaced by the war at any point?


Now I am in Germany. Until mid-May, I was in Ukraine, but since my family was abroad, I could not stand it and, having found a way to get around the harsh military legislation for men, I followed my family. I left my country as a certified schizophrenic.

How would you say the war has affected you both in practical terms and what impact has it had on your mindset? 


The war has affected the fact that we can no longer make far-reaching plans. Before the war, we were looking for a house, we wanted to buy one near Kharkiv. We were going to live there, raise a family and do what we love. Now I can’t look further than a month ahead. Therefore, when the German teacher says that I will learn the language by next summer – for me it sounds amazingly unthinkable.

It is difficult for anyone who has not had any direct experience of war to comprehend the full magnitude of it. What would you say was something you had not been prepared for and how have you been able to adjust to the current situation?

The biggest difficulty was supporting my wife, as she is prone to depressive moods. That was the worst thing, when you realize that you are powerless to help, that you can only support with words and you fear the worst. But we made it. We’re holding on very tight.

How difficult have you found it to listen to new music since February 24 and to produce new material? And have you played live since?

I played once in an old German castle, but wanted to play much more for sure.

The war did not affect me personally in writing music. I am able to write music in any conditions. Only at the beginning there were problems – it was necessary to save my family first and foremost.

You’ve just released a new video by Skachkov of an old track of yours on your YouTube channel. Has the war made you reassess your output? Also, after making music for more than 10 years, when would you say you first had a real sense of having found your own voice and do you expect the war to change anything about your sound?

Nope, I didn’t re-evaluate my work.

We are now collaborating with Skachkov and he just wanted to make his own video interpretation for this track. He decided that the night time urban scenario was a good fit for the track to the ground. And I completely agree with him. So any coincidence is random.

Music, like any other skill, requires constant minting. From time to time you look back at the great masters who inspire you. But you are doing your own thing. I’ve always felt this way. Like a man perfecting his craft.

You have released three albums of remixes. Who would you like to remix next and who would you like to be remixed by?

Honestly, I never had a goal of remixing anyone or getting a remix from anyone. It just kind of happened naturally. I like to rethink other people’s material. It is interesting. But for now I need to create my own material. And now nobody asks me to do a remix so everything goes right.

You’ve also remixed Fire Walk With Me. Would Twin Peaks have been as influential with a different soundtrack?

Wait, but this is not a remix (fire walk with me). It’s just music about Twin Peaks. Free musical thinking about a subject. To be honest, I wrote this track for a compilation about Twin Peaks by Indie Rock Mag. Very large scale and strong VA, by the way.

Are you able to think of the future?


Yes, I often think about our future. But every time I stumble over the unstable world. I understand that in these conditions you need to be strong, flexible and ready for any turns. Therefore, you should not sit in one place for a long time.

Should Eurovision be held in Ukraine in 2023?

Nope.

What album / book / artwork / meme / podcast / location / building / dish best captures Ukraine for you?

Paintings by Ivan Marchuk
AШ/ОШ [podcast by Oleh Shpudeiko (Heinali) and Oleksii Shmurak]

Who should I interview next?

hspd 🙂

 

JULY 31 2022 – BERLIN

photo by Yuliia Vlaskina

YVsuper inter

My name is Yuliia Vlaskina, I am a Ukrainian music composer and producer. I use YV and super inter as stage names for live sets and releases.

I started singing in my childhood with my grandmother, added guitar to it in my teenage, wrote songs, played in bands. Around 2012 I switched to electronic music and since then have been composing, producing, and performing music on my own.

What is your current studio setup and what would you say is the most important feature of your sound?

During the first 4 months of the war, I only had my laptop. I bought the studio headphones in Warsaw, my friends in Berlin lent me a soundcard and a midi controller. With this setup, I played a few gigs.

Recently I got my musical stuff from home, but I am going to sell half of it, as I still practically don’t have an income, and also feel I don’t need this much gear anymore. My setup now consists of MacBook Pro with Ableton Live 10, NI Komplete and Soundtoys plugin bundles. Plus Ableton Push 2, NI Komplete Audio mkII, and Elektron Digitakt.

I believe, the most important feature of my sound is clarity.

photo by Yuliia Vlaskina

Who would you say taught you the most about music and has influenced the way you approach music production?

I consciously listened a lot to Dan Abrams (Shuttle358) trying to understand his production style.

I never tried to copy Vladislav Delay (though I admire his music and listened to it a lot), but I often find myself doing things in a similar to him.

I keep rediscovering Mika Vainio — as I grow personally, I find new depths and qualities in his explorations of the human soul and the world through sound.

And of course Autechre. They show me how to play with dimensions, and not to lose sight of what it is all about — freedom.

photo by Yuri Gryaznov (kiraigigs)

How would you describe the electronic music scene in Ukraine and what makes it special?

I was always amazed at how we arrive at similar things while starting from different points. As if the location actually has its vibrations, and we transcribe them.

I admire our electronic scene, it is authentic and open to newcomers, which keeps it fresh and empowers everyone as a result. Despite having no support from the government, during the last few years, there were quite a few grassroots initiatives that made a real difference. 20ft Radio, Pep Gaffe, Muscut Label, Otel’, Peauty Fute, Womens Sound, Rhythm Buro, Closer, and so many more.

Now there are volunteer headquarters at the club premises where we used to perform music and dance.

Where are you now and have you been displaced by the war at any point?

I am currently staying in Berlin. This is my third stop after Lutsk and Warsaw.

photo by Yuliia Vlaskina

It is difficult for anyone who has not had any direct experience of war to comprehend the full magnitude of it. What would you say was something you had not been prepared for and how have you been able to adjust to the current situation?

I simply did not know this kind of pain and grief before. I remember thinking to myself on one of the first nights spent in a bomb shelter, that there were times when a broken heart seemed to be the biggest tragedy. Now those experiences seem so small and far away in comparison. It was a forced growing up, with no chances to stay a little child refusing to do “adult” things and take responsibility for myself.

I adjusted by giving up the past and future, directing all my resources to proceed from one moment to the next, focusing on my breath, and being as caring and patient as I can with people, myself included. I still don’t feel that there is anything else other than this present moment we are having together, or I am having alone, maybe the last one.

photo by Yuliia Vlaskina

How would you say the war has affected you in practical terms and what impact has it had on your mindset?

There was an urgency for me to find ways to support myself and others in all possible ways. I felt that either I find and develop my strength now — or I perish to the unbearable tension and grief of this catastrophe.

I became very patient, compassionate, and more grounded, I guess. I don’t have time anymore to do or be involved in things that I don’t believe in.

Living beings are vulnerable, beautiful, and valuable. I am grateful to be able to feel and express myself, be it through beauty and love, or pain and sorrow.

photo by Yuliia Vlaskina

How difficult have you found it to listen to music since February 24 and to produce new material? Also, how does it feel to play live under current circumstances?

It was impossible during the first month, I couldn’t even remember how I actually did it, it felt too abstract.

After about two months since the war started, I could slowly begin to try to get back into it, as I had already spent some time in a safe place, without a need to constantly move from one place to the other. It felt like I never listened to music before, but I also felt the foundation of my previous experience of deep and attentive listening.

I often have a hard time getting into the mood for a live performance and tuning myself into that mindset, it still feels too abstract at times. But when the music works, I get lost in it and feel fulfilled.

I think the amplitude of my feelings expanded, and the unbearable grief on one side opened new highs for me — I might get blown away completely by the beauty I am able to recognise and experience. I guess this is how my psyche tries to balance itself.

photo by Yuliia Vlaskina

You have taken part in fundraising compilations and events. How do you feel about those in the West who are still reluctant to donate to the army or local volunteering groups on the ground and prefer giving money to Unicef or the Red Cross?

We have a lot of evidence showing how Unicef and the Red Cross do very controversial things, trying to keep their neutrality. It often looks like they even collaborate with russians more than with us. I personally don’t get the logic of collaboration with an aggressor.

