Ukrainian Field Notes XVIII

Monkey Riding a Four-Headed Beast (1982) Mariya Primachenko

For the last Ukrainian Field Notes of 2022 we travel to Kyiv, Lviv, and Uzhhorod via Berlin, London and Ireland for a “genre fluid” episode taking in experimental, electronic and techno music mixed with metal and neo classical topped up with a dash of pop and indie and a dusting of prog rock.

We start off with Lugovskiy who muses about natural decay, and vixiii who makes fashion out of recycled material, followed by two bands raising funds for Musicians Defend Ukraine, Love’n’Joy (co-founders of the charity) and krapka;KOMA.

We also hear from Neformat family member and “metal guru” Yaryna Denysyuk, and discuss all things Crimean with Pereulok pyatniskii, who promises to change his moniker to something more user friendly.

Over in Kyiv, Emil Asadov shares his secret tip for productivity (spoiler, there’s nothing like a power nap in the middle of the day), while Makido adapts her routine to power cuts, and Natalia Tsupryk transforms an air raid siren into an elegy for her hometown.

Additionally, Axxent13 extols the healing power of nature, Manoua falls in love all over again with music and La Horsa Bianca discuss fundraising in Kharkiv.

To end the year on a high note we feature a late crop of bangers, courtesy of Poly Chain, Bejenec, and Symonenko, as well as harsher tones from brainhack_musicbox and White Ward together with more intimate and vulnerable fare from undo despot and ногируки, plus new fundraising compilations by Standard Deviation, Anklav, Mystictraxkulturamedialna and Side-Line Magazine.

To bring proceedings to a conclusion we’ve included four tracks by Alyona Alyona, Otoy, Паліндром (Palindrom) and Freel in our viewing room, with English subtitles. But to begin with, here’s the latest video for “Stezhka” taken from Zavoloka‘s new album Amulet and our second spotify playlist from this month’s UFN artists and their top picks for 2022.

 

DECEMBER 1 2022 – KYIV

Lugovskiy

My name Sasha Lugovskiy. I make electronic music as Lugovskiy since 2018. Before known with my moniker Marsbeing. My electronic production way started in 2008 when I setup FL Studio on my computer.

What is your set-up and what would you say is the most important feature of your sound?

The most important thing is the vision, idea of what you’re creating or going to create. It doesn’t matter if you have synthesizers, machines or something like this, or not.

If there were an algorithm to instruct us on how to become adults, what parameters would it need to take into account?

I got no an answer yet.

Your latest EP is called Natural Decay, what can you tell us about it and what does the title refer to?

The main idea of the EP saying that you should moving, should making a path of your life. If you are staying and waiting for something, you’re decaying, physically and mentally. It’s a natural process.

Your track “The Mountains of Freedom” is not about mountains but life choices. How would you say you’ve responded to the life choice the full-scale invasion has forced upon you?

100% after the full-scale I was able to see the life under the other angle. Who’s your real friend and who’s never been. What freedom is and how much it cost. When you realize the scale of what’s happening… it hurts.

Back in March you’ve released “Sirens of Kyiv”, where you transformed a field recording of an air raid siren into a melodic ambient drone. How do you feel about the inclusion of what J. Martin Daughtry, calls “belliphonic sounds” in his book Listening to War: Sound, Music, Trauma and Survival in Wartime Iraq in many tracks released over the course of the past few months?

I’ve not heard of him. I’ll check him out. Thanks.


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

For me it’s difficult to talk about myself. I can’t feel the difference before 24/02 and after. Maybe it depends on the fact that I experienced war from Luhansk back in 2014, when I lived before moving to Kyiv.

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

The current mood is to kick russians ass. And I wish it splits into many countries and stops being the empire it wants to be.

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

I cannot name just a few musicians / producers / artists, because there’s a lot of strong music comin out of Ukraine. You can check my playlist which contains only Ukrainian music. I’ve put it together not so long ago.

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

Meetings with friends.

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

The best way to describe Ukraine is to see it. You can check YouTube channel Ukraїner.

