Ukrainian Field Notes XVII

Menagerie by Mariia Oksentiyivna Primachenko

Episode XVII takes us to Kyiv, Eastern Ukraine, Kremenchuk, Uzhoorod, 200 KM south of Kyiv, and Kharkiv, via Israel, Poland and Slovakia for a healthy dose of field recordings, drone, electronic, experimental, and industrial music with a touch of darkwave and dungeon synth.

Along the way we ask Benjamin how vegan Ukraine is, we discuss coffee culture with Data Molfar, we engage in sound funambolism with Oleksii Lupashko, and compare air raid sirens from different parts of the country with Philipp Markovich.

Meanwhile Dahau Holidays bemone parents with dubious taste in music, The House Of The Hidden Light enthuses about Italian comics, tiho tiho surrenders to drone, Wim Dantinne lets a plank of willow wood go through his bone and marrow, and Olga Bekenshtein asks herself, Am I Jazz?

Stasik in Kherson

If that wasn’t enough Andrey Petrov journeys through the industrial wasteland of Donbass, and Mykyta Moiseiev takes us to the movies, while Symonenko ramps up the beats with his war tracks.

This month has also seen the liberation of Kherson, although the city remains under constant shelling. The Ukrainian singer turned soldier Anastasia aka Stasik is currently there. Her most popular song Lullaby for the Enemy, was remixed by Zavoloka and Kotra back in 2019.

But to begin with, here’s the fourth episode of the Ukrainian Field Notes podcast that aired on Resonance FM on 16-11-2022 featuring Nina Eba.

Tracklist:

Hidden Element and Ténèbre – Sensitive Content
Jockii Druce – боі стули пельку
Koloah – Time Traveller
Ivan Skoryna – Cheap Gas, Cheap Blood
Unfeeling – New Reality
Axxent13 – Bleached Mint
Nina Eba – сонце (demo)
Запорозький марш – Вогнем і Мечем
tiho tiho – Fragile Monuments (background)

Due to the recent damage to the electricity infrastructure, communications with Ukraine hasn’t always been all that smooth over the past couple of weeks, with artists apologising for their late replies through no fault of their own. As usual, follow the links to support them and make sure to check out the sterling work done by Data Molfar with the charity Onuky

And finally, for those who might be daunted by the number of interviews (13) and the word count (19,051), we’ve created a spotify playlist of featured artists.

 

NOVEMBER 8 2022 – KYIV

Difference Machine


My name is Benjamin. I live in Kyiv.

The story of the Difference Machine project is not so much about me, as it is about the circumstances I am in. This project was born within the context of the full-scale russian war against Ukraine. Many new things appeared in the lives of most Ukrainians after February 24 this year, not least of which were a whole lot of new sounds. «ніколи не змиряться» was created by Ukraine. It would be impossible to make it anywhere else at any other time.

Your album ніколи не змиряться (will never reconcile) is indeed one of the most powerful immersive experiences and reflections on the war that I’ve come across. In the liner notes you explain in detail the process of making the album, which is made entirely from sounds recorded between 24.02.2022 and 24.06.2022 during the full-scale russian invasion. Some of the sounds are processed to the point of making them not immediately identifiable and yet, they are still recognisable as “belliphonic sounds”. There have been a few studies on the auditory experience in the trauma of war, namely by J. Martin Daughtry, Lisa Gilman and Jonathan Pieslak.

For someone like me who’s not lived through a war, listening to your album heightened my sense of sonic alertness, to the point I kept thinking I was hearing air raid sirens. How would you say your sonic environment has changed since the full-scale invasion and what effect would you say is it playing on your mental health?

In the first days of the full-scale war, for me, it was the sonic environment that I noticed the most change in. Of course, everyone in Ukraine has the memory of hearing sirens or explosions for the first time – it is these sounds that were the mark of the start of the war for most people.

I was in a relatively-safe city at the end of February, but I still remember that the sky seemed to be screaming. There was a constant roar (which I assumed to be from aircraft) coming from above, all day and all night. These sounds created a very oppressive and apocalyptic atmosphere in the city.

For most people away from the frontlines, it is the sounds which always keep us in this psychological war-state and prevent us from psychological escape. The sirens, the explosions, the military machinery – all constant reminders of the violence that is always on our doorstep.

The creative process started with some experiments with sounds taken from videos. Initially this was just as a break in the little free time between volunteer projects, doing something a little less intense, not really taking it seriously. But as the album creation process went on, it got more and more intense on its own.

This album was difficult to make, psychologically. It required listening closer to these violent sounds, instead of closing my ears to them, which in this situation is probably a more rational thing to do for the sake of mental wellbeing. But only by listening to and analysing these sounds was it possible to make something constructive out of them. but it was still an incredibly emotionally-draining process.

It’s interesting you said you kept thinking you were hearing air-raid sirens listening to this album, because that is how we live every day. our ears have learned to pick up anything in the sonic environment that sounds anything like sirens, like explosions, like military machinery. our ears are always on alert. and, especially at the start of the full-scale war, the sound of sirens just kind of resonated constantly in our heads, so we had to check every time if it was real sirens or if we were just imagining it. This change in the way we perceive sounds obviously contributes to anxiety and paranoia.

You’ve also included an interview with president of Ichkeria Dzhokhar Dudayev from 1995 in your album, to illustrate that the problems with russia did not begin on 24.02.2022, nor on 22.08.2014, nor on 31.12.1999, nor even on 01.12.1991. As a matter of fact, in October 2022, Ukraine’s parliament recognised the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as a “temporarily occupied” state.

In the West there are still many reluctant to see this as a colonial and imperialist war. What are the most glaring problems in your view in the way the West has been covering the war and framing the narrative around it?

People in the West don’t like to listen to Ukrainian voices. They’d much rather give their liberal views on the situation from their safe place of privilege and lack of understanding, selectively listening to what helps them continue believing what they already want to believe. They don’t like to hear about the horrors that Ukrainians are living through. Instead, they prefer to listen to “good russians”, who are extremely guilty for enabling this genocidal war, but find the opportunism in themselves to utter two or three intelligible words (like “no war” or “p*tin is bad”) and suddenly they are deemed innocent (while they said nothing against the russian wars in Ichkeria, in Syria, in Georgia, etc.).

People in the West are not demanding enough of russians, but they are very demanding of Ukrainians. For fear of “discrimination”, they refuse to hold responsible the russian people as a whole, and make whatever excuses they can on behalf of russians. russians demand to be treated well by the world without doing a damn thing to deserve it.

Honestly, I don’t care how russians are treated, but the result of them not facing any consequences for enabling the war means that they won’t have any motivation to stop it. In this case, being tolerant of russians means more Ukrainians will die. And that I do care about.

Listening to Dudayev’s words from 1995 serves as a good illustration of how the problem with russia and ruscism is so much deeper than the “good russians” think it is. The problem is not the current russian leadership, it is the idea of the russian empire-federation-state built on genocide and theft and settler colonialism. This is not the first attempted genocide on Ukraine, and certainly not the first genocide that russians have conducted in their history. I have yet to see a person who identifies as russian acknowledge this. Chechens understand this. Ukrainians understand this. Baltic peoples understand this. Westerners do not. And russians are still lightyears away from understanding.

The other thing is that Westerners like to always relate everything to themselves. Maybe they think that nothing in the world happens without them, but they have a hard time understanding when something actually has nothing to do with them. russia wants to wipe out Ukraine because of sick ruscist supremacist ideology. It has nothing to do with international relations between east and west. if you tell a Ukrainian that their whole family was raped and executed by russian soldiers because of NATO, they’d have every right to punch you in the face for stupidity.

You also host the series Difference Machine Transmissions at Gasoline radio, where you develop the theme of tension and the power of sound. In what way would you say has music helped you survive the experience of war?


I can’t say for sure that music has helped to survive the war, whether for me or anyone else. I don’t want to give any illusions that music is some kind of supreme spiritual thing that allows a person to overcome great adversity. Really the only thing that truly helps to survive this war is by being an active part in it – whether by fighting or by supporting those who are fighting.

This radio series has been an opportunity to discover new stories in old music. The first 2 episodes of this series were reflecting back on survival and motivation during the first months, with the sounds and themes that influenced the process of making ніколи не змиряться. The 3rd episode is looking towards the future, at the new world we are building here in Ukraine. The 4th episode is returning to the present, with the relentless tide of death constantly crashing on our shores, while we try to live our lives.

Looking back, it is clear that this sequence reflects an evolving psychological environment, starting with processing the experience of the first months, then looking to the future for a source of hope, then a sober return to the present brutal reality. The future is not coming soon enough.

What impact has the full-scale invasion had on you both personally and professionally?

I am busier now than I have ever been in my life. To our normal everyday routines, we all had to add a whole lot of new regular activities, to contribute to fighting this war, but also to simply survive in it. I have learned a lot about human capacity. Seeing the limits of what I thought a person was capable of being stretched and stretched again… it is inspiring but also heart-wrenchingly difficult to watch. We see it in civilians doing incredible things daily, but especially in our soldiers literally staring hell in the eye and telling it to go fuck itself.

I imagine the time when I fully reflect on how this war has affected me personally will come some time after its end.

What is the current situation on the ground in Kyiv after the most recent attacks on the infrastructure and do you currently have running water?


We are all bracing for a brutal winter… At the moment we all have to restructure our lives around regular blackouts, internet outages, interruptions to water supply. And this is on top of the missile and drone attacks, and generally trying to fight this war. There are a lot of things that russians are doing to get in the way of our lives.

Nothing will reduce our resolve. Ukrainians have already lived through hell, many times over the generations. If there is something we must do to protect our lives and our freedom, we will do it. It’s just unfortunate that it’s not us who sets the price.

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists you think deserve to be global hits?

There is an album coming soon from Mariia & Magdalyna. Their work was a big influence on the Difference Machine album – specifically their theatre show «Human? …», in my opinion the most powerful work of art to come from the full-scale war. They have been touring this show in Europe too. Marusia from this group lent her voice to track №1 on «ніколи не змиряться». I am looking forward to their album.

One of my favourite local bands, Emotional Anhedonia, is doing amazing and interesting things all the time. their only format is improvised live shows, which are recorded on phone then released online, and they sound amazing.

How vegan is Ukraine?


Ukraine has a very vibrant and dedicated vegan community. We actually recently started a regular vegan festival in Kyiv, which celebrates local vegan culture, as well as raises money to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The locally-grown fruits and vegetables are incredibly tasty here. We are very lucky here to have such beautiful food, so it is very easy to be vegan, especially if you enjoy cooking.

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


You should interview Mykhailo, the band-leader/conductor of Emotional Anhedonia, organiser of many local events, and owner of the label Erythroleukoplakia Records.