What is happening in Ukraine is not a conflict or crisis — a gigantic terrorist state called russia ferociously attacks a peaceful country (and not for the first time). This is a war of aggression and, by helping both sides, Unicef and the Red Cross act at least suspiciously to me.

The very recent tragedy of the bombing of the former penal colony No. 120 in the town of Olenivka where about 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war (who were the Azovstal defenders) were killed is another example of how these organizations “guarantee” safety.

I know personally many volunteers, and I am aware of activities held by local volunteering groups and their reports. I trust them because these people are fighting for their lives and the lives of their dear ones. There is no future for any of us if russia wins.

photo by Yuliia Vlaskina

Have you had any awkward conversations with friends, acquaintances or strangers about the invasion and is there anything you wish people would stop asking you about Ukraine and the war?

I keep having different conversations with foreigners and Ukrainians about all this, of course. While talking to foreigners I usually feel a wall between us, even if they are sincerely empathetic. I guess it has to do with not having had a direct experience of the war. If a person has not experienced it first hand, it becomes impossible for me to share my own experience. And this kind of experience does need to be shared, because of its traumatic nature.

Of course, there are a lot of conversations with people who don’t give a damn about the war or pretend to care and say silly things. While talking to Ukrainians, I feel understood, but also helpless, because I don’t know how to heal myself and others, it keeps hurting badly.

I had a conversation about it with my therapist recently. She told me her personal story about a close friend of hers who was killed while defending Donbas when the war started 8 years ago. One of the things she said she understood about it, is that while his death was irreparable, there was something she could do. She could do her best for this death not to be in vain.

I am doing what I can to celebrate myself and the deeply authentic beauty of my people and culture, both badly damaged by the Soviet Union and wars. I am forever grateful to those who fight for us, and I am also fighting on my own front line.

photo by Yuliia Vlaskina

How do you unwind?

I contemplate water, trees, and animals. I need to spend time in nature and listen to it. I also walk a lot, until I remember how to walk freely, slowly, and breathe deeply. Sometimes I draw. I know nothing about drawing and was never good at it, so I’m free to do it as I feel.

And I love taking and processing photos. I approach it with a musician’s mindset and explore pretty much the same things I explore in sound. But whereas in photography I find and frame things that are already there, when it comes to music I begin with producing the raw material and then structure it meticulously.

Are you able to think of the future?

Not really. It feels like a constantly unfolding present, and I don’t feel able to retrieve the life I knew. I guess it will rebuild itself into something new one day, but for now, I have to remind myself every day who I am, where, and why.

photo by Yuliia Vlaskina

What album / book / artwork / meme / podcast / location / building / dish best captures Ukraine for you?

Ukrainian modernist architecture, Ukrainian Dorian music scale, Ukrainian language surviving no matter what, Donbas and Carpathians, Odesa and Kyiv, and every small and big city in-between.

Who should I interview next and what should I ask them?

Diser Tape, NFNR, (Ukrainian Field Notes II) Ostudinov, Maryana Klochko. Ask them about their current music, feelings, and mindset.

 

AUGUST 1 2022 – KYIV

photo by Oleh Grib

Volodymyr Voyt

My name is Volodymyr Voyt. My father, also Volodymyr, is a bandura player. He graduated from the Kyiv Conservatory and studied in the class of the legendary Andriy Bobyr, who invented the signature tunes of Ukrainian Radio, which were played every day for years. My father was a long-time soloist of the Kyiv Bandura Chorus. As a young boy, this was very interesting and spectacular to me, attracting me like a magnet. And there were always instruments at home.

Other famous bandurists were often guests, and not only from Ukraine, but also from the Ukrainian diaspora, from North and South America, Western Europe, and Australia. It was only natural that my desire to play developed from an early age. I then went to music school and furthered my studies at the Conservatory.

photo by Oleh Grib

Your instrument of choice is the bandura and from what I understand a Kharkiv-style bandura. How would you introduce it to Western audiences who may not be familiar with it?

The bandura is a traditional, authentic Ukrainian folk string-plucked instrument, which was played by blind Ukrainian minstrels, who were called kobzars.

The Kharkiv bandura is a variant of the instrument that arose at the beginning of the 20th century, when the process of mastering the bandura as an instrument of the urban intelligentsia began. The bandura player, writer and cultural figure Hnat Khotkevich (1877-1938), who lived in Kharkiv, was very well versed in the instruments and tradition of playing kobzars of the Slobozhanshchyna. He himself played such an instrument – now it is called the “old world bandura”, brilliantly mastered it and then began to achieve virtuosity that went beyond the boundaries of tradition. Hnat Khotkevich formalised this into a teaching method, taught at the Kharkiv Music and Drama Institute, was a musical consultant for the Poltava Bandurist Band, and took care of the production of a new type of bandura for the ensemble. There were not that many Kharkiv-type banduras, and these were played mainly by students of Khotkevich and the Poltava Chapel.

Because of his association with Ukrainian culture and the bandura, Khotkevich suffered years of persecution first by Tsarist and subsequently by Soviet authorities. He was removed from his post, arrested and evenutally shot in the 1930s. Some of his students were similarly persecuted, while others scattered around the world. This meant that the Khotkevich style was largely forgotten in Ukraine.

Khotkevich’s Kharkiv Bandura is considered the era of the Ukrainian avant-garde, a new paradigm. Hnat Khotkevich produced a “manifesto”, changing the existing structure and creating a new methodology, calling his vision “the language of bandura”. He categorically stated that only a new way of playing opened up new perspectives for the movement of bandura music. And this is possible only by abandoning the archaic system of playing, seeing the structural elements of timbre as the only way out of the musical dead end, and insisting on strict discipline in mastering hundreds of sound production options as musical material.

With Valentin Silvestrov – photo by Oleh Grib

Your influences seem to be wide-ranging, from Arvo Pärt to La Monte Young, and from Jazz to classical music. Who would you say taught you the most about music and has influenced the way you approach music production?

My main teachers are my father and Hnat Khotkevych. My father led me to understand a beautiful sound, something that today’s bandurists have lost, but in the old school it was the basis. Not just “plucking strings”, but the fact that sound can have its own temperature, like light. The sound that makes you want to listen attentively to a musician, and not be instant and forgettable like Stories on social media. Without Hnat Khotkevych, nothing would have happened to the bandura. Nothing good, that’s for sure 🙂

The great musicians you mentioned are known to almost everyone and have influenced many. I want to believe that many of them subconsciously longed for the bandura, but did not know of its existence. Many features of what we have in “world music” are also present in Khotkevych.

Khotkevych was working with noise in the late 1930s, around the time John Cage invented the prepared piano. Khotkevich described the temperament for the bandura, and when I was looking for the appropriate temperament, I came to the solution through La Monte Young.

The self-sufficiency of modality was also demonstrated by György Ligeti, Steve Reich, Peteris Vasks, John Cage (in modal works), and Arvo Pärt. John Coltrane could play in one harmony for half an hour (Africa / Brass, 1961). The way a whole minimalist piece by Philip Glass is played on an open pedal (this is also the case with the above-mentioned composers) is akin to the nature of the bandura. “The language of bandura” has an infinite variety of timbres, which is achieved by means of techniques and strokes, as in the work of Krzysztof Penderecki. This is all in the nature of my instrument and definitely all these people had a musical influence on me.

Kyiv, Golden Gate – photo by Oleh Grib

How would you describe the contemporary music scene in Ukraine and have State institutions been doing enough to nurture new generations of musicians and composers, both in terms of music academies and festivals?

There are many serious and cool musicians in Ukraine. We are talking about both academic and experimental / electronic ones. And young Ukrainian composers are perhaps the most powerful link today. But these are individuals! That said, there are successful collaborations, but they are few and far between.

Among the institutions, the number one today are the Ukrainian Institute, The Claquers magazine, IslndRadio, the KORA podcast studio and others — after all, these are new, modern youth projects. Among the venues, I would like to mention the art space Mezzanine, the music stages at Book Artarsenal, and Bouquet Kyiv Stage festival. The most powerful foreign initiators in Ukraine are the British Council, Goethe-Institut, the Polish Institute and others.