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



Tsatiory. My friend Dima. He’s visual artist and producer. For a long time after 24 th of February he lived in Mykolaiv, under russian attack, and created a lot of beautiful stuff. Now he is in Kyiv and continues making art and music.

 

DECEMBER 2 2022 – LVIV

vixiii

Hello, my name is Kseniia. I’m from Kyiv. I’m a hair designer, clothmaker, costume designer, digital artist and musician. After I left the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, I had lots of thoughts about electricity and its properties (in a very simple way). 

When I discovered modular sounds I fell in love, but I’m not taking it too seriously. For over 2 years I was playing with digital Rack, just for fun. 

Then, when I moved to Odesa, I met the local ODS community where I had my first performance. After that event I was trying to make my performances more “alive” than “precise”.

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


I love to play live on 16-30 channels in Ableton. I play with different kinds of sounds and change them in real time with simple audio effects. I modify these sounds to create an immersive augmented reality experience – the kind of reality I find myself in at the moment. For my setup I need my laptop, a recorder and MIDI mixer (I have one from AKAI).

My new project – vixiii opened one more option for me – my voice. For my last performance in Lithuania I was able to use only field recordings and a contact mic, which I asked to borrow. But before the concert I felt that was not enough. At some point I felt like I wanted to sing something, and that is how I discovered my instrument.

I still don’t know what “sound” is for me, but I love it more than art or video.

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



Before the russian invasion, I lived in Odesa. For the past 2 years I have been a resident of the Odesa community of artists OSRZ-2 in the former shipyard. We recently moved to Lviv in Western Ukraine, where we support displaced artists alongside other residents of OSRZ-2.

I feel like I have aged 2 years in the first 3 months of the full-scale invasion, after we moved to Lviv. And I still feel like I am growing up very fast. 

At present, I find it impossible to do my artwork as there are better ways I can help the war effort, which means my professional life has shifted to helping internally displaced artists here in Western Ukraine. When I do remember about my own projects, I might only have a few minutes to do something, and that’s when I take field recordings. When I do so, I cannot think of anything else until I’ve captured whatever interesting sound might have caught my attention. Then I’m back to reality. Here in Lviv, life for me moves faster than anywhere else.

Over the past ten months I was also invited to Lithuania for a two month residency, and it was a real pleasure to make some real artworks. It was also a chance for a reality check and for me to regroup. Now I view it as a break from the war, which was helpful to recharge.

Aside from your music project vixiii you are also currently working on three other projects:

– the collaborative studio for the forced displaced artists “OSRZ-4”.
– the performative hair salon: raiskii raiiii (paradise heaven).
– the trash atelier: circulation of infernation.
 
Could you briefly illustrate each one of them?

Osrz-4 is our project which is about creating a safe and comfortable non-profit studio in Lviv for displaced artists from all over Ukraine. 
At present, the space is being renovated, we are doing everything on our own and sometimes lack manpower, but we have friends financially supporting us, which allowed us to install brand new windows. The space is already functional and is currently hosting 2 independent artists and one group of people working on their own projects. 

The plan is to divide the space into several zones: a sewing room, separate rooms for the production of small and large objects, a photo zone, a teletransfer corporation / electro-engineering place, a printing studio, a showroom and a library.

In terms of raiskii raiiii, it is part of my artistic practice, a concept which I developed back in 2020. I still love to do the haircuts and coloring, and love the process and communicating with people, but after doing that I collect the hair and this locked energy becomes part of my hair installations.

Our clothing brand Circulation of Infernation is built around the idea of transforming waste into new products. We recycle fabric to make new garments and accessories with the aim of normalising the use of “trash” as the material of the future and to give it a new lease of life.

The main idea for this comes from Paul Klymenko, who’s been working with trash since 2015 (@secondheadshowroom). He makes furniture and designer lighting and many other useful things from the garbage he finds.

You’ve taken part in the “Land to Return, Land to Care” project. To my knowledge there haven’t been many field recording based albums released in Ukraine since February 24, in fact I can only think of two. Why do you think that is the case?