 

NOVEMBER 12 2022 – EASTERN UKRAINE

Oleksii Lupashko

Hi, I’m a musician from Ukraine. I grew up on the Black Sea coast. I started off playing music on a guitar but I understood that it wasn’t exactly my type of instrument. So I tried drums and had a lot of fun. I even made my own drums from barrels, color buckets, sheets of tinplate, etc. Then I went to music school where I studied xylophone and academic drumming. This made me very interested in classical music. At the same time I started to play underground rock music. After several years I became a session drummer and made my “interest” more professional. Then I entered the Odesa National Academy of Music, where I met many like minded musicians and I had the great opportunity to play a variety of styles of music, especially avant-garde. Some time later I went deeper into electronic music. So now, I mix my experience, impressions, and influences together to be part of a new Ukrainian music movement.

What is the life of a drummer in Ukraine like?

At the time, I was studying drums and dabbled in all sorts of different genres – jazz, doom rock, folk, afrobeat, etc. I also worked in the orchestra of the Music Comedy Theatre and as a music teacher.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union differences have become more transparent, but I don’t think it’s that different to be a drummer in Ukraine than it is in the USA or Europe.

You are not just a drummer, but a multi-instrumentalist. Would you consider yourself a funambulist of sound?

I was always interested in different sorts of sound and methods to create it, both with acoustic instruments and electronic devices. Over the past few years I have been looking for new ways of drumming. So I started to play other instruments a lot. I started with percussion such as ud, frame drum, darbuka. I also made my own drum out of ceiba wood. Then I started to play woodwinds, electric organ, and guitar.

I don’t think I want to consider myself as funambulist, but I like this sort of comparison in general. I really don’t know how to consider myself. Maybe like a choir or dance conductor.

Your latest album Four Eyes, consists of improvisations which were spontaneously recorded before and after the beginning of the war. Has your motivation to make music changed since the full scale invasion and how would you say your sound has been affected by the war?

Yes, I wasn’t able to play drums and create music and had no opportunity to play musical instruments in general, so I turned to archived recordings and soundscapes. On the album Four Eyes one can hear many noise elements. I think the track “Funambulist” is about psychic stamina in conditions of rocket sheltering and air raids.

Generally speaking, during the first few months after full-scale invasion one doesn’t even know where to position oneself within the war context. Does music have a place in war time? That said, one of the ways to help Ukrainian military forces is to donate. So, slowly, we started to create events to help our country.

Your friend and colleague Serhiy Vovk (aka Del Cano) is fascinated by your approach to music and experiments. How much is experimentation a part of your practice?

Thank you, Serhiy. I think this is the central part of my music. Through experiments I try to find new words or meaning within the language of music, and links between ideas.

What impact has the war had on you both personally and professionally?

Professionally – I lost my job. During the war it is very difficult to make money. So I try other avenues and in some ways this has been beneficial for me.

Personally – I would say that everyone in Ukraine now understands what it is to be Ukrainian. We are not “nations-brothers”, not “people of the world”, but part of an authentic culture. And I think many artists have become braver. Now one can find a lot of interesting Ukrainian new music. It’s all part of building a new nation free from any post-soviet syndrome.

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

At present I live mostly in the East of Ukraine. For a few weeks I stayed in Odesa and Kyiv.

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking?

I think the West should support Ukraine more. The Ukrainian military forces are currently protecting the civilized world from destruction. Neighbouring countries understand this well and are preparing for the battle. The West must understand that this plague cannot be stopped by compromises or the rule of law. This is absolute evil, this is a hungry ragged horde that understands only the language of force. The West must speak in a language they understand. Not as they are currently doing.

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

Simple things, dogs and cats, birds, trees, good music, a good meme, etc.

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

DakhaBrakha, the Ukrainian language, native ornaments.

Who should I interview next and should I ask them?

Try Gennadiy Boychenko aka Potreba, he has interesting things to say and is a mind-blowing soundscape artist.

 

NOVEMBER 13 2022 – UZHHOROD

Uzhhorod 2022

Dahau Holidays


Vadym Oliinykov: At 12 I was hit by a car, as a result I broke my leg and I didn’t have to go to school for half a year. I had a lot of free time and I decided to try to learn how to play the guitar. I didn’t show any talent for music, but at the same time my fascination with punk rock began, especially its extreme primitive sub-genres. Inspired by the simple and powerful music of my favorite bands, I decided that I would become a musician.

Kseniia Yanus: As a child, my parents did not instill in me a taste for music, they listened to mediocre pop and chanson. And my desire to go to study at a music school was ignored, cause my grandmother and mother were not accomplished pianists, the poverty of the USSR, injuries and bad medicine prevented them from being realized. They did not believe that I could succeed. At the age of 11, I got on the Internet and started discovering strange music that no one in my circle listened to. Since that time, the bands that have changed my idea of music and the world in general have stayed with me: Flёur, Coil, Sopor Aeternus.

Last photo before full scale war. With Obrij, Casa Ukrania and our friends in Odesa

Your main activity is the creation of experimental music and sound art, the central themes of which are alienation, internal migration and reflections on the experience of childhood in the industrial region – Donetsk. With the full-scale invasion the number of IDP has grown exponentially and Donetsk has now been “annexed” by Russia.



I generally ask all my Ukrainian interviewees if their motivation to make music changed after February 24. In your case, since you’ve always been addressing and responding to topics raised by Russia’s colonial war, has the full scale invasion made your resolve even stronger, and how does it feel having to relive the trauma of 2014?

Vadym: Dahau Holidays is our way of responding to reality. The russian war in Ukraine and its prerequisites are our main creative motivation.

Kseniia: For me, all the music that we create is a way to survive the trauma caused by Donetsk. The trauma of this experience began long before 2014, and the russian invasion was a tragedy that further highlighted the evils of the society in which we lived. We did not want to believe in the possibility of a full-scale invasion to the last, but we still prepared for the worst and thought in advance what to do in this case. This allowed us to leave Odesa on the very first day of a full-scale war.

You’ve formed three different bands, Dahau Holidays, Климентово поле (Klimentovo pole), and Орфос (Orfos). How would you describe the post-industrial and darkwave music scene in Ukraine?

Vadym: There are individual musicians and bands, but they don’t make up the scene.

Kseniia: Indeed, it is difficult for me to speak about the scene, but I can recommend compilations that can illustrate what groups represent these genres in Ukraine: Khatacomb label trilogy: Ноктурналія, Ліміналія, Вакханалія and Side Line.

Lyrics to your albums are written in Russian. How do you feel about the language debate and has a line like “Мы останемся в ушах бойцов в виде МП3” (We will remain in the ears of the fighters in the form of MP3) acquired an even stronger resonance?  

Vadym: We don’t write songs in Russian anymore. The line you quoted is taken from a song by another band and is used by us as an element of an ironic text collage.

Morning after rave on Kuialnyk Estuary

Bit of a silly question, but once upon a time, I used to collect happiness (books, songs, albums, anything with the word Happiness in the title) and there’s a track called счастье on your album Шудра. What is happiness for you? 

Vadym: Happiness is desirable, alluring, but unattainable, like a carrot tied in front of the muzzle of a donkey harnessed to a wagon. This is what the song is about.

You are part of the Neformat Family that, together with the МА|ПА project, has released three volumes of a fundraising compilations aimed at supporting the Armed Forces of Ukraine. What are your feelings about the number of compilations that have been released with this from the West mostly donating to the Red Cross and Unicef?

Kseniia: I am very pleased that the West was able to discover Ukrainian culture, albeit under such tragic circumstances. And the number of compilations that came out and come out, getting them to the top of the bandcamp is really very supportive and inspiring.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to explain why donations to the Red Cross and UNICEF are not the best choice, because these organizations have authority in the eyes of the public. But the war in Ukraine showed how much more effective private charitable initiatives are, what colossal power lies in local fundraising. If we talk about large funds, because many are afraid to make a mistake and fall for scammers, donate to Come back alive and United24.

Neformat Fest 2015

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists that you believe should be global hits?

Vadym: Current 93 haven’t written any world hits but that doesn’t stop them from being one of the most important bands that has ever existed.

Ukrainian music has always enjoyed well-deserved popularity in Europe. Ukrainian artists often become winners of prestigious world competitions, so I don’t think that any of the Ukrainian mainstream performers have been deprived of fame. As for the Ukrainian music that we listen to, in order to perceive it properly, one must have a good understanding of the specific cultural context in which it was written, but this will not be enough. The Odesa band Flёur is the most important band for me, they are known and understood here, but even here it is very niche music.

Covid times in Odesa

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking? 

Vadym: I think that the West should continue to ask and be interested in Ukrainian culture and history, so that everyone would absolutely understand the prerequisites for this war and its inevitability. The stakes are too high, and our main concern is that the West may lose interest in Ukraine in order to restore the status quo.

Opinion leaders such as Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson demonstrate blatant incompetence in matters of Ukrainian history, and broadcast to their multi-million audience the message that Ukraine must accept the world on Russia’s terms. Even worse, the Pope of Rome publicly declares that cruelty is not characteristic of the Russian people, referring to Dostoevsky, he claims that Russian culture is a culture of humanism. I want to tell these people, wake up! Read something else from what the Russian chauvinist, anti-Semite Dostoevsky wrote! Dostoevsky, who argued that the Russians should decide the fate of all Slavic peoples.

The people of Poland, the Baltic countries, Finland, having survived centuries of oppression, prohibitions of national languages, religions, the Ukrainian people, in addition, survived the Russian genocide of 1932-1933, know what Russian humanism is worth. I want to say that there is no such atrocity that the Russians would not commit in the fight against the opponents of Russian imperialism, and that this is not Putin’s war, this is the war of Russian imperialism against the people who dared to throw off the Russian yoke.

Noise perfomance in Odesa

Where are you now, and what is the current situation on the ground in Odesa and Uzhhorod at present? 

Vadym: We are in Uzhhorod now and plan to settle here.

Kseniia: There are no safe places in Ukraine right now. The air alert map very often covers the entire territory of Ukraine, all cities are in danger of missile strikes. Since February, Transcarpathia can be called the safest region, due to its geographical location – the border with 4 European states. Odesa is also becoming safer, the successes of the ZSU (The Armed Forces of Ukraine) on the southern front, the liberation of Kherson – this inspires hope.

Stream from Rotonda

You’ve taken part in the project Land to Return, Land to Care with field recordings from the Horyanska Rotunda. To my knowledge this is one of the few initiatives that looks at the current soundscape of the country. How would you say the sonic environment has changed and or your relation to it?

Kseniia: A lot of new triggers have appeared in our sound space: the sound of an air raid alarm, the sounds of explosions, the attitude to everyday sounds has changed – aircraft engines, fireworks, even carpet kicking – can now cause panic. In regions that suffer from active hostilities, citizens can distinguish the sounds of different weapons, and this is monstrous.