How would you say the war has affected you in practical terms and what impact has it had on your mindset?

I have heard stories of people moving out of their hometowns and their illnesses disappearing. When they returned to Kyiv, their ailments also returned. The first thing is that one cannot predict anything. One can’t even talk about music, or art in general, here. And when this happens, a person cannot help but ask, “Who am I?” This may signal the beginning of a change. And it is at this moment that something like “great art” can emerge. Something distinct from modern art can arise. It can even be a new, incomprehensible type of activity.

You collaborate with Solomiya Moroz as SAS combining the Bandura with synthesised and electronically processed sounds. Is improvisation a key part of your collaboration and do you have plans to release a studio album in the near future?

Solomiya Moroz and I started playing together through a shared interest in contemporary, electronic music and improvisation. Even in those places where the music feels structured, the core remains improvised. We do hope to record a a studio album in the near future. In the meantime, SAS will perform at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival taking place in November 18-27, 2022. It is the UK’s oldest contemporary music festival and we will be performing on the opening night.

You have been featured in the pages of Billboard, but do you believe the International music community has done enough to support musicians from Ukraine?

Well, it’s hard to say. Those who wanted to, did so. I always emphasise that the important thing is what people do on a personal level as any single individual can have an impact. That is, in any organisation all it takes is for one person to show initiative. And we are very grateful for that. And I have to say that I have seen a lot of help coming from strangers and people I never expected to receive support from. They were often the first to reach out even before one had thought of asking for help. And, of course, I never forget my friends either, and I am grateful to all of them!

St Sophia Cathedral – photo by Oleh Grib

How difficult have you found it to listen to new music since February 24 and to produce new material?

It was impossible at first. We slept only a few hours a day, we hardly ate, and had no appetite. More than once, we had to run off to a bomb shelter in the middle of the night with a two-year-old child in our arms. And it was still cold outside. I couldn’t listen to a single sond of music during that time. We had to be hyper vigilant and listen out at all times for rockets, air raids, or the artillery. I couldn’t pick up the bandura either. This is how we spent the first week we were in the capital. When we left Kyiv on March 2, for my wife’s parents place in the Lviv region, we had only 2 shoulder bags and a small bag with food for the road. All my instruments remained in our apartment in Kyiv.

We had no idea if we would return or if there would be a place to return to. A few days later, I called my friend Bohdan in Lviv and asked to borrow a bandura for a while. He said without hesitation – come! This allowed me to touch the strings again, and my friend, the composer Maxim Kolomiiets, composed a piece for the Kharkiv diatonic bandura — I saw your reflection in the river mirror. You were on the other shore. We had talked about this for a year. I think Max was also silent during the first week of the invasion, and then, lo and behold, the score! These were the first sounds I played on the instrument since the beginning of the war.

I hope that the premiere of this work will take place at the World Music Festival Bratislava, where I will play on August 18 this year.

Irpin and Bucha – photo Oleh Grib

Where are you now and have you been able to start playing live again?

My family and I returned to our home in Kyiv, at the beginning of June and never left again.

Our house is on the outskirts of the city, and if one climbs to the top floor, Irpin and Bucha are right in the palm of your hand. At the start of the invasion we could see the front line. When we fled, and did not know whether we would return, whether there would be a place to return to, or if we would see our parents again.

During my short stay on the outskirts of Lviv, I reunited with my musical group, where I play regularly, the The Hryhory Veryovka Ukrainian National Folkloric Ensemble named after Hryhoriy Veryovka. We call it simply Veryovka Choir. We went on a tour of Western Europe. We were allowed to leave the country as this was a cultural mission to raise funds for Ukraine. For a month and 20 days, we performed in Poland and Italy. And although we did not hear explosions, it was still hard, as my family and friends were in Ukraine. The whole world welcomed us Ukrainians, but we wanted only one thing – to return home! At the end of May, our group returned to Ukraine, and a few days later, my family and I went back to Kyiv and found our house intact.

How do you relax?

It is hard to imagine now because of the war. I love coffee. You know, Ukraine has one of the strongest coffee cultures in Europe. Kyiv and Lviv are leading coffee cities. I also enjoy buying books, and recording improvisations in the kitchen, something I started doing during the Covid pandemic. I hope to release these one day as “Kitchen Music”. And I write essays.

When we traveled through Europe with the Verjovka Chorus, we tried to devote an hour or more every day to writing essays. I like to travel, because one is very focused. But one needs a peaceful heart. To know that there is no war back home.

Are you able to think of the future?

Of course, that’s always the case!

Ukrainian meme – Text: *Problem with an asterisk. How can you divide an apple equally with one blow of a knife?

What album / book / artwork / meme / podcast / location / building / dish best captures Ukraine for you?

album: Maxim Kolomiiets — InnerLicht: Northern Lights (2021)

book: Yaroslav Hrytsak — Overcoming the Past: Global History of Ukraine (2021)

dish: Ukrainian borscht, which my wife prepares, — by the way, this dish was added to the UNESCO cultural heritage a month ago.

meme: https://twitter.com/TetyanaSergivna/status/1485583956833673216 [see embedded image]

podcast: The Ukrainians

artwork by Yurko Gutsulyak

artwork: Yurko Gutsulyak [see embedded image]

location: Irpin and Bucha, these cities are visible from the top floors of my house.

building: Roman Catholic Church of St. Nicholas in Kyiv by architect Władysław Horodecki, which was damanged by fire before the war. It became, as in Lars von Trier’s film “Antichrist”, a harbinger of severe trials. However, after the fire, the church managed to free itself from soviet yoke.

And of course St. Sophia of Kyiv (XI century), which was threatened to be bombed by russian barbarians at the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

Solomiya Moroz; Dimitry Pashynskyi; Maxim Kolomiiets

The questions I would put to them are, “Is there a gap between art and life? And is it possible for art to be an escape from life, or, on the contrary, it serves as an introduction to it?”

 

AUGUST 2 2022 – KYIV

photo by Vladyslav Levytskyi

Last Void Quarrel

My name is Vlad and I’m from Kyiv, Ukraine. I could dig into the past and say how much I loved music in my childhood, but who didn’t? The essential thing here is that I was born in 1991, and most of the music I listened to was on tape, so I have this special thing for cassettes and degraded ‘wobbly’ sound. It was also a rather turbulent, dark, yet also optimistic and future-oriented time during the 90s in Ukraine (just like now). Hence the sound. Probably, with all that recent and ongoing ‘nostalgia’ hype, that’s not too original, but I learned that I shoulnd’t overthink things.

There was no ‘trigger’ that got me into music. It happened gradually and naturally. More or less seriously, I started out as a singer-songwriter and ended up as more of an electronic, hate the word, producer. I’m not sure if it’s the final destination, as I still have a soft spot for other genres and workflows. Last Void Quarrel is one of many other projects.

photo by Vladyslav Levytskyi

What is your current studio setup and what would you say is the most important feature of your sound? 

I’m not into “snake oil” (maybe, only a little), nor do I have money to arrange something grandiose (and unnecessary). Currently, I own a more-than-enough, MOTU M4 audio interface, a pair of Mackie CR5 monitors which I don’t really use for mixing, only for a control check, and ATH M40X headphones which I use for mixing (only in conjunction with ToneBoosters Morphit and Goodhertz plugins). I also switched to Reaper after years of using Studio One.

Boring stuff aside – the most important devices in my soundscape are Soma Ether and Lyra-8. Both undergo relentless destruction via numerous modulation and granular effects. As a former guitarist, I also find a place for dreamy chords or even riffs. Sorry, can’t help it, my past kicks in all the time.

Crimea – photo by Vladyslav Levytskyi

Who would you say taught you the most about music and has influenced the way you approach music production?

I’m in my own bubble pretty much most of the time. Sure thing, I do have personas, bands, projects that have had an impact on what I do and how. To name a few: Solar X, Alessandro Cortini, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, David Lynch, and many more.