When the invasion started we all were under a huge amount of stress. All of our closest friends came to our flat and we set up a video stream on YouTube (we have a channel, but it’s currently blocked for unknown reasons). This action had a big impact on me. It felt to me as a window to the future when we’ll be able to revisit this video and laugh about this horrible time. I understand this project in the same way. 

I don’t know how it is for other artists, but in my case, I don’t really have time to make albums or even tracks. But I truly believe that I will switch to field recording as a medium as it has a therapeutic effect on me.

There is a very nice release which I took part in – Liky Pid Nohamy (Ukranian: Ліки під ногами, “Medicine underfoot”). Viktor Konstantinov (aka Polje) the label founder, and I, have very similar thoughts about field recordings in war time.

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?



The whole world seems problematic to me, and this war made me understand that everyone lives their own lives in their own country with their own particular way of understanding history. In order to comprehend Ukraine better one would need to come here and see for themselves.

All information is important and all questions are valuable. I don’t believe that our political system will change after the war, it is still very corrupt. As I see it, people are not changing even when their lives and their country are in danger.

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


For me listening to music has become something which is helping me to return to normal life. I can listen to the same live set for months and it brings me back to my life here and now.

I don’t really want music to be about global hits.

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?



The best way to unwind is to meet my partner, in whatever city. Most of the time he is working on some volunteering project far away. The best practice is to move.

I am very lucky to be surrounded by very good people, we live and work together, and our best jokes are about asses and cats (the word for ass in Ukrainian is “жопа” – zhopa).

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


For me the design and visuals for the banners in Mykolaiv is the best representation of Ukraine. We are what we produce and what we consume.
Artwork – I love the interpretation of Ukrainian façade architecture from the Odesa based gang MNPL mnplworkshop “Decorder” Entrance to the Muzeon Experimental Centre, Odesa 2019.
Dish – Kherson tomatoes from the ground.

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

Roma banan; Viktor Konstantinov (aka Polje); undo despot.

Ask them about their recent music discoveries.

 

DECEMBER 12 2022 – BERLIN

Love’n’Joy

Hello, I’m Anton Pushkar from Love’n’Joy, a Ukrainian rock band that originated in Kyiv. Our music is highly inspired by British and American artists from the golden age of rock’n’roll, the late 60s early 70s alongside the Brit-pop era and modern neo-psychedelia. Our journey as a band started more than 10 years ago. During the first few years we played a lot of shows in Ukraine, and released a couple of singles and EPs.

In 2015 with a new lineup, we started a new chapter in the history of the band, integrating our music into the EU. Since then, we have released two studio albums and played hundreds of shows in Europe.

 After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, together with our friends from the music industry @shpytalrecords and @kontrabass.promo we launched a fundraiser called Musicians Defend Ukraine and went on a charity tour to support Ukraine. On this tour, we already played more than 60 concerts with more to follow.

How do you go about composing songs and writing new material?



Sometimes we jam and ideas come spontaneously, then we develop these ideas into songs. Most of the time I just compose a whole song, make a demo version, and then we meet with Serge and Andrew to put some drum and bass on top of it.

Your latest album Half Home came out in September. How much of it was already written and produced before the full-scale invasion?



The whole album was completed 3 days before the full-scale invasion. I had a deadline for the 21st of February because we had agreed on a slot at a pressing plant on this date. And nowadays one has to plan 5-10 months in advance for vinyl. Luckily, our booking agent Robin Heller got this deal for us, and I was very motivated to make it on time.

As you know the war started in 2014 and we were the first to lose our homeland when Crimea was occupied, as two of us, me and our drummer Serhii, are from there. So, by and large, all the war references in Half Home are a reflection on that. But now, there are around 10 millions of displaced Ukrainians wandering around the world in a “Half Home” state of mind.

Has the full-scale invasion changed the way you look at sound, and does it have an influence on your motivation to make music?



It definitely has an influence, but more about the message we are putting into the songs. 

In times of war, Ukrainian musicians