The Land to Return, Land to Care project creates an archive of wartime soundscapes from different regions of Ukraine. I am sure that in a few years, listening to these sound replicas of time will evoke completely different emotions in me. The question is what they will be.

Live in Odesa

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

Vadym: One of the features of the Ukrainian mentality is self-irony – a completely inexhaustible source of humor. It is enough to remember your life path and how you got to this point to smile bitterly)

Kseniia: We win not only on the battlefield and in the information war, the meme war is also ours. It is interesting how even the communications of official bodies have changed – humor unites all Ukrainians.

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

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

ERYTHROLEUKOPLAKIA label founders.

 

NOVEMBER 16 2022 – ISRAEL

Philipp Markovich

For the past decade, I’ve been mostly known as a member of the LOW Party crew behind the longest running disco night series of Ukraine, operating since 2009. Initially we entered the scene at the late Xlib Club in Podil district of Kyiv, then regrouped to Closer club where we stayed till the breakout of the full-scale war.

Beside that crew-residency at Closer I’ve been a regular at the festival lineups like Strichka, Brave Factory and Ostrov in Ukraine, and made appearances at Lithuanian fests like Vayus and Ant Bangos. This past winter I also was an addition to the lineups of K41 club, that one nameless much talked about venue in Kyiv. My most recent inception was the launch of my monthly radio-show at Radio Vilnius. It is called «Nezabarom» which stands for «Soon» in Ukrainian.

You’ve recently released Silence of Sirens, a compilation of 25 recordings of sounds of air-raid alarms in different regions of Ukraine. On the dedicated website you reveal that, “The idea behind this project was an imaginary situation of an artist trying to recreate «4’33″» in modern-day Ukraine. It is highly possible that it would take several attempts, because the alleged silence gets disrupted by the dreadful sound of air raid sirens.”

How did you source all the different recordings?

Some of the recordings I did by myself, turning on the voice memos on my phone. The rest of them were sourced thanks to my post on facebook where I asked people to record air-raid alarm sirens in their regions and share them with me.

 

Other than the albums by Adaa Zagorodnya (Польові Записи з Лютого) and Difference Machine (ніколи не змиряться) and the project 5 artists — 5 cities — 5 sound experiences @ 20ft Radio – 18/09/2022, I am not aware of other field recordings works that have come out of Ukraine since February 24 and yet musician I have spoken to have been telling me how their heightened vigilance towards the changed soundscape has affected them. Now that several months have passed and some of the sounds have become as you’ve stated “our eerie daily routine” do you think we’ll see more field recordings based albums being produced?

I wouldn’t predict anything. But I can share my personal experience with one Ukrainian artist who used to work in the field-recordings genre. He was among those I asked to record the sound of a siren for my project. He hesitated at first, but then explained his take on it. He wouldn’t want to do this because, he said, it wasn’t the kind of life experience he’d like to keep preserved in a sound documentation. Of course, he added, he could do one record purposely for me, but it wouldn’t be a pleasant experience for him. Surely enough I didn’t push him. I am unaware if his attitude has since changed.

How do you feel about the inclusion of air raid sirens in many tracks have been used in many tracks? As you stated yourself, they have since become our eerie daily routine for Ukrainians.

I see the point of using that kind of sound in some of the recent Ukrainian productions. The sound of war is simply there, you cannot escape it, it’s omnipresent, no matter how far from the actual frontline you are. The frontpage and the cover picture of the Silence of Sirens project, drawn by Lithuanian artist Lina Vyšniauskaitė, looks like that for a reason. It depicts a soundwave stuck inside a person’s head. That is the sad and gruesome reality of my homeland right now. So, it is not surprising that we get to hear sirens in newly produced tracks.

You are a resident at Radio Vilnius, has the full-scale invasion made you more aware of the electronic music scene in Ukraine and how do you see it evolving under present circumstances?

To be honest I favor that kind of an affirmative action now taking place towards Ukrainian artists. I feel it is necessary to cut ropes with russian artists who chose to remain silent about war crime and genocide committed by their country in my homeland and give the Ukrainian scene a broader international representation instead. Wait till those russian peace-dove-like-artists would reappear in the public after Ukrainian Victory saying they always were pro-Ukrainian with several «but» following up.

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists you feel should be global hits?

Hits aside, but here’s a nice little selection of freshly produced tunes by Don’t Take Fake Magazine and I pretty much align with it.

I would especially back two of them, coming out from two drastically different sound pallets. A humming leftfield-like but groovy folk tune «Tempo» by sophistication. And an electricized banger «russia is a terrorist state» by Tucha.

What impact has the full scale invasion had on you both personally and professionally?


Pretty much like everyone else I now draw a «before / after» line set on February 24, 2022. The impact is there, but it is still up to measure later.

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


I’ve been on an ever-going tour through Baltics, Poland, Norway, Belgium and France, now setting foot on Israeli soil.

What is the current mood on the ground in Ukraine after the recent attacks and how are you preparing for winter considering damage to the infrastructure?

What we are witnessing now is the agony of a blood thirsty Kremlin regime. After the russian troops have been defeated on the battlefield in Kharkiv and Kherson regions they turned onto merciless terrorist tactics. They are purposely targeting Ukrainian power plants and other civilian infrastructure on the threshold of winter. They let Ukrainians freeze in the darkness. They are sending hundreds (!) of missiles and kamikaze-drones at ones to almost no avail. Of course, they hit some of the targets which leads to power outages across the country, but we better be cold then surrender and be part of a terrorist russian empire.


Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking?

My general appeal to the Western media is: please stop westsplaining on how we should sacrifice part of our land to make peace with the aggressor, or how we should be open for peace negotiations with russia right now. My stance is simple: no negotiations before russia’s disintegration. One should not settle for peace with terrorists. Only after the last russian soldier leaves Ukrainian soil, after my country gets back to their internationally recognized borders as of August 24, 1991, after we witness a special war crimes and genocide international tribunal on russia, and after the war reparations are paid off, then, and only then we could proceed with negotiations on russia’s future position in global politics — decolonized, demilitarized and denuclearized preferably.

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?


It is kind of a general belief now, that Ukrainians have turned into the world leading meme-generator. No matter how harsh another day at war was there’s always a freshly baked brilliant meme on current events roaming social media.

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



Talking about literature, I cannot recommend enough novels like Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets and Maybe Esther by Katja Petrowskaja. One can also find some well translated poetry by Lina Kostenko and Vasyl Stus.

I’d love everyone to watch movies such as Earth by Oleksandr Dovzhenko and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Serhiy Paradzhanov, a docu The Earth Is Blue as an Orange by Iryna Tsilyk, an animation The Tram Was Going, Number Nine by Stepan Koval and a short feature Wayfarers by Ihor Strembitskyy.

Talking about music I’d advise you to go check out these two features Radio Vilnius made in celebration of this year’s Independence Day of Ukraine: It’s a broad cross-genre selection representing the Ukrainian sound throughout the last three decades.

Mansion Kowalewski

Podcast: How We Win This. It’s in English and has a great variety of guests from different fields.

In terms of food, nothing can beat Ukrainian dumplings called varenyky for me.

Talking visuals, Mariia Prymachenko got to capture the best imagery of the Ukrainian dreamland.

My all-time favorite building, called Mansion Kowalewski, is right next to my place in Kyiv.

And a meme, that sums up the Ukrainian attitude perfectly, appeared on the pinnacle of recent russian nuclear threats. It shows Donald Duck peacefully going to sleep. The caption goes something like: «Screw it, what can I do?»

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

I’d like for you to interview the Ukho Music Agency from Kyiv. They are now setting up a new label releasing Ukrainian contemporary composers with 10 LPs in the line to be released next year.

 

NOVEMBER 16 2022 – KYIV

Data Molfar

Hello. I am Data Molfar. Ever since I was a child, I have loved science fiction and electronic music. Only strange, unlike sounds could create the feeling that I was in one of my favorite books by Philip Dick or William Gibson. I walked a lot alone with this kind of music and continued to fantasize about the world and beyond what I see.

It was absolutely natural that at some point I began to think about how to do something similar, and one day I saw a Techno Ejay disc in a computer games store. I think my childhood friend, with whom I went to this store, really regretted that I found this disk, because I went crazy and could not think of anything else except to hang in this program. I was 11 or 12 years old.

What is your setup and how would you define your sound?

I think this will amuse you, but the computer is what I now write music on. And I don’t plan on changing that.

My tracks are different from each other, so it’s hard to clearly define my own sound. But I absolutely love deep and dark ambient. I usually say that my musical setting is “an occult ritual in a dark future”)

Over at A Closer Listen, we’ve featured 100+ fundraising compilations. You’ve contributed to the compilation Hospitallers by Mystictrax yourself. Are there any specific compilations out there that have impressed you in particular and which are the organisations you feel such compilations should support?

I apologize for the short answer, but no. In all the time since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russia, I almost never had free time to study all these collections. But I listened to tracks of all the artists from the Mystictrax compilation and I was very impressed with the Clasps work called “Peacedove”. This is a very deep and dramatic work. I think I listened to it for several days without stopping.

You host the series обряд (rites) on Gasoline Radio. In your SoundCloud bio you state that Data Molfar is about shamanism in data streams, where music is the programming code. Each performance is a connection to cyberspace to conduct a reimagined occult rite. Are there any specific rituals you have been performing since February 24?



On the one hand, I believe that it is not necessary to follow traditional rites in the modern world. In my podcast series, I try to show that sometimes it’s enough to get into this energy and setting. How to watch a quality film and how to become a participant in it.

On the other hand, in preparation for the next issue, I read the history of the holiday with pagan roots and try to perform at least one of the rituals, if possible. For example, on the feast of Ivan Kupala, I jumped over the fire and symbolically burned and left behind all the bad. And on Veles Night, unlike Halloween, there is one of the traditions to call the souls of the dead to oneself and see them off to another world. This ritual is considered light and not scary. To do this, I put candles on the windowsill, as if it were a lighthouse, so that souls would not get lost in the world of the living.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your motivation in terms of making music and has it influenced your playlist in any way?

There is less time for my music, but more motivation to just get on and finish the job. Sometimes I could only have one night at home to use part of the track. Most of the time I lived near the volunteer headquarters, without access to my workplace. This is exactly what happened with the music for the documentary film about the work of volunteers. In one evening, my most profound and heartbreaking work appeared.

I also love the great interest in the self-expression of the musicians who stayed in Ukraine. A huge number of unique shows appeared on Gasoline Radio. Non-commercial, experimental music, some field and collection recordings were very clearly manifested. The reason for this is very scary, but it seems to me that this trend will be very beneficial for the electronic scene and for independent music in Ukraine in general.

photo Kostyantyn Huzenko, Onuky

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists you feel should be global hits?

Yes, I really like everything that artist Tucha does. But her joint track with Rusiiick and Badwor7h is just energy from somewhere in the bowels of the earth. I think it should be heard all over the world.