Considering my other, non-ambient projects, the list may be expanded in an unexpected way.

Where are you now and have you been displaced by the war at any point?

Mariupol – photo by Valeriia Kozynets

When the war broke out, I was ready. None of my friends or relatives believed it would happen, though. I had started preparing a couple of weeks before the 24th of February. On the 23rd, I remember I was standing near an ATM. A guy before me was withdrawing money for 20 minutes. I knew he was preparing too.

I went home, took a benzodiazepine pill and tried to get some sleep. Somewhere around 6 AM I woke up due to an explosion and a friend calling me on my phone. Disturbing, but not surprising to me.

Kyiv, two days before the russian invasion – photo by Vladyslav Klymenko

I made a stupid decision to take my family and dog and leave for a summer cottage near Kyiv. Well, it was not the smartest thing to do, because we were driving under russian helicopters that were heading towards Hostomel. So for a month, we were stuck somewhere between Hostomel, Bucha, Borodyanka, and Makarov. I’m sure everyone heard of what happened in these places. The conditions were extreme: dozens of explosions every day, no electricity, no heat, devastating news about civilians killed by russians in nearby communities. We were also getting short of supplies, so we ate once a day. I was mostly worried about my allergic dog, as the only food he could eat was running out too.

Long story short: we decided to give it a shot and retreat with other civilians using a road that was presumably more or less safe. We were lucky, because that day, Ukrainian soldiers controlled the path. The next day, russians were there again. I ended up in Lviv, in Western Ukraine, but unfortunately, missiles were hitting there too, so it wasn’t entirely safe either. But at least, we had a free home and everything we needed. Now, I’m back in Kyiv.

artwork by Vladyslav Levytskyi

How difficult have you found it to listen to new music since February 24 and to produce new material?

I found it impossible to listen to music at first. Not only due to my state of mind, but also technically: I had to save the power left in my power banks and phones to listen to FM radio. I became addicted to the news. Everyone wanted to hear that the war was over. Little did we know.

Some time later, in Lviv, after my unplanned dopamine detox, I started listening to music again. Oh man, was it the most pleasant listening session I had in years. The first track I listened to was from the recent Alexisonfire album – Sweet Dreams Of Otherness. It’s about war, I guess. Soon, I arranged a transfer of some of my devices from Kyiv to Lviv and finished A Warm Tape Used As A Gun.

artwork by Vladyslav Levytskyi

Was the album A Warm Tape Used As A Gun composed after February the 24th or has been a long time in gestation? Also, the album feels more abstract that your previous release CEEXX and more centred on texture rather than narrative, what is the main inspiration behind it and how did you go about producing it?

Most of the work was done before the 24th. I started the project in 2020 but, as always, it was delayed by a number of reasons, including my fights with depression and anxiety. After the 24th, I did the artwork and I finished a bonus track which can only be found on a cassette (I made only 20 pieces mostly for my closest friends, but if you are interested in getting one, we can figure something out). I created a brochure that accompanies the album: every track has its own picture (mostly distorted images of me and people I care or cared about) and a short ‘narrative’. It’s exactly to make up for the lack of ‘narrative’ embodied in CEEXX, which is an old-school, naïve IDM album, really, and my other, less abstract releases.

artwork by Vladyslav Levytskyi

I also was keen on doing something extra to help listeners feel at least part of what I felt creating the tracks. I find ambient to be the most intimate form of music that doesn’t get completely deconstructed and can be enjoyed on an emotional level. I don’t pile up samples to produce a hollow ‘anything’. I take my Ether, a coffee flask, and go hunting for sounds from the places I visited 25 years ago.

The main texture on the first track is made of a sound I got with Ether focusing on an old portable tape recorder I used as a ‘spying device’ when I was a kid. The creaking swing sound one can hear is taken from an old VHS recording of me and my friend. I really wanted people to feel every track as something intentional, not just random manipulations in DAW.

How would you say the war has affected you in practical terms and what impact has it had on your mindset?

It has impacted me in a bad way; but not in the way one may think. I have this issue when I try to find myself in many diverse genres. After the invasion, the list expanded. Losing focus is not exactly a good thing.

artwork by Vladyslav Levytskyi

How do you unwind?

Nothing special: home workout, Netflix, gaming. For the past 2 months at least, it kept me going.

Is there anything you wish people in the West would stop asking Ukrainians about Ukraine and the war?

Yes. A lot of people should stop asking why we don’t give up and agree on giving away part of our territory. I understand that for someone who doesn’t live here, the fundamentals of the conflict may not be as clear as they are to us. Yet, everyone knows russia consciously kills civilians and POWs, practices tortures, kidnapping, and filtering. They will never, I emphasise, never stop at whatever territories they occupy. If we retreat, sooner or later, the russians will reach Kyiv and I and my friends and relatives will most certainly undergo filtration. Sooner or later they will attack other countries. Isn’t it clear at this point that one doesn’t give terrorists what they demand?

Also, it seems that recently, people around the world started thinking that nothing too serious is going on here, because we keep living our lives. I’m sorry I don’t sit in a bomb shelter 24/7.

artwork by Vladyslav Levytskyi

Apart from economic reasons, we should live as much as we can in the present, as every second may be the last. A couple of hours before I started answering your questions for this interview, an air raid siren sounded. I had to sit in what is supposed to be the safest place in my apartment. Why? Because russia launched 8 missiles to hit at least three cities in Ukraine. One missile hit a target in Lviv. It was fortunate this was not a shopping centre or house. Not this time round, at least. And no, it’s not over yet.

At the same time, despite some misunderstandings, we acknowledge strong unprecedented support from the West and it’s needless to say how much we appreciate it.

Are you able to think of the future? And what made you laugh recently?

I’ve come to terms with the situation and I am able to imagine the future. In fact, it was the only pleasure I had in the first month after the war started; I’ve also been rewatching The Office lately, which gives me a good laugh almost as if I were watching it for the first time.

artwork by Vladyslav Levytskyi

Should Eurovision be held in Ukraine in 2023?

I have an unpopular opinion: I think it was a good thing to move Eurovision to the UK. Not because the war won’t be over by then (I hope it will). Indeed, it is safer for the contest, but I also think the UK deserves it as a country who provided us with a tremendous amount of help. Sam Ryder is a strong musician too and we know he could’ve won the competition. I’d say that it is possible that  I am still alive because the UK supported Ukraine on every possible level. Please, feel free to host Eurovision and stage a great show next year.

What album / book / artwork / meme / podcast / location / building / dish best captures Ukraine for you?

I’ll opt for places. Lviv, The Carpathian Mountains, Kyiv.

There’s much more, but you sure won’t be disappointed visiting them, and it’s definitely the easiest way to understand what’s unique about Ukraine.

I thank you for reaching out to me and showing interest in my work and situation in Ukraine. It is very supporting and heartwarming in such difficult times.

 

AUGUST 3 2022 – KYIV

photo by priivetluna

Mark Golos

My name is Mark. I was born in Lviv. As a child, I was absorbing all the music and sounds around me all the time. Thanks to my sister, I am so nostalgic for the movies soundtracks and pop music of the late 90s and 2000s, for that sound and that time. Because of my father, I fell in love with rock music, heavy metal, jazz and I was listening to these genres for many years, gradually discovering emo, hardcore, deathcore, etc. My mother loves folk, classical music and blues. Mom’s friends were often coming to visit and when that was happening she would play her guitar, and sing old bard songs. I still remember how her voice sounded in the evening silence of the apartment. As a teenager, I discovered hip hop, and when that happened, my musical tastes began to change dramatically, and I discovered different genres, exploring post-punk, techno, ambient, experimental music, noise etc.

For several years now I have been living in Kyiv, creating and performing music here. My real interest in making music began in 2013 when I cooked my first beat in sample emulator on my tablet at school during a physics class. I realised there and then that all I needed to create music were my hands and some software. This may seem like an ordinary and trivial story, but that day at school determined the course of my life. Despite the fact that from an early age I was going to music school, I didn’t have any real interest as such in creating music, even if I had always dreamt of becoming a musician.

Over the years, I’ve tried almost every genre, but I ended up focusing on electronic music. I created my first serious project in 2018 by calling it «Golos» which means «Voice» in English. A couple of years later I added my actual name to the moniker. The main idea of my project was, and still is, self-therapy and immersion in memories from the past — sometimes happy, sometimes painful. Of course, my project is also a form of therapy for myself.

What is your current studio setup and what would you say is the most important feature of your sound?

My setup is simple and consists of Focusrite audio device, PC and Ableton. Sometimes I use my old Yamaha synthesizer as MIDI keyboard. I have two pairs of studio monitors and AKG headphones. All the sound I create with plugins, software and samples. But the most important feature of my sound I think is my thoughts, feelings, emotions I put in my tracks because I love to “tell” and create abstractions like mental pabulum, you know.

photo by priivetluna

How would you describe the electronic music scene in Ukraine and what makes it special?

If the Ukrainian electronic scene can be described in one word, then this word is wealth. Wealth of talents, intelligence, experiments, thoughts, genres. I have been living in Kyiv since 2016 and during this time I have observed many transformations of sound and only for the better. The scene does not stand still and is constantly evolving, because here we love our job and invest in it to the fullest. We invest all our strength, finances, resources, and this is what happens with any activity, not only with music.

Ukraine has the best promo groups, parties, festivals, attended by listeners and DJs from all over the world. Last year the legendary Jeff Mills came to ICKPA (the collaborative festival with Bassiani) and DJ Rush to Brave! Factory Festival. Our performers, DJs, sound producers are rich in collaborations, and absolutely unexpected ones. We have great labels like Standard Deviation, @mystictrax, Muscut. It makes no sense to list all the labels, formations, festivals, because there is simply not enough space in the article 🙂

photo by priivetluna

Who and what, is Darkness Theory and is it going to save the world?

Darkness Theory is a formation from Kyiv, of which I am a resident and a member. At “Darkness” parties, I often appear under my side moniker DJMERKK, but I also perform with the main Mark Golos project. Our formation specialises in hip-hop and especially we focus on Memphis-rap, phonk, geto-house, g-funk and sometimes grime, breaks. We appeared in 2020, held our first event at Otel’ and quickly gathered a regular audience that attends events whenever possible.

At first glance, it may seem that we are just another outfit with another series of events, but in fact we create material, share it on behalf of the formation, though rarely, but we have many plans for future releases, videos, compilations, performances. We’re like a family. Our friend and frequent guest is DJ Sacred. He is an avant-garde artist and music producer from Kharkiv, Ukraine. His main work is Dungeon Rap — a synthesis of multiple musical genres: Memphis Rap, Black Ambient and Dungeon Synth.

Speaking about saving the world, the world will be saved only by the unity and desire of people to create, not to destroy, but I do not know what needs to happen for this.

How would you say the war has affected you in practical terms and what impact has it had on your mindset?

The war made me understand that I have to value close friends and family even more. That one should not be afraid to do what one loves, and give it one hundred percent. One can’t waste a minute of one’s own life. One has to apologise and ask for forgiveness. War is terrible, but it has united all Ukrainians like never before. I finally truly realise and feel my national identity.

This my favorite place in Kyiv called Kholmy Tatarki (Tatarka Hills). This place reminds me of Mulholland Drive. A lot of important things happened at this place. Unfortunately, “Kholmy” are currently closed because of war. That’s my friend Nikita Midikidd in the photo. Shot was taken by our mutual friend Mezinov Misha.

How difficult have you found it to listen to new music since February 24 and to produce new material? Also, how does it feel to play live under current circumstances?

I did not stop listening to music, both old and new, because music is closely connected with my life and always helps me. Talking about new material, the war pushed me to complete my old unfinished projects and demo tracks. With my colleague Andrii Barmalii, we released the Dnipro Dub track. Thanks to NINA EBA and her AIR RAID SIREN podcast, it has been played on many foreign radio stations. Shout-out to Nina!

Playing live is frankly hard and strange, but I don’t perform that much, I rather come to listen to my friends. It’s good that life goes on.

How do you unwind?

When I feel bad, or when I feel like I need to rest, relax, I often go out with my skateboard and listen to music on my headphones. I also like to wander alone, thinking about this and that, about the past and the future. That said, I’m not a recluse at all. I see my friends more often than I see my face in the mirror. Although lately I prefer to stay at home, watch movies, read, do household chores, and listen to music. In fact, I know many ways to unwind, because I pay attention to the little things, I enjoy life in any of its manifestations.

Are you able to think of the future?

Yes, not only about my own future but about the global. I have to admit, I’m scared for the future and I don’t know what’s going to happen next.



Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

1. Andrii Barmalii. You should ask him where he get so much energy, desire and love for his work.
2. Whaler. An absolute genius and experimentator. An avid fan of breaking the beat structure.

 

AUGUST 3 2022 – BERLIN

Cluster Lizard

We are Zavoloka and Kotra, Ukrainian artists. Together we are Cluster Lizard. We got into music by writing music.

What is your studio setup and how do you approach a live set?

We don’t like to talk about equipment. We are musicians, not engineers.

What would you say is the most important feature of your own personal sound and what would you say is the most important feature of your partner’s sound?

We both like to do music that we can’t hear from anyone else. Always changing and experimenting, always surprising ourselves.

How would you say your solo work has evolved over time and have there been any unexpected and unplanned paths you have found yourselves taking?

In a way, it is always unexpected in which direction our new albums will go and what the final sound of each new work will be. At the same time, we probably became very confident throwing ourselves into the unknown and planning the unplanned.

You are both multidisciplinary artists as well as musicians. How important are the visuals in your work and at what point do you start working on the cover art for a release?

Visuals are an integral part of our work, ideas of covers are created during the process or after the music is finished. We do take a lot of inspiration from visual art and movies, but it never takes first place in our works. We are multidisciplinary artists, but with the fundament in music.

You’ve both been living in Berlin for a number of years now. Just before the invasion, a number of music journalists had been talking about Kyiv as the new Berlin in terms of its music scene. Knowing both cities well, how accurate would you say that comparison was?

Only the lack of imagination of those journalists could bring such a shallow comparison. Kyiv is very different from Berlin, with a different history, culture, and most of all – the attitude of people who were developing the scene over the years. Berlin is a truly great and unique city, and Kyiv is, and we hope will evolve into something absolutely new. Who needs a second Berlin anyway?

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February the 24th you had not long returned from a visit to Ukraine. Many had been preparing for this, while others did not believe this would actually happen. How difficult was it for you to both prepare yourselves mentally for this and to take in the reality of it remotely once it had happened?

We don’t think it is possible to really be prepared for the perception of war. No matter how you think you are aware of what is going on or think that you know what might happen, your mind refuses to accept such a possibility until the last moment. It was extremely hard
to wake up to see the first missile strikes, and it didn’t become much easier since then.

You have been tireless in your fundraising and awareness efforts since the very beginning of the full scale Russian invasion. What would you say are the most glaring misconceptions that Westerners have about Ukraine in general and the war more specifically? And what can be done to counter the waning of interest in the war?

First of all, the main misconception about Ukraine was growing from the misconception about russia, and from an unwillingness to see what russia is and was, even for just the last 30 years, not even talking about the general history. The West put a blind eye on all the atrocities russia committed in Chechnya, Georgia, Moldova, Syria, and Ukraine since 2014. Westerners swallowed the russian propaganda about the “nazis” in Ukraine with great pleasure, and in many ways playing along with russian lies. Ukraine is a huge and very complex European country, fighting for independence and self-determination. And Ukraine will never stop fighting for its freedom, with or without help from the West. And the influence of this fight will change the World.

Not one country in Europe put so much effort, struggle, and blood into its willingness to move toward democratic values and freedom as Ukraine did since 1991.