What impact has the full scale invasion had on you both personally and professionally?



I became faster in everything, and especially in decision making. I began to build contact with people faster and just as quickly began to cut off all unnecessary connections for myself. In addition, mistakes no longer frighten me, because it is much more important to do, get results, analyze and do again with the experience gained. There is no more time for long reflections.

And professionally, well, I became the director of a charitable foundation. That’s the turn in life, haha)

photo Kostyantyn Huzenko, Onuky

Could you tell us more about your volunteering and the charity you run?

On February 28, I joined the Kyiv Volunteer Foundation as a volunteer. The main specialization of the foundation was food. We fed both the military and civilians. At the peak of activity, the number of servings reached 15 thousand.

After the de-occupation of the Kyiv region, we all saw the terrible consequences of the presence of Russian troops in Bucha, Borodyanka and other small towns. Almost instantly, we decided that we needed to collect food and take it to the locals. I led this direction in the fund. My team and I built routes, looked for funding and other resources, organized a convoy of oversized cars, kept in touch with the military and tried to get to the most forgotten places where people could not get help.

photo Kostyantyn Huzenko, Onuky

I worked in this format until July, when the friendly Onuky Foundation offered me to become a director and help with all the processes. At the beginning, I did not really understand how exactly I could be useful in this position, but I also understood that it was clear and would not be until I started to act. “Onuky” dealt with elderly people who do not have the support of relatives or the state, as well as supporting internally displaced persons (internal refugees). I realized that this was close to me and just tried to make the organization work efficiently. Searched for resources, contacted the media, organized fundraising activities.

It was often scary because of the great responsibility, but now we have a lot of success and this is all, of course, thanks to the team and the support of caring people.

You can read a little about our activities in this article for The Village.

photo Kostyantyn Huzenko, Onuky

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



I’m in Kyiv. I traveled to different cities about 20 times only as part of humanitarian missions. These trips happened because of the war, but I personally did not have to move to other cities as a refugee.

What is the current mood on the ground in Kyiv after the recent attacks and how are you preparing for winter?


It is extremely difficult to explain the mood of Ukrainians without having been here. We feel a mixture of apathy and anger. Everyone is used to sirens and explosions, but the confidence that everything will be fine does not disappear anywhere. We have only one scenario in mind – victory and independence. Other options are worse than death for us.

I believe that in the winter everything will be in order and it will not be too hard. But just in case, I have candles and a warm sleeping bag. With my friends, I’m definitely not lost)

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking?

Of course, yes! I consider it absolutely unacceptable to call the invasion and genocide by Russia “Ukrainian-Russian conflict” or “Ukrainian situation”. This is complete bullshit and unprofessional. It’s all just because of Russia and that’s it! I would like everything to be called by its proper name and not softened in any way. This is the bloodiest and most insane war since World War II. In 2022!

Now it seems the most terrible thing is that the world will get tired of helping Ukrainians and remembering what is happening with us. And it’s worse if the story of what is happening is distorted, so the more correct and correctly presented information in the international media, the better.

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?


Whenever possible, I go out into nature, where there is no news and work. I listen to silence and drink tea.

Well, I laugh a lot at the Russians, who record propaganda videos, and then are surprised at the failure of their authorities or the military at the front. There is nothing funnier than how they try to explain everything and not fall face down in the mud. It ends up getting worse.)

photo Diana Andrunyk for The Village Ukraine

You are also a professional barista, and have helped set up cafes in different cities all over Ukraine. What is coffee culture like in Ukraine and what what type of coffee do you normally go for?

Oh, maybe it will surprise you, but Kyiv is a coffee revolutionary. Here you can find excellent equipment and professional baristas on every corner. But I would mention a few favorite places: Svit Kavy, 16 coffee, Blur, Yellow Place. And my favorite coffee is just a filter)

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



Klitschko Bridge (not its official name). Firstly, the people of Kiev were not very happy about its construction and are sure that with the help of it the city authorities once again stole money. The main “feature” of the bridge was transparent sections of strong glass, which a few days after the opening of the bridge were fenced off for “repair”, and later this glass did not become transparent at all, although this seems to be the main value. But in the end, this unfortunate glass bridge withstood the missile attack and became a national symbol and the hero of numerous memes. Absurdity, excellent sense of humor,  a great desire to live and endless faith in a better future, all this describes Ukraine well.

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

I think you need to chat with Oi Fusk. A very talented and original musician who survived a missile attack on the house where he lived.

Well, and of course Tucha [UFN VIII]. This girl is on fire.

 

NOVEMBER 18 2022 – WARSAW, POLAND

tiho tiho

Hello. My name is Volodymyr.

When I was a kid my parents insisted on me going to music school and I did for several years. I was learning classical guitar and honestly – hated it. At the time I did not find that kind of music interesting at all.

A few years later I got interested in playing drums and it all started there. I was a drummer in a post-rock band and some years later after the band disbanded I picked up a modular synth as a way to tinker with sound. So now I’m releasing ambient as tiho tiho.

What is your setup and how would you define your sound?

There is a certain feeling of tension in the middle between stillness and movement. That feeling fascinates me. I feel like the world around us wants us to rush somewhere all the time, and wants us to be distracted. So my music-making process is akin to meditation, it’s for me to be completely in the moment and focused.

Prior to the war, my setup was a modular synth which I recorded as improvised performances. I always had a hard time using a computer for music making, because it always lacked dialogue. The computer is capable of fantastic results but the interaction is not tactile at all, it’s too rational.

But since the war started my usual setup is unavailable to me, so it’s just Bitwig now.

Given my interest in the space between movement and stillness, it’s fair to think about my compositions as installations. It’s my dream to make an installation one day. The teamLab experience in Tokyo was a huge inspiration for me. I’m always trying to build an instrument that would be able to produce output on its own and then interact with it to shape the result. I found out that Bitwig is the closest thing in software that allows me to do what I used to do with modular.

There’s a sustained tension in your latest album, Fragile Monuments, even when the drone gives way to more “organic” and analog sounds. In the liner notes you write that it is your attempt to process all that is happening.

Has the full-scale invasion made you reconsider the way you approach sound and has it changed your motivation towards music?

This whole year is has been one of sustained tension. For me, the war brought forward the meditative, healing, calming aspect of music practice. Previously I would make conscious attempts to create melody, to create something more “conventional”. But now, I gave myself to drones.

What impact has the full scale invasion had on you both personally and professionally?

Professionally it was really hard to find any meaning in what I was doing. But I decided that if it helps me to keep myself sane then it’s ok.

Where are you now and have you been displaced at any point since February 24?

At present I’m in Warsaw.

What is the current situation on the ground where you are after the recent attacks?

Since I’m not in Ukraine I don’t experience attacks first hand. But friends and relatives are there. Recent power outages complicate everything a bit, but I am sure it’s nothing we can’t handle.

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking?

It’s a tough question. On one hand the support of Western communities is nothing short of amazing. On the other hand, I am disappointed in the media once again.

It feels like there was a stereotype of “strong russia” in the West, something sinister like the Empire from the Star Wars movies, and that the media currently spends A LOT of time trying to find proof of that stereotype. They try hard to obscure misconceptions and mistakes. They give me the feeling like, “We have to be afraid of russia because earlier we convinced ourselves that they are strong and sinister”.

It also saddens me how democracies are blind or powerless to how russia abuses democracy rules against them. Like free speech, freedom of beliefs. The media field is littered with garbage comparable to nonsense like flat earth and yet for the media it still boils down to objectivity and giving space to all points of view.

Oh, and Facebook siding with russia and using community standards to cover its censorship is just pathetic.

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists that have positively surprised you and struck a chord with you?

The recent EP, Fuga/Fortuna, by Koloah is soothing. I also greatly appreciate what Heinali does.

What is your current mindset and how do you unwind?

I like driving, somewhere to the forest preferably. I also play video games sometimes.

Do you still have issues with Paypal payments on Bandcamp?

Since I had those difficulties I made a decision that all my music on Bandcamp will be free. It would seem that the difficulties are resolved now. But I don’t think about music as my source of income. 🙂

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

This is the most difficult question. Maybe modernist architecture. It was popular a while back, but it’s underappreciated now, it looks cool when it’s done right.

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

Koloah maybe. You are doing a great job finding Ukrainian artists.

 

 

NOVEMBER 18 2022 – TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA

Olga Bekenshtein

I am a music curator, cultural manager, music listener, and presenter of it in different ways. I founded Am I Jazz?, a festival of Black American and improvised music in Kyiv that is affiliated with the Closer team running the club and such festivals as Strichka and Brave! Factory. I’m also deejing a bit.

You are part of the Closer team in Kyiv, what is the current state of play with the club, how is it managing to survive under present conditions?

Not sure that I can speak on behalf of those who stayed in Kyiv. Can only say that I am extremely proud of them. Since the first days of the full-scale invasion they’ve been volunteering. During the summer they also started organizing concerts, even festivals, and most recently — even daytime parties featuring not only local talent but also brave European DJs as well. I have no idea how they manage to do it between the constant danger of drones attack, air raid sirens, electricity outages, curfew, plus the very normal financial instability of cultural events, but they do it and they keep gathering funds for the army. Seeing such strength and audacity, knowing that Closer is very much alive, active, creative, and has some plans for the future is actually one of the factors that keeps me sane.

I know Closer held a couple of fundraising events in Berlin over the summer, generally speaking how would you say the international music community responded to the full-scale invasion and to the calls for the boycott of Russian electronic artists?



Of course, there are people with an adequate level of empathy, who understand that real solidarity comes from actions. But in general, I would say, it responded with ignorance and indifference. Lots are willing to add the Ukrainian flag to their profile pictures, make a fundraising compilation, or even charity events. It is easy and nice to use such words as “peace”, “love”, and “community”, but only a few would commit to them, would fight for them, would do something uncomfortable in the name of those things. Even DJs, who we considered our friends, would still go to parties in Moscow or perform at affiliated with russian oligarch Sensor festival, indirectly sponsoring the bombing of our homes. I think they are capable of drawing the logic of how it works in terms of the effect on the war, they just choose to ignore it. Which is very disappointing for us, of course.

You are the founder of the festival Am I Jazz? The program is focused on vanguard expressions and emphasising contrasts and parallels between new acoustic and electronic music, the festival has been showcasing a broad range of Ukrainian artists from Dennis Adu to Ihor Tsymbrovsky and Georgiy Potopalskiy alongside international names. What would you count as your greatest achievement as a festival organiser and where would you say the greatest challenges have come from?

At some point, I realize that my strength lies in what I am also considering my weakness. I can’t call myself an expert in any music genre, but I can freely navigate across different forms of contemporary music. Once I realized how to use it, it started bringing the results — either as a program that I can be proud of, or as commissioned projects that merge scenes, and these days even across countries.

For the first two years of the festival, I learned how to run a niche festival and not go bust, for the next two years I managed the festival from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and then came the pandemic, and now it’s the war. So, the greatest challenge is always something unexpected.

 

Closer is also behind the Brave! Factory Festival, one of many festivals that used to take place in Ukraine. I know it’s pointless to speculate at present, but to your knowledge have new relationships and links been forged with international institutions that could secure financial backing, collaborations, exchanges, and other forms of support so that events and festivals will be able to resume in Ukraine when the appropriate time comes?

In some sense, festivals are happening even now. Since the summer, Closer and other venues of our factory building have united for the Na Chasi festival (On Time — Ukr.). It consists of music, art, and educational programs; you can eat street food there, get a new tattoo, etc. People need festivals, gatherings, and pleasure to keep resilience, and to fight. But what will happen after the victory is hard to predict. I don’t think that it will be a matter of budgets, but rather what structures we’ll have, how quickly we’ll demine lands, and how fast our energy infrastructure will restore. And most importantly, what moods will dominate — because sure we will celebrate, but also we will finally mourn.

Trnava

During the panel discussion at the Next Festival in Bratislava, you have talked about being in a privileged position in terms of being offered support and residencies after the full-scale invasion. You’ve left Kyiv in June for a residency in Slovakia. What can you tell us about that experience?

I started the residency at Malý Berlín in Trnava on July 1st. I feel welcomed, cared and supported. It’s amazing how little we know in Ukraine about Slovakia and vice versa, and that only after the war we started to discover how beautiful each other’s culture is. During the residency me and my colleague Pavel Plastikk developed a new festival Svitanok, the first edition of which happens in Norway this November. And the next one is planning to be here, in Slovakia. Also, I am researching the experimental scene here, and I hope I’ll do something with it. And speaking of Next Festivals — I will do my best to bring more Ukrainians to this amazing festival.

How do you deal with burnout and how do you unwind?

I let myself be burned, and reduced to ashes until I get myself together again. Sometimes a long party helps, sometimes I’m spending months looking for meaning through lectures, and panel discussions, and sometimes I do the opposite and binge on stupid TV shows.

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists you feel should be global hits?

Would be nice, if ТУЧА (Tucha)’s “russia is a terrorist state” played in every party. And my favorite tune of this year  — “TER.RAIN # 1 26 15 22 19 20 5 5 12” by Ujif_Notfound.

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

I just recently rewatched Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, so it immediately came to my mind. I love every second of this movie.

But also, one TikTok song – По суті Україна то така пісочниця — that says that Ukraine is a country where everyone does whatever he or she wants, and it’s uncontrollable, so such freedom is our blessing and a curse.

 

NOVEMBER 22 2022 – KREMENCHUK

Wim Dantinne

Could you take 5 seconds off whatever you’re doing to give us a decent bio?

5 seconds is too little.

If I may, what took you from Belgium to Kremenchuk and what made you decide to stay there after the full-scale invasion?

A project to repurpose a vacant building brought me to Kremenchuk. Love made me go live there after some years. A feeling of responsibility made me go back at the beginning of the war while working in Belgium.

You host the podcast series ЧОРНОЗОМ on Gasoline radio. Has the full-scale invasion had an impact on your relationship to music and sound?

It sure has, the first weeks I barely listened nor made any music. In my selections for ЧОРНОЗОМ I feel certain restrictions because of the war.

How would you describe the experimental and electronic music scene in Ukraine and how do you see it developing under present circumstances?

Besides the small movement I have witnessed growing here in Kremenchuk, I have little understanding of that scene. But what I do understand is that there is great potential, talent, artistry, will to make magic happen here.It seems that the war has only strengthened the determination of the whole music scene to express itself and not be pushed down by a cowardly aggressor.

What impact has the full-scale invasion had on you both personally and professionally?

That’s a bit too intricate and personal to talk about here.

The house of the merchant Churkin in Kremenchuk – photo by KuRaG / Wikicommons

What is the current mood on the ground in Kremenchuk after the most recent strikes and how have you been preparing for winter?

The situation is far from ideal, but people are resilient and resourceful… I used to bitch about the not so ideal circumstances in Ukraine before the war, (coming from a rich Western country, some things seem self-evident) but I’ve been humbled and have a deep respect for the Ukrainian way of handling hardship, they do what is necessary and they do it with a great sense of (black) humor.

Being from Belgium, how do you view the way the discourse around the Russian invasion has been framed in the West and have you found yourself having awkward conversations with friends and family from back home?

I studied political sciences, so there’s no way to answer that question by writing down a few words.

Rabinovich house in Kremenchuk – photo by KuRaG / Wikicommons

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists that have impressed you and that you believe deserve to be global hits?



Global hits are of no importance. I am impressed by some local artists and I am looking forward to see them grow. Step by step I’m also finding out about artists from other parts of the country. Partially thanks to the amazing platform which is Gasoline Radio, but also by gradually moving out of my cave and connecting with people.

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

Having tea with friends, talking and joking and finding some resonance for my thoughts and emotions… this brings some warmth, light, smiles, laughs, tears…

Dnipro river, Kremenchuk – photo by Ilya / Wikicommons

Is it still possible to source vinyl under present circumstances?

Vinyl culture is way more limited here than it is in Belgium… but when the weather allows it I sporadically go to the flea market to see if I can find something. The circumstances are rather impacting my appetite for records than the possibility to find any. My latest ‘find’ came from some vinyl group on social media, a guy was selling some Polish big band jazz I had on my wantlist for a long time.

I’ve been considering learning Ukrainian, how long would you say it might take me and what are some of the first idiomatic expressions I would need to learn?

It fully depends on your discipline, which I fully lack when it comes to learning a language.I have to admit my Ukrainian is almost nonexistent… but it’s a beautiful language. I suggest you also dive into some “Surzhik” which is a blend of Ukrainian and Russian. I love the blending of languages, probably growing up in and around Brussels has something to do with that.

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

Veryovka Ukrainian Folk Choir – A Plank Of Willow Wood is a song that goes through bone and marrow (that’s a Flemish expression), it just touches the deepest of my soul every time.

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

These talented guys from central-Ukraine (Kremenchuk/Kropyvnytsky connection), they are working on music, they’re still looking for a name, but it will come sooner or later.

 

NOVEMBER 24 2022 – KIYV

The House Of The Hidden Light

I’m a musician from Kyiv. I think I’ve been doing music for about 10 years now. When I started I was inspired by the post-industrial, neofolk scene, bands like Coil and Current 93. I was trying to do noise and experimental music, but then I was also into weird fiction and horror movies, so I began writing compositions that were more in the mood of books and films that I love.

Does your moniker come from Arthur Machen and A.E. Waite’s work?

Yes, Arthur Machen is one of my favorite authors and when I was looking for a project name, I ran through his bibliography and found this beautiful title “The House of the Hidden Light”. I didn’t read the book at that time, but its name was full of poetry and magic, so I decided to use it. Perhaps I imagined it as my own hidden house in which I could compose some music.

There’s a strong cinematic and narrative drive in your albums, not just in the sound but also in the titles of the tracks and the artwork. How do you go about composing an album?

Music comes first, often from some small pieces of piano improvisation, then arrangement. When I have enough tracks, I`m trying to find names for them, so they should look like chapters in the book, but the content of this book should imagine the listener.

Here at A Closer Listen we’ve featured over 100 fund-raising compilations. You’ve taken part in a couple of them (Dniprovia and Electronic Resistance), what is your opinion on such compilations in terms of causes they espouse and would you single out any particular release aside from the ones you’ve contributed to?


I consider these compilations as a form of volunteering. There are a lot of people in trouble, so if I could help them with my music, it’s great. Even a small amount of money could help, that`s why it`s important.

Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to other compilations.

What impact has the full scale invasion had on you both personally and professionally?



For the first months of the invasion, I could not think of anything except war, even reading books or watching movies was problematic, let alone writing music. For now, it has gotten easier, I’m trying to return to music, but I still have problems with concentration.

Where are you now and have you been displaced at any point since February 24?

I am in Kyiv now, and I refused to displace myself in February and March when things became dangerous. This is my home and I’m not going to leave it because of some russian scum.

What is the current mood on the ground in Kyiv after the most recent strikes?

We have problems with electricity. It`s not very pleasant when you can’t get a cup of coffee in the morning or take a shower. But a lot of people are buying generators, so I guess we’ll do it.

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists that deserve to be global hits?

I think war is not a good time for music. But afterward, surely there will be a lot of great hits.

Are the films of Mario Bava and Dylan Dog comics popular in Ukraine at all or is that just you?

They are popular, but not as much as they should be. I can say they are very popular in small circles of connoisseurs.

The interesting thing about Ukraine, is you can always find people who are very deep in giallo or poliziotteschi films or have a huge fumetti collection or any other theme. There is always a hunger for good films, books, and music.

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

Laughing is a natural protective reaction. The more tense it gets, the more jokes we make, or memes create. War is a tragedy, but it has funny sides. Like russian soldiers who loot toilets or steal raccoons from Kherson zoo. Nobody thought they are so dumb to do it, and yet they are.

Bomarzo has inspired at least a couple of albums I know from Italian artists, namely K11 (aka Pietro Ripabelli) and Clorinde. Will the gardens inspire you to compose a track as well?

It’s an absolutely fantastic place! I found out about it when I was reading Culianu’s “Eros and Magic in the Renaissance”. Prince Orsini’s story amazed me. Not just him – neoplatonic philosophers like Marsilio Ficino or Giordano Bruno had a very interesting life.

Last year I finally went to Italy and Bomarzo was the first place on my travel list, and I hope to visit it again, after the war. The whole country has so much for inspiration – so it’s really nice idea to make some music, not only about the garden but the whole quattrocento period.

“The carnival” by Vsevolod Maxymovich

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

Book: Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka by Nikolai Gogol

Film:  Sergei Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Album: Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhy by Svitlana Nianio & Oleksandr Yurchenko. It reminds me of my childhood in Kyiv.

Karaite Kenesa

Song: “Bouquets” by Nekraina.

Dish: Varenyky with sour cream.

Blog/podcast: Maryna Moynihan’s Wickermag and her podcast Radio Morgiana.

Artwork: “The carnival” by Vsevolod Maxymovich.

Building: Karaite Kenesa by Władysław Horodecki.

Meme: There are too many of them.

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

You should try asking Roman Nikonenko from Tchornavidma. It’s my favorite electronic project. And he lives in a Zaporizhzhia, which is under constantly shelling.

 

NOVEMBER 24 2022 – 200 KM SOUTH OF KIYV

Mykyta Moiseiev

I was born and raised in Kyiv and have been doing a lot of activities since my childhood. It all started with my mom’s old piano, which was kept in my grandma’s house where I used to stay often. So what I started with was pure improvisation. This lasted for some years until my parents advised me to join a choir. I guess I was 8-9yo at the time. It was actually a fantastic boys’ choir, an international festival winner, and it took many years overall. I went through almost all the vocal sections – discants, altos, and then baritones and basses. I’ve got no academic background in music theory, but from the age of 12-13 I started taking piano lessons with our choir’s concertmaster and that gave me a lot of confidence in my own musical abilities.