You have contributed to fundraising compilations and started your own fundraising label I Shall Sing Until My Land Is Free releasing Muslimgauze’s Chechnya Over Dub and Shekel Of Israeli Occupation.

Firstly, how do you feel about the number of fundraising compilations out there and also about compilations by Russian artists taking a stand against the war?

Secondly, is the choice of Muslimgauze an attempt to put the Russian invasion in a wider context and reflect on occupation and imperialism from a broader perspective?

We were glad to take part in some of those compilations since all of them generated quite serious money, which was then donated to trusted Ukrainian initiatives. And as much as we know, many others did the same too. We liked it mostly because this turned out to be some real action, and not just “raising awareness”.

We don’t know about many russian artists or compilations clearly and openly making a stand by naming things for what they are and acting accordingly. We saw a few abstract statements from russians, like “No War” or something empty and abstract about peace, but we didn’t see russian compilations with a clear message about who the aggressor is, neither we know about any real donations made by such compilations to any Ukrainian foundations or volunteer groups.

For our label I shall Sing Until My Land Is Free it was important to start with the Muslimgauze album of Chechnya Over Dub since it was written during the first Chechnya war against russia, and dedicated to the independence of Chechnya. In that war, many Ukrainian fighters took part on a side of Chechnya, and many free Chechens are fighting in Ukraine since 2014. If you find the interviews of Dzhokhar Dudaev, the president of free Chechnya from that period, you would see that he predicted all the future events and saw the direct connection between the independence of Ukraine and the end of russian empire. Besides, Muslimgauze always openly and harshly stood against any form of imperialism, and he is one of the great examples of no-compromise and non-conformist political art.

And we already have such artists as Merzbow and Ilpo Vaisanen, who contributed their music to the project. So, besides collecting funds from album sales and donating them, we also want to show that in our world of experimental music there are artists who are on our side in this fight.

I was listening to an Ukrainian Spaces podcast hosted by Maksym Eristavi and Val Voshchevska about burnout recently. Is this something you have had to deal with and do you have strategies in place to avoid burnout?

Also, do you ever get “tired” of having to act as “ambassadors” for your country? And have you had any awkward conversations with friends, family or strangers about your country since the Russian invasion?

Yes, the problem of burning out is a big issue for us too, as for many of our colleagues and friends. It is barely possible to avoid it completely, and in order to be effective, we had to change our attitude from running a fast sprint to a long-distance marathon. The most awkward and heavy conversations we had during the first two months of invasion when we were bombarded by idiotic and arrogant offers of making different kinds of collaborations with russian artists “in the name of peace”, especially because all those offers never came from russians themselves, but from the Western artists and institutions. We are deadly tired to play our part in the cultural front of this war, but as long as we see ourselves effective in this fight, we will continue our action until the victory of free Ukraine.

A question from the Proust Questionnaire: What is your current state of mind?

Angry. Motivated for victory.

Time for a lifestyle magazine question. Not only do you both have long and established solo careers, but you also collaborate on the project Cluster Lizard. There are countless articles on the joys and dangers of couples working together. How do you make it work?

We know each other very well, and we share the attitude. And we can explore our personal ambitions to the maximum in our solo projects. Cluster Lizard is the best from each of us collided in one.

As Cluster Lizard you have recently released the album Star Corsair inspired by the work of the Ukrainian science fiction writer Oles Berdnyk whose books were censored by the Soviet authorities. Is this an attempt to counter Russian cultural imperialism and to restore voices that have been silenced for too long?

It’s both. We wanted to bring attention to Berdnyk, his struggle, and his concepts of freedom. The more such voices are brought back to light, the better it is for the fight and self-determination of Ukrainians.

Adrenalin by Olexa Mann

Are you currently working on new material?

Now we are working on our solo albums.

What book / film / album / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?

Films: Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Sergei Parajanov, and Well for the Thirsty by Yuri Ilyenko.
Artworks by Maria Prymachenko, Olexa Mann, Ivan Semesyuk, Kazimir Malevych, Mykhailo Boychuk.
Literature – Lesya Ukrainka, Taras Shevchenko, Oles’ Berdnyk, Ostap Ukraiinets, Hryhorii Skovoroda.

Who should I interview next?

Music – Edward Sol
Visual art – Ivan Semesyuk

 

AUGUST 4 2022 – LVIV

photo by Oleg Samoilenko

Yakiv Tsvietinskyi

I am Yakiv Tsvietinskyi, a composer, a trumpet player, a Ukrainian, and a dreamer.

I don’t really remember the moment when I got into music – it happened very naturally. My parents are music lovers, and as a kid, I listened to records all the time. All kinds of music – classical, jazz, rock, soundtracks. At the age of 6, I started taking classical piano lessons, but it all started getting serious when I met my trumpet teacher. He was a master of inspirational talk and the wisest person I met. At that point, I already knew that I wanted to play the trumpet. I loved how it sounded, and how it looked.

At some point, I saw the cover of Doo-Bop with Miles sitting in a lotus pose with his horn. I thought that was the coolest thing I’d seen. I listened to the track Fantasy from that album like a million times. I fell in love with that sound and the whole “hipness” of a jazz musician, represented on the cover. At that point I already heard Chet and Dizzy, but couldn’t relate to the music, Miles changed it. I wanted to be as cool as those guys.

During my college years, I studied classical trumpet while chasing the image of a jazz cat, not sure it worked out. Now trying to reconnect with those feelings.

What would you say is the most important feature of your sound?
 
I think in my music you can hear that I love classical music more than the average jazz musician. It’s in the way I articulate on the trumpet and how I treat the texture of a piece. For years I tried to get rid of those qualities, and now I embrace them. There is a sense of melancholy in my sound, probably, too. It’s about that depth of a human soul where everyone can feel vulnerable. My goal is to be sincere in my playing so I can get there and make the person feel something real.

photo by Yuri Gryaznov

Who would you say taught you the most about music and has influenced the way you approach music production?

My classical teacher Herman Yushin, whom I studied with for many years since the age of 11. He taught me how to be precise, caring, and attentive as a musician. He gave me a sense of direction in life and helped me to set goals that exceed my personal interests. He didn’t teach me how to compose or improvise but taught me to be inventive and curious.

Thanks to these tools he gave me, I got an opportunity to meet my other teachers – Scott Cowan, Andrew Rathbun, Ambrose Akinmusire, and many others. Unfortunately, he passed away last year, but I carry his teachings with me.

photo by Tatyana Shlapak

How would you describe the modern jazz music scene in Ukraine? 

It is a relatively small community of very passionate people. Every one of them has a story to tell, of their fight to become who they are. I’d say that my generation of musicians, and the generations before, had to fight to play jazz and improvise. Right now the scene is growing fast, there are more and more great young cats who want to play. I think we struggle with finding the right direction, but it is our collective goal now. Before it was all about imitation, now it’s about creating the musical identity of the country.

Minimalist was recorded with Misha Lyshenko on piano, Kristina Kirik on double bass and Dima Lytvynenko on drums. Have you been working on new material with them?

I wish I could play more with that lineup, but we all live in different cities and lately I moved away from the standard jazz quartet instrumentation. Just a few days ago I finished recording a project with Dima, which will be premiered online at the New Trumpet Music Festival in New York. It’s a different kind of quartet with acoustic guitar, piano, and drums. There are a few unfinished projects, including Double Quartet where Dima plays drums. Kristina and I started an improvisational ensemble FREEBUTTREE and were meant to record an album on Feb 24th. It was postponed for obvious reasons.

photo by Oleg Samoilenko

Your project Double Quartet draws from the Ukrainian folk songs and classical music tradition. Has the current situation made this even more relevant?

For some reason, I keep delaying my work on this project. It is already recorded in the studio but somehow I cannot seem to finish it. The problem is that I don’t feel that it is relevant now. None of my past projects feels relevant after the full scale invasion started. I feel that crucially important matters were ignored when I wrote the music.

During “peaceful” times I cared about the notes too much, about aesthetics, about the things that lose value as soon as a rocket explodes in your city. I believe that I’ll finish this project at some point, but not now.