At the age of 16 I was considering entering a musical college and had even started preparations, but then realized that academic tradition was not the thing I was looking for. That was the age of protest, the period when I discovered old revolutionary artists such as Hendrix, The Doors, Pink Floyd, and so on, so playing arpeggios didn’t seem like the right thing to do. And that was a trap because in Ukraine there are no options if you’re about music but non-academic. That led me to sound design for film, and I studied at the University of Theater, Film, and TV.

Then it was a period of searching, moving here and there, trying different jobs. I worked as a recordist, mixer, radio journalist and radio presenter, news reporter, and then recordist again. I played in several bands as a keyboard player (psychedelic rock and hardcore). And listened to really different music, all the time, from polyrhythmic African drummers and Gamelan to minimal, from noise to contemporary classics, and they were my best teachers ever. Many things I know and use in my creative process are the result of careful and attentive listening. Ultimately I ended up feeling unable to fool myself into avoiding the most desirable job in the world, being a film composer, and that was almost 15 years ago. It’s been the only way of life since.

What is your setup and how would you define your sound?

I work in my home studio; it’s a small room, no more than 15m2. It’s acoustically treated and it sounds acceptable. My house is in a rural area so I don’t get much environmental noise and I can record some really quiet details here. My room is packed with different acoustic instruments and they sometimes don’t fit due to the studio’s small size, so my upright bass is stored in the other room. I use K&H 300 as the main speakers and additional JBLs 305 as surrounds. I use JBLs as an additional control sometimes, or when I’m making music for bigger projects, then I work in a quad setup.

My hardware is very simple, I recently purchased Audient ID44 instead of my old MOTU, so it only carries 2 mic inputs, but that’s satisfying for my needs. Still, I’m thinking of upgrading the interface for some additional options and preamp quality. I use no external gear other than the wonderful Arturia Polybrute synth. I own many plugins and sample libraries as well, and I try to keep my desktop PC up to date. The main thing I need is RAM and big, fast SSDs, which is never enough when we’re talking about sample libraries or hybrid orchestras. I’ve only got several mics, the main one is the Sennheizer 8040, which allows me to record things up to 50kHz, and that’s crucial for experimenting. If I need to record my upright piano or something that needs a matched pair I just borrow mics from my friends. For more complicated purposes, such as orchestra tracking, and drums recording I tend to work in bigger studios, in Kyiv.

As for my sound… Well, it’s hard to talk about myself. But what I always look for is a kind of vivid touch, a person’s presence. That kind of vibe is indispensable to me, regardless of the genre. That means I’ll be doing a lot of tracking myself, even if it’s an imperfect performance. I guess it’s something we lack nowadays when we are going too deep into the digital world. You may have noticed that there are so many analog-sounding “warming” plugins available nowadays. This shows artists’ craving for music to be something physical, having these special features of old analog media such as tape or vinyl. The contemporary sound became too sterile.

Also, I’m kind of a melodic guy. It happens rarely, but when there is a demand from a director – I’m happy to compose this classical way using exposed melodic lines, rich orchestration, etc. I love the irony in music and if a film allows doing so I’m happy. Also, I love homages and quotes.

I’ve only been able to see When The Trees Fall and the short animation The War That Changed Rondo from the films you’ve scored, both brilliant. I expect different directors like to work with composers in different ways, but generally speaking at what stage do you normally get involved in the production process?

It depends. Sometimes it’s pre-production or even script drafts, sometimes it’s post-production. Personally, I prefer to get involved as early as possible. I like to feel the project evolving, and it’s important to discuss details that are beyond the music itself. Reading the script, commenting on the story itself, or the characters – it all helps.

Sometimes great ideas about music come long before the composing process even starts. But composing itself requires a picture in most cases, so I try to start the scoring process with at least a rough cut. I tend not to get distracted or work on different projects simultaneously, which is why it’s important when work lasts without intermissions.

What is the secret of a good film score?

Wow! What a question-) I’m not sure that there is an exact answer. Personally, I think it’s sincerity. It stands first, and if music lacks your true approach, passion, and love, it is soulless. Then there is mastership, and rarely can you do something without good knowledge and experience. All that means you should keep your mind and soul healthy (whatever it means) and improve your skills, which are endless processes.

What is the current state of the TV and film industry in Ukraine and to your knowledge are there many documentaries currently being produced?

In short, a complete disaster for feature films and TV series. If something is being done nowadays, it’s mostly unfinished projects from previous years that managed to find additional budgets. The feature film I am involved in as a composer has been postponed for an unknown period. The series I was supposed to work for was paused when the invasion began, and that’s a common situation.

The very passive approach of the Ukrainian State Films Agency doesn’t add courage, they even stopped financing the previous projects and the Agency doesn’t support us at all. I have received some help from my European colleagues in grants and donations, but, unfortunately, nothing from the Film Agency.

As for documentaries, they flourish. I can’t tell you the numbers, but a lot of them are being filmed right now. Personally, I’ve already done two full-length docs this year and two more are in progress.

What impact has the full-scale invasion had on you both personally and professionally?

Not as simple a question as it might seem. Personally, I’m a little bit lost. And I’m trying to get used to this state of mind where you can’t make plans anymore, you’re not sure about the future at all, and all you have is this current moment. It’s like we are forced into Zen, the whole nation. Of course, you may not accept this ambiguity, but this only makes you struggle and suffer. That doesn’t mean I’m just passively laying on a sofa waiting for the war to end, of course not. Maybe I’m even more active and busy than usual, it’s about the approach, it has changed. There are a lot of domestic things to be done, as well. As you know, the shortcuts are frequent and they become longer with every new missile strike. So we are preparing for a severe winter. Fortunately, I live in a village and it makes everything easier, I already have an oven, I’m not dependent on the water supply and so on. Yet there’s much more I can do to secure my family.

Professionally, it’s complicated. There is some work to do now, but shortcuts and missiles have their own plans, so I’m trying to use every hour when there is electricity. But that’s a very small amount of inconvenience compared to what our soldiers face, or families who lost their homes, that’s why I’m not complaining. As for long-term professional plans, they are vague and indistinct. That’s fine, I’ve almost accepted Zen!

Where are you now and have you been displaced at any point since February 24?

I’m at home with my family (200km South of Kyiv). Except for my older daughter, who has been living and studying in the Czech Republic for 5 years. We have never moved and there are no such plans.

What is the current mood on the ground in Kyiv after the most recent strikes and recurring blackouts?

I can’t tell you the whole picture of the capital, as I’ve only got some friends there and I usually visit the city once a week or two. But it lives! You can grab a cup of tasty coffee on the street or have a wonderful dinner in a restaurant somewhere. There are much more cars now than in the spring. Traffic jams are here as well. And people are very angry about russia and the russians and everything connected to them. I’ve seen no fear or willingness to negotiate, that’s pure hatred. But there are a lot of jokes, and I guess we Ukrainians are the real masters of making jokes at hard times. This really helps! Well, there’s one more thing I’ve noticed. People are becoming more polite and the Ukrainian language is being heard everywhere. I suppose many people have realized that their language is a shield or even a weapon. And we sharpen it.

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking?

To be honest, I don’t have the strength to scrutinize the Western media. There are obvious problems, such as Biden’s low rating in the U.S., whose administration is a big supporter of Ukraine. As for the rhetoric in the media, I can’t tell. I know some people are nervous about fuel prices or general inflation, but I don’t know how widespread these ideas are. Of course, I wouldn’t want the world to blame Ukraine for the crisis. And the idea of negotiating with Russia now doesn’t seem like the best option.

I would like the Europeans to clearly see how it all began and who runs everything. This is obvious, and we cannot now come to an agreement with Russia, because this is a terrorist state and no one has anything to do with terrorists. We can beat them and then we’ll talk.

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists that have impressed you and that struck a chord with you?

There is one. The band is called Pyrih i Batih (free translation is Carrot and Stick or Straws and Rafters)

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

Nothing special, really. I chop wood, play musical instruments, and try to have interesting evening conversations with my wife and son. Friends, of course! I’ve almost forgotten – I’m getting my MA degree, and this adds some spice to my life. The last time I was a student was almost 20 years ago.

There is a huge amount of jokes and memes being produced all the time, they really help. During the first phase of the war in March/April/May, I made 20 songs, very spiky and abusive and it helped me a lot to get along with the world.

 

Ulysses – Oleksandr Roitburd

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

Music: Bervy, traditional but very powerful ensemble and field song selection, it had a very strong impact on me.

Dahka-Brakha is a great ethnic contemporary band, with a unique vibe and a very stylish blend of Ukrainian ancient tunes with world beats.

Onuka – a wonderful mix of traditional Ukrainian tunes with electronic grooves

Heinali is less known than the previous, but personally love the album made on modular synths.

Valentyn Sylvestrov’s mature works, including Silent Songs.

Oleh Vynnyk and Dzidzio are kitsch artists, definitely not my cup of tea, but they depict a huge audience of listeners.

Call the God of the Revolution, New Middle Ages, m84 – Olexa Mann

Events: GogolFest – one of the greatest cultural events and multidisciplinary festivals focused on theater

Docudays – powerful documentary films festival with a warm atmosphere and many friends.

Telebachennia Toronto (Toronto TV) meme generator and very creative YouTube show.

Films: Atlantis by Valentyn Vasianovych

Tribe by Myroslav Slaboshpytskii

Ukrainian Sheriffs by Roman Bondarchuk

Welcome to Ukraine – Ivan Semesiuk

Deep Love (animation) by Mykyta Lyskov – short but very powerful and there is a lot of pure Ukrainian vibe inside

Dishes: Borshch of course! And varenyky-)

Literature: Les Podervianskyi is the man you can’t miss when talking about contemporary Ukrainian culture. He is a painter but is better known as a satiric playwright. I am sure that there are no Ukrainians who would not hear lines from his plays. They are daring and non-translatable.

My personal favorite books are Chess for Morons (2008) by Mykhailo Brynykch (very funny and deep novel); Zhlobologiia (Swindlerology?) – wonderful essay selection by prominent Ukrainian artists, writers, poets, and philosophers about stupidity; and a ridiculous We Cook in Mourning by Yevheniia Kuznetsova – stylized recipe book that depicts a lot of Ukrainian typical features.

Artists: Oleksandr Roitburd, Olexa Mann, Ivan Semesiuk – I just love their paintings.

 

NOVEMBER 25 2022 – KHARKIV

photo Andrey Petrov

Колодец Иакова – Андрей Петров™

My name is Andrey Petrov, I am twenty-five years old. I was born on February 4, 1997 in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk. My mother is an engineer and my father is a doctor. I spent most of my life in Donetsk, where I studied at school, college, and then graduated from the university. I am a clinical psychologist by profession. Music, visual arts and photography were my hobbies. After the events of 2014, I lived in Donetsk with my mother and grandmother until 2022, when I moved to Kharkiv in January.

If we talk about music, let’s start with the fact that I do not have an academic musical education and everything that I did was created by trial and error. From early raw recordings, I moved on to higher quality production. To a greater extent, I consider myself an audiovisual artist who uses sound instead of paint to convey certain shades and midtones of his mood. Initially, I wanted to write music as a musical accompaniment for my art exhibitions, and only then decided to pursue music separately from painting.

When I studied at Donetsk University as a part-time student, I had more time to listen to music. I became interested in music more meaningfully and eventually decided to create my own project. While studying at the university, I started listening to experimental music that was quite difficult to perceive: industrial, dark ambient, noise, drone, free jazz, avant-garde music of the 20th century. At that time, I was especially fascinated by the British esoteric underground. Bands like Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Nurse With Wound, etc.

By 2021, I came to the conclusion that I was no longer interested in just listening to music and I simply had to write it. Then, without thinking twice, I installed FL Studio and started experimenting. Soon, by the beginning of August 2021, under my first pseudonym “Колодец Иакова”, my first EP Пугающая симметрия / Тёмные воды was born. The release was like raw dark ambient with field recordings that I made with a dictaphone recording two channel stereo.

To date, under the pseudonym “Колодец Иакова”, I have released two full-length releases, as well as many singles and a complete anthology. Even this summer, I managed to record the release “Музыка для сна” under the pseudonym “Андрей Петров™” under my own name. So, we can say that I already have two musical projects. As for my work, I mainly use various samples and loops, transforming their sound many times, applying various effects – reverb, delay, etc. However, my music is not always limited to samples, as I wrote above, I use field recordings and sometimes I use a synthesizer for ambient tracks. Basically, when I sit down to work, I have only a rough idea of ​​what I want to write, and only in the process of creating a track does it have any outlines. I like to improvise until I like a track.

What is your setup and has it changed since the full invasion?

My project “Колодец Иакова” is dedicated to Donetsk, my hometown in the east of Ukraine, and in general to various places in my region. I would call it an exploration of the abandoned and dark corners of the Donbass. As a rule, my photographs of industrial architecture and nature act as cover art. I never use photos of other regions exclusively in the Donbass.

I left Donetsk before russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and moved to Kharkiv. Now, unfortunately, I cannot return to my house. But the main idea of ​​the project does not change. It is still dedicated to Donbass.

Did you move to Kharkiv because you had a feeling Russia was going to launch a full-scale invasion?

I moved to the controlled part of Ukraine for paperwork. In Ukraine, at the age of 25, you need to change your passport photo or get a plastic passport. It is not possible to issue Ukrainian documents in Donetsk, so I had to leave.

Back in September you released The Complete Anthology, an anthology of your work. Has the full-scale invasion forced you to rethink your work and change the way you think about sound?

Of course, the events taking place around influence my work. But I must note that the military confrontation began in the Donbass back in 2014. And until 2021, I lived on the territory of the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic. Since 2014, the industry of Donbass has begun to decline. Factories and businesses were closed due to the war. Donetsk and nearby cities gradually turned into ghost towns, where there are few people, but many abandoned buildings. All this, of course, led to gloomy thoughts. But now the full-scale war in Ukraine has even more affected my music. It seems to me that it has become more aggressive and anxious. I’m talking specifically about the “Колодец Иакова” project.

If your project Колодец Иакова inspired by the British industrial scene of the 80s, does your other project Андрей Петров™ have any specific reference points?

“Колодец Иакова” is actually inspired by various musicians. He was also influenced by artists from Posh Isolation and Northern Electronics, Muslimgauze, 80s German drone like Maeror Tri or Troum, Celer, industrial techno Regis, Surgeon and Vatican Shadow, very heavily influenced by British minimalist band Raime and God knows what else. It is impossible to list everything. But as for the side project, “Андрей Петров™” is the exact opposite of my main project. “Андрей Петров™” is a relaxing dub techno with plenty of reverb and atmospheric sound. This project was influenced by the classics of the genre mainly Moritz Von Oswald (Basic Channel, Rhythm & Sound, Maurizio and many of his other projects), Rod Modell (DeepChord) and Fluxion. The concept of this project is more abstract than that of the “Колодец Иакова” project, namely, the creation of a kind of musical almanac dedicated to the rhythms of the night city. And “Андрей Петров™” is dedicated to the work of Detroit-based minimalist artist Stephen Magsig. I used his work as cover art. This is my favorite contemporary artist. His paintings are brilliant in their simplicity, just like dub techno, which is just as minimalistic but incredibly emotional.

photo by Andrey Petrov

What impact did the full scale invasion have on you both personally and professionally?

In a sense, I was more psychologically prepared for such a development of events, since I had already lived for a long time in a region where there was a sluggish military conflict between the armed forces of Ukraine and pro-russian militias. But nevertheless, he was still shocked by what happened on the twenty-fourth of February. Due to the constant shelling of Kharkiv and life in the shelter, for a certain time my health deteriorated. Although I constantly try to keep my health both mental and physical in good shape. Kharkiv is now much safer than when the invasion began, thanks to the fact that the russian army was expelled from here by the Ukrainian armed forces. But now I am constantly worried about my parents and relatives who live in Donetsk and cannot leave.

What is the current mood on the ground now that the energy infrastructure has been compromised and temperatures have dropped?

People in Kharkiv are very outraged by this behavior of the russian leadership and generally feel contempt for him. Because of the rolling blackouts of electricity, people are stocking up on autonomous sources of energy. Those who have money buy backup diesel generators, those who have less money buy potbelly stoves. Everyone hopes that the war will end soon but are still preparing for the worst.

Is there anything about the way the war is covered in the West that you find problematic and/or is there anything you would like the West to stop asking or really should ask?

It seems to me that Western countries are doing a lot for Ukraine, but in such a situation, you can help even more. We need to put pressure on vladimir putin with all our might, limit him financially, and not buy oil and gas from russia, because vladimir putin uses this money for the war in Ukraine. Also prevent russia from using nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine. vladimir putin is a very cunning manipulator, no need to follow his words.

Residents of Donbass believed putin in 2014, but after Donbass began to be controlled from russia, life there became much worse. We also need to help opposition russian politicians who want to stop this war. In the event of a change of power in russia to a democratic one, this war may end faster, although in any case Ukraine will win, as it fights for its people and for its land.

When you say life became worse under Russian control, could you give us a couple of examples?

Regarding life in Donetsk, after it came under russian rule in 2014, the city began to slowly collapse as it was no longer taken care of. At first it was not noticeable, but since 2018 it has become impossible not to notice it. The roads surface was not maintained, houses were not properly maintained, lawns in parks were not mowed, the whole city began to slowly become overgrown with weeds. Rubbish collection also collapsed several times. Perhaps the money for the improvement of Donetsk was allocated from moscow, but it was plundered by local officials. But after all, these officials were also appointed by the kremlin, so this is a vicious circle of corruption.

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists that resonated with you, or ones that you think deserve to be world hits?

To be honest, lately, I stopped following new Ukrainian releases. Although I can single out some artists and groups as I liked in one way or another. For example Odessa black metal band White Ward. This group is quite original and is inspired by various different Ukrainian works, for example their album False Light was inspired by the work of Ukrainian writer Mykhailo Kotsiubinsky Intermezzo. I also like the black metal band Drudkh from Kharkiv.

photo Andrey Petrov

How do you relax and what makes you laugh today?

I watch various films on TV, in particular comedies with Will Farrell and Jim Carrey. As well as entertaining videos on YouTube.

Who should I interview next?

Interview my friend, Kharkiv musician Kirill Koval. He writes lo-fi piano music.

 

NOVEMBER 25 2022 – KYIV

Symonenko

Greetings everyone. I am Vitalii Symonenko – Ukrainian musician born in Luhansk (temporarily occupied by russians). I moved to Kyiv in the autumn right before the Revolution of Dignity. That was a point of no return for me: Maidan showed me how good, open-hearted, united, cheerful and strong Ukrainians could be together, and since then I became extremely proud to be one of them. This has been a time of self-identity and a culmination of the process.

At the time of the Revolution I was an indie musician in my power-duo band Simon Stone. But we cancelled our tour as soon as people in Maidan got killed in February 2014. A couple of years later I stopped playing music altogether as I got very disappointed with the “industry”, after playing in pubs. So I started making hand-made furniture out of wood, plywood and metal. It was a totally new profession for me, as I had never been good at crafts before. But then, in the autumn of 2016, I went to a party at CXEMA for the first time and that rekindled my interest in music. I could see there was more punk in techno, than there’s ever been in punk itself. Since then I have been working hard every day in my studio to create the kind of electronic music I wanted to listen to myself.
How has your setup changed since the full-scale invasion and what impact has it had on your motivation to make music?

I understood that a laptop, with ableton and a push2 controller was more than enough to create good tracks. I also managed to start and finish a number of tracks in one day (my War Tracks). No more striving for constant perfection – the main thing was design and powerful emotion.

How does one do electronic music properly to make it magical?

I guess it happens when you manage to create a controlled chaos, or a constantly evolving system, which ends up by surprising you more often with what it throws up than when you actually tell it what to do. This is a good start for inspiring work in techno. And of course it needs at least one strong groove or melody that one creates consciously – this is a controlled aspect, a foundation.

You’ve released 10 war tracks since February 24, a number of them including recordings from soldiers and Zelenskyy. What’s the creative process been like and has it felt cathartic at any point?

These works were very inspiring for me, as I found a way to be useful to others with my music skills – the best thing I can do. It also helped me to lessen my guilty feelings, as 100% of the proceeds goes to volunteer organizations supporting the army. In three months my war track sales at bandcamp reached over 1,000 euro, so this made me feel very proud of myself and my subscribers, who supported me psychologically and the Ukrainian Army financially. I cannot even tell how grateful I was to everyone as they all helped me stay strong and to understand what I could do to help others.

The creative process was very simple: I would take an excerpt of a motivational speech by Zelenskyy, or someone else, and arrange music around it. I didn’t insert the speech into the timeline of an already completed track, but mostly the opposite.

You’ve donated proceeds from your war track directly to the army. Here at A Closer Listen we’ve featured over 100 fund-raising compilations since March, what is your opinion on such compilations in terms of causes they espouse?

For a start, such compilations are very helpful for the artists’ mental health.

What impact has the full-scale invasion had on you both personally and professionally?

I have been working with headphones instead of monitor loudspeakers. As a result I got a better base sound, which I so needed for the kind of dance music I create.

On a personal level, I identify even more with being Ukrainian which translates as no longer having any fear of dying.