I understand you have studied in Michigan for two years. What have you brought back to Ukraine from this experience?

In the US I understood what is real jazz. And it was not about the players, it was about the community, the ease within it, about how casual it is in a good sense. The purpose of my time in Michigan was to write an educational program suitable for the Ukrainian musical and academic environment. I tried to embed those “human” qualities of the art form into the curriculum I created for my music academy in Dnipro. I believe it worked out.

Where are you now and have you been displaced by the war at any point?

Fortunately, I still live in Lviv and did not have to move. But many of my friends from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Kherson did. There are friends of mine who had to escape Donetsk and Crimea in 2014 too.

photo by Tatyana Shlapak

How would you say the war has affected you in practical terms and what impact has it had on your mindset? 

War helped to set the priorities straight and to really value basic human things. Again, I am fortunate to live in Lviv and I am not in any position to complain. Prices went up, obviously, transportation is harder, and some of the cities I used to visit no longer exist. It is like a bad dream that you wake up to every morning. Many of the friends-musicians that I usually play with got drafted or joined the army voluntarily. It is hard to accept that things will not go back to how they were before.

How difficult have you found it to listen to new music since February 24 and to produce new material?

I didn’t pick up the trumpet for 2 months after the invasion. Listening to music was painful. The writing was impossible. I started composing again when my cousin got killed in action on May the 8th. I wrote a piece dedicated to him. He was a real hero who joined the frontline when the war actually started back in 2014 and had been protecting his family and country ever since.

photo by Yuri Gryaznov

Has the international music community been doing enough to support Ukrainian artists?

I never felt more grateful to the international music community. The amount of support is insane. I think that Ukrainian artists now have more opportunities than ever.

How do you unwind?

I try to spend more time with the people I love. It is a privilege to have this opportunity under the current circumstances.

Also, I am lucky to still have peaceful dreams. It helps a little to forget about the war while you’re asleep.

photo by Yuri Gryaznov

Are you able to think of the future?

Unfortunately, no. The only future I wait for is the victory day.

What album / book / artwork / meme / podcast / location / building / dish best captures Ukraine for you?

For me, it is the Chamber Symphony no.3 by the Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych. In my opinion, it captures the essence of Ukraine, its deep and complicated beauty.

Food-wise it has to be borsch for sure.

Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

I’d recommend interviewing Dennis Adu. I think he has many stories to share.

 

UPDATES

“Since the beginning of the war, the terrorist state Russia has launched about 3,000 missiles over Ukraine. Only today, July 19 – the day I am writing this message, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, Odesa and Kharkiv regions were attacked. Up to 40 rockets were fired at Nikopol, the city I was born in. And this is not the end of the list. How much blood of Ukrainians must be spilled so that the world finally changes and this rocketfall stops?

Thousands of Ukrainian men and women are now at the front, defending our freedom. Every day they have to risk their lives. In such conditions, medical assistance is extremely important. High-quality first-aid kits are always needed at the front, when every second counts. This is what the ‘United’ fund is doing. The goal of the fund is to provide our defenders with 5,000 first-aid kits. You can find details for donations on their website united.if.ua” [Nina Eba]

 

 

ART EXHIBITIONS

Anton Shebetko – Self Portrait

Anton Shebetko – To Know Us Better

For many years I have been working with the Ukrainian LGBTQ community, its history, and its coexistence with a mostly homophobic and conservative Ukrainian society. In most of my projects the anonymity of the participants was a key requirement due to the inability to predict the consequences of a public coming out. However, in the few years that I have lived outside of Ukraine, there have been significant changes in society. Large-scale equality marches began to take place, safe spaces were opened across the country, positive media coverage, and hope for hate crime laws emerged. These were small but very important steps for the Ukrainian queer community. Yes, homophobia and transphobia are still quite common in all walks of life, but the queer community have embarked on a path to combat it — and are doing so successfully in many ways, including through their visibility.

To Know Us Better – Anton Shebetko

When I first started working on this project, I planned to go to Ukraine to take portraits of open Ukrainian queers. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has changed the lives of all Ukrainians, not just the queer community. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have died at the hands of Russian invaders. More than 14 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes. Of course, there are representatives of the queer community among them. It was their portraits and stories that became the basis of this project. I shot it in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Spain. Some of the participants were in Europe long before February 24. The war started 8 years ago, and that is why I included queers from the temporarily occupied Crimea and Donbas in the project.

I believe that those who participated in my project will be able to return to a free and safe Ukraine, a Ukraine that will survive and win. And I believe that they will not only be able to maintain all the progress we have all made over the last few years, but also accelerate it. The Ukraine of the future is a country in which human rights, inclusiveness, respect and belief in democratic values are not empty words. [Anton Shebetko]

To Know Us Better – Anton Shebetko

To Know Us Better is on at Foam, Amsterdam, until August 31, 2022

Also to be noted is that Zelensky has responded positively to the recent petition on the legalisation of same sex unions, noting that in conditions of war or a state of emergency the Constitution of Ukraine cannot be changed, but that the Government has an alternative solution, which is to legalise registered civil partnerships in Ukraine allowing the registration of same-sex partnerships.

“This historic promise is not a gift or twist of fate,” tweeted queer Ukrainian journalist Maksym Eristavi. “Years of hard work by queer ukrianians putting our lives on the line for equal rights made it possible. tens of thousands of queer ukrainians defending our country in this genocide made it possible. now it is also up to us, queer ukrainians, to make sure that a historic commitment results in historic action. and rest assured we will make it done. because that’s what ukrainian civil society is all about – making historic shit done”

 

10 FUNDRAISING COMPILATIONS

Ukrainian Indie for Independence by элек///чество // indie

“This compilation of Ukrainian indie artists was made during the first months of Ukrainian-Russian war ongoing in our country. It features 12 new tracks from artists that were recorder in different parts of Ukraine.

All funds raised from compilation’s sales will be donated to ‘Musicians Defend Ukraine’, a fund supporting those musicians who are now fighting for our freedom and independence”

 

Charity Compilation #TheSceneAgainstWar by Entourage Concept // electronic, dub techno, techno

“While Putin continues his invasion in Ukraine with an alarming recklessness, we stand in solidarity with everyone affected by his aggression. To support the Ukrainian people and the hundreds of thousands of refugees already driven out of their homes, entourage concept has teamed up with the most up and coming techno artists from various countries for a solidarity compilation.

From calm, dubbed out sounds to groovy, heavy hitting tunes and from new faces to renowned artists, this VA release shows a broad portfolio of contemporary techno artists united to support all those who seek refuge from Putin’s war.

All proceeds will be donated to Mission Lifeline‘s campaign for the support of people fleeing from Ukraine.”

 

Slava Ukraini by Various Artists Hunkofplastic Records // experimental, post-hardcore, screamo

46 tracks compiled by the antifacist and antihomophobe DIY Label from Scotland, with 100% of proceeds (less the cost of Bandcamp’s processing fees) going to QUA the first non-governmental organization of LGBTQ Ukrainians and their allies in the United States, to assist Ukrainian refugees and distribute funds to LGBTQ+ Ukrainians on the ground during the crisis of Russian aggression.

Released in collaboration with the ‘Bedroom Skramz/DIY Jamz’ Discord server.

 

RLO Friends and Family #005 by Reel Long Overdub // dub, techno, downtempo

“Old heroes and new signings unite to deliver the fifth edition of our Friends & Family series.

All profits from this release will go to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Thanks to everyone who contributed music, mastering and artwork for donating their time free of charge.”

 

Podwórko III (For Ukraine) by Vertical Spectrum, Michał Jabłoński, Szmer, Rethe // electronic, techno

“The third part of the Podwórko compilation, where we once again showcase Polish producers.

In the act of solidarity with the people of Ukraine brutally attacked by Russia, all revenue from the sales of this compilation will be donated to the Polish Humanitarian Action, which helps Ukrainian refugees in Poland and organizes aid in war-stricken areas.”

 

“Against All Evils by In Aeternam Vale, Ireen Amnes, Restive Plaggona, ANFS, Neon Warrior // electronic, experimental

“Against All Evils” is our answer to every act of injustice, crime and violation against the free world. Soundtracked by In Aeternam Vale, Ireen Amnes, Restive Plaggona, ANFS & Neon Warrior.

Special edition of T-shirts will drop today in support of our Ukrainian sisters and brothers. All profits will be donated to the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund. 🇺🇦

 

Stand Together – A Fundraiser for Ukraine by VAblaq numbers // electronic, experimental, house, disco

“to be a small help in the current fragile situation we have put together this 23 track cross section of our releases from 2015 to present -. all proceeds benefit the ukrainian civilian population and aid organizations.

love to all the artists for providing their music!”

 

Jams For Ukraine – Fundraiser Compilation by Various Artistsslam city jams // electronic, experimental, house, techno

“It is very painful to see what is happening in the Ukraine right now. Another pointless war that kills innocent people, tears families apart and forces them to flee their beloved country.

To contribute a small part and support the people in the Ukraine, we picked some of our favorite tracks released on Slam City Jams and put together this fundraiser compilation.

100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross. If you have some money left over, we’d highly appreciate your support.”

 

Don’t Look Away From Ukraine by United Artists For Peace // chill wave, darkwave, retro wave

“On 24 February 2022, Russia began a military invasion of Ukraine. It is the biggest assault on a European state since World War II.
The invasion has caused the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. We cannot look away from Ukraine in this dark time!
Therefore we decided to support the Polish Mobile Clinic poject. The purpose of the mission is to provide humanitarian support to the Children of Ukraine.”

 

Sampler To Help Ukraine Refugees by Miss The Stars // grindcore, hardcore, punk, screamo

“Solidarity with Ukraine. This sampler contains 21 Bands from all over the country and was collectively assembled. All donations will be directly transferred to help refugees from the Ukraine. Thank you all for listening, sharing and donating. We really appreciate it.

Stop the war. Stop the russian occupation. Stop russian military invasion. Stop russia’s attack on Ukraine.”

 

MIX SETS

Selection of Ukrainian jazz from rare inflections, minions and grands of the second half of the 60s and early 70s. A special mixtape from a private collection from Macka.

 

“This mix is full of things that are very dear to my heart and ears. It’s a bouquet. It’s really like about flowers: some of them you’ve seen, heard and already know by heart, some of them you don’t. But listening to them in the bouquet, you hear how well they smell. Sometimes I couldn’t help myself and made mash-ups and remixes, but not because I wanted to change the original records so much, but rather to discover my delight that way” Maryana Klochko.

 

система | system presents UA WAR MIX by Zhytomyr-based artist DIck Jockey. This mix is dedicated and composed only of UA tracks from 90-s.

 

10 MORE FUNDRAISING COMPILATIONS

In Peace We Trust (Fundraiser) by Various ArtistsLaster // electronic

“Hearing the news about Putin deciding to invade Ukraine left us shocked.

As peace and harmony are one of the essentials of music, we decided to gather our closest (and also not so close) circle of producers from all around, showing how weall believe in a world of peace.

Tyranny won’t destroy our european neighborhood!

All profits are being donated to CARE International for Ukraine, providing humanitarian help such as water and food supply, hygiene kits and psychosocial support.”

 

#HelpUkraineLP by Political Drumz // electronic, drum and bass

“So when I woke up on the morning of the invasion, I thought to myself I couldn’t sit & do absolutely nothing to help so I decided that we needed to do something to help the families fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

These past weeks have been indescribable for the families and children in Ukraine with Russian bombings going off and destroying their homes and killing their families. So what better way to come together with a bag of bad boy producers in the D&B community and show our support through the music!

So we are happy to announce ‘The #HelpUkraine LP’,

All proceeds will be going directly to the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Just £28 could provide comfort kits for 2 children, £45 could provide an emergency kit for a whole family & £81 could provide 8 families with temporary shelter, I feel we could make a significant impact together. #HelpUkraine”

 

Artists for Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine by Dubfire, Sian, Arjun Vagale, Ramiro Lopez, Klaudia Gawlas, SHADED, Alex Mine, Markus Suckut & More // electronic

“In an effort to support relief efforts on the ground, and to stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian friends and colleagues, SCI+TEC has galvanized an unprecedented list of past, present and future artists from our roster who have all joined forces to raise funds. The 44 contributing international artists hail from the USA, UK, France, India, Italy, Spain, Dominican Republic, Iran, Hungary, Japan, Romania, Switzerland, Netherlands, Turkey and, most notably, Russia.

All proceeds from the sale of this compilation will be donated to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to support the evacuation of displaced families.”

 

Sending Sunflowers by Z Tapes // lo-fi, indie, electronic, ambient

Diverse collection of jangly guitars, electronic beats, and “non ambient” putting “distressful energy” to good use and promising “a new grammar for living”. Lovingly compiled by the DIY bedroom pop tape label based in Lyon, France, run by Angie Death and founded by Filip Zemcik in Bratislava, Slovakia.

All proceeds will be donated to Človek v ohrození – a Slovakian organisation that’s been providing humanitarian aid in neighbouring Ukraine for the past 22 years.

[It goes without saying that z-tapes predates the appropriation of the last letter of the alphabet for belligerent purposes]

 

Canary Polka: Ukrainian Folk Music in NYC 1928-32 by Pawlo Humeniuk, Michala Thomasa & Pals // polka

This came out back in 2020 on Canary Records, a label specialising in historical recordings from the first half of the XX Century from immigrant communities in the States. As of February 24, all proceeds have been destined to the Red Cross.

 

Griffé fundraiser compilation for Ukraine by Various Artists // electronic, tech house, techno

“This compilation gathers familiar faces of the label Griffé surrounded by newcomers that we should find on the label in the coming months. These 11 artists from the four corners of the world meet to raise funds for the volunteer association Kyiv Angels which helps people in need on the Ukrainian territory since the Russian invasion. Electro bangers, breaks, tech-house, trance, ebm infused techno… this compilation highlights all the musical aesthetics defended by the label since its beginning.

All incomes (label, artists, distribution) will go to the local volunteer organization Kyiv Angels.”

 

Feedback Solidarity – Finnish Noise Artists In Solidarity For Ukraine by Feedback Solidarity

 // noise

Does what is says on the tin with intelligence and care.

“All proceeds goes directly to volunteers working with medicine, evacuations and emergency logistics in Kharkiv and surrounding areas. Many of the volunteers are underground artists who have already been in a precarious state before and are now helping people with the war.”

 

Turn the Tables for Ukraine by Various // electronic, house, techno

“Turn the Tables: for solidarity, sovereignty, equality and peace; against oppression, aggression, megalomania and hate. Turn the Tables for Ukraine.

100% of all proceeds of this compilation will go to The Voices of Children Foundation, who provide psychological and psychosocial support to Ukrainian children affected by war since 2015.

Compiled by Eira Haul & Chris Breuer, Mastered by Studio A Berlin, Artwork by Annabell Lingenhöle, Typeface by Carmen Nácher.”

 

Humanitarian Appeal: Ukraine [TOL022] by Various Artists Touch of Loft // electronic, downtempo, techno

“While Touch of Loft is an Australian focused label, its members come from many backgrounds with friends and relatives all around the world. To show that we stand for safety, peace and unity, residents and friends of Touch of Loft put together this diverse compilation to raise money for humanitarian help in Ukraine.

All sales of this album will be donated to CARE Australia, Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal.”

 

Digitones v2 – Ukraine Relief by Various Artists // downtempo, techno

13 tracks from the London based label Blindtone including a collaboration by Ukrainian artists Komponente and Kirilo. All proceeds go to one or more charities and volunteers directly operating with people affected by the Ukrainian conflict. All tracks mastered by Alberto Pretto and Sasse at Blackhead Studios, Berlin. Artwork by Nicolas Falvo.

 

VIEWING ROOM

(Gianmarco Del Re)

 

 

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