Where are you now and have you been displaced at any point since February 24?

I spent the first 7 weeks of the full-scale russian invasion in Lviv, but have been back in Kyiv since May.

Has the full-scale invasion had an impact on the language you speak on a daily basis?

Sure, I finally stopped speaking the ugly russian language under all circumstances. And I criticize those who’ve still not done so: guys, 9 months of war must teach us at least something in this respect! No more russian in our dear Ukraine please.

What is the current mood on the ground after the energy infrastructure has been compromised and temperatures have dropped?

Personally, I feel rather calm and ambitious. I plan to do even more now.

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking?

I think Westerns already have all the necessary information, as they’ve seen what has been happening. Now it just depends on people’s readiness to get more risky and demand from their governments to arm Ukraine with real long range (600km) rockets. We need to destroy the russian aviation and fleet in the Black Sea that’s been spreading terror and launching rocket attacks for the past 9 months. So Westerners must start acting.

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists that have struck a chord with you or any that you feel deserve to be global hits? 

Surface tension – Ми вас всіх уб‘єм.

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

I play acoustic drums, and record drum covers of my best loved tracks from school times. Also do podcasts of nostalgic tracks that influenced me at Gasoline radio.

I laugh at everything including myself, but mostly at russian propaganda “genius” content, which is simply miserable.

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

Book- Dmitriy Goychenko. Krasny apokalipsis: Skvoz raskulachivanie i Holodomor. Memoirs of an eye-witness. (Red Apocalypse: Through Dispossession and Great Famine), a book which is still current.
Film – contemporary Ukrainian black comedy: I Work At The Cemetery by Oleksii Taranenko.
Dish – dranyky
Blog – Serhii Sternenko’s telegram channel
Building – Azovstal Plant

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

Ask Kate Zavoloka what it means to a Ukrainian nationalist in Berlin and to run her own nationalistic label.
Ask Tania Tet how to be a Ukrainian patriot in Munich and were she to make a comparison with the music scene in Kyiv, would Ukrainian musicians fare better.
Ask Alex Savage what his favorite dish is to cook when he is not at work and when he will release his songs.
Ask Max Andrukh from Dnipro about his new solo electronic project now that he’s left DZ’OB.
Ask Volodymyr @lostlojic when he is gonna release my EP on Mystictrax.
Ask the hardcore band True Tough (Kyiv) what their lyrics are about.

 

NOVEMBER 26 2022 – KYIV

Andrii Kunin

My name is Andrii and I live in Kyiv. I make mostly electronic music and sometimes visuals for it. Although usually, it’s my friend Olexii Utochkin who makes the visuals, as we’re always trying to find new ways of creating a/v pieces together.

At an early age, I was recording my Casio child synth on a karaoke microphone recorder. While at school, I had guitar lessons and started learning how to make digital artworks and electronic music on a computer.

From 2012-2015 I was in an electronic duo with my friend Iwan Gheron, we released an album on a Scottish indie label, and had a few live shows in Ukraine.

Since 2021 I have been in the duo Tunelilisu as well as making solo records.

What is your set-up and how would you define your sound?

I have a budget synth and groovebox for sketching out ideas, and a computer with a DAW for everything else. I use field recordings a lot. I think every new project has a different sound and approach, I like experiments. For instance, lately, I’ve been working with neuro networks that generate audio, they have this lo-fi, fragmented, almost alien-like quality to them.

Has the full-scale invasion had an impact on the way you approach sound?

I’m not sure. But I hear more noises around, sometimes it’s confusing. It’s as if my threshold is lower, I’ve become more sensitive to random noises, you know? So I guess I pick sounds more carefully because quiet details matter more now.

Back in October you released the album Peretyn on Mystictrax. The tracks are all under three minutes long, but contain a number of dynamic changes. How did you go about composing it and what was your inspiration behind it?

I always loved ambient releases with shorter tracks, when it’s just enough time for a specific part of a journey. In my teen years, I listened a lot to Tim Hecker, Melancholia by William Basinski, SAW2 by Aphex Twin, and so on.

During this spring, I slowly started making new music. It wasn’t dark at first, quite the opposite, with airy textures and toy recordings, I guess it was unintended therapy for myself or a balancing act. But when I decided to make a record about the war, it needed more dark feelings, to be more real. So more eerie and noisy tracks were written or brought back from the unreleased archive for a new take.

At the same time, my friend Olexii began to work on a couple of video projects related to war. As I was providing audio, it also influenced the overall album sound & visuals. The last track on the record, also called “Peretyn”, is the first that I composed with the help of machine learning. It’s like feeding my music to the network and a.i. is dreaming about it, then comes this fascinating process of figuring out what I can actually use from these dreams, how to rearrange and process these results. Today many of my new tracks have this neuro aspect to them, as I’m still figuring it out.

You are also one half of Tunelilisu together with Hanna Svirska. Have you been working on new material?

We have unfinished material, but nothing new has been done since the invasion.

Where are you now and have you been displaced at any point since February 24?

I’ve been in Kyiv throughout, although this spring I lived in the suburbs for a few weeks. It’s where I recorded some samples of toys for another future project.

What is the current mood on the ground in Kyiv now that the energy infrastructure has been compromised and temperatures have dropped?

As I write this (24th of November) another russian air strike on critical infrastructure has happened. Even mobile networks and the internet are down across the country. Every time the consequences of such attacks are getting more destructive and harder to fix, now even influencing our neighbor Moldova. As for the mood, people of course are frustrated, everybody hates russia even more now, but still, we realize that real hell is happening at the front line and occupied territories, so I think we’ll get through it.

As an electronic musician, without electricity, I’m more often reaching for my old acoustic guitar. I wish I had a real piano.

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking or should indeed start asking?

I guess many people in the West think that it’s some kind of USA vs RF war, or it’s cool to have a completely different opinion than the mainstream media, your government, and so on, I understand that. But in reality, it’s a brutal russian invasion and genocide of our people that can lead to even worse things for everybody else in the world, if that process has not already begun. Lessons from the past about bloody dictators must be learned or history will repeat itself in a bad way. So to me, it’s very logical and obvious that Ukraine needs all the military help from the civilized world as soon as possible to win and stop this war.

Are there any recent releases by Ukrainian artists that have struck a chord with you or any that you feel deserve to be global hits?

I really enjoyed the recent album by Smezkh on Mystictrax. Besides that, I like stuff by Zavoloka, Kurl, sophistication, Hanna Svirska, ummsbiaus, elija, and more.

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

All the good stuff in life still works, and you can appreciate it even more these days. For instance, watching weird Asian arthouse films with my friend never fails me.

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

What about games? It’s a nerdy thing to say, but I love the Stalker series by the Ukrainian studio GSC. The concept of the Anomalous Zone itself is capturing something about our land today – dangerous to live in but still unique and beautiful.

 

NEW RELEASES

stonefromthesky – Zero Origin

“Zero Origin is the second full-length album by the Kyiv-based electronic music artist stonefromthesky. It picks up where his previous EP Schema Theory (2019) left off and develops its ideas further into a gloomy futuristic soundscape covering the gamut of electronica, trip-hop, breakbeat, bass and IDM.

Produced over the course of several years and in different studios, the album is an immersive seven-track exploration of technological abundance, overuse and oversaturation that collapses into a zero point.

Juxtaposition of the future with the past taken to the extreme manifests itself in the production through the use of sophisticated software algorithms in conjunction with the raw hardware synth tones, acoustic instruments and field recordings — an orchestra of timbres that tells a story of post-humanity and future tribalism.”

 

Hidden Element – Ranges

“Hello, my friends. It’s a big honor for me to release this EP on YUKU because I sincerely love lots of releases of this label and follow them practically since the day they started. I’ve created 5 tracks specially for this release.

They turned out to be very diverse, quite different, but at the same time cohesive.
5 tracks — like 5 variations and 5 stairs of my life. The cover by my friend, Kyiv-based artist Bohdan Burenko, perfectly outlines the mood of this EP. It shows 5 faces, 5 characters, and 5 stories.

I should mention that some demos for these tracks I wrote back in 2018, when I lived in California. And the basis for ‘The Wall’ I wrote in the suburbs of Los Angeles in a small town Walnut. This explains the song title. Back then, I listened to a lot of old-school Metalheadz tracks, and I guess this music had a big impact on the atmosphere of this track. Same story with ‘Runnin’ Out’ – I made the demo in US, then finished it when I was preparing the release for YUKU. ‘Offset Range1’ is my personal favorite. I wrote it in Kyiv, when I had Covid and was tweaking knobs on my sampler and automation on my synth. 99’ is my nostalgia for good ol’ breakbeat and ‘Vezhlivy Otkaz’ has the most unusual drop I have ever written. Of course, it’s an honor for me to have a remix by Tim Reaper on board, because I’m his fan.

I’m writing this text now in Kyiv. Because of Russian invasion, I’m not sure what my future will be like, but I don’t see any reason to postpone this release. All the profit from this EP I’d like to send for the charity & restoration of the infrastructure of Ukraine.”

 

Valentina Goncharova – Ocean – Symphony for Electric Violin and other instruments in 10+ parts

Valentina Goncharova’s 2xLP fundamental conceptual musical work released in full uncut form as part of Hidden Harmony Lost Tapes series, under catalogue number HHLTS01. Restored and mastered from the original 6.3 mm analog tapes.

A large-scale work comprising eleven parts of varied, brooding, mystical reflection in which the author alters the instrumentation to fit both programmatic and musical character of each section.

 

Arthur Kryulin – 17 October EP

I wonder how it will end, asks Vincent Price in William Castle’s House On Haunted Hill (1958) one of the film samples included in the opening track, “Like a Movie Situation”. A rethorical questions that underscores Arthur Kryulin’s otherwise lighthearted new EP with its cinematic loops and dubby undertones coated in a vintage veneer.

 

Smezkh – Polissia

“Nothing is known about Ukrainian Polissia! It has been shrouded in mystery for centuries: what exactly is happening in those boundless forests, who exactly lived there and what they fled from, what mutations radiation created, and how ancient rituals and words have been preserved there, no one can say for sure. But the sound equivalent of all that mysticism, that natural organism, a certain neural network made of plants, was created by Vitaliy Litvinchuk in his new album.”

 

Adaa Zagorodnya – Польові Записи з Лютого

This enigmatic album was included in “Deep Cuts: 11 Ukrainian releases that makes sense of the war experience” by Don’t Take Fake, with its title translating as “Field Recordings From February”. There are no liner notes, although track titles such as Mariupol serve as geographical markers. Mundane sounds are woven together with drones, phone messages, and people going about their daily business, to create a disquieting atmosphere that grows increasingly oppressive with what appear to be muffled explosions going off in the distance until, eventually, an air raid siren is triggered. Not an easy listen.


(Gianmarco Del Re)

 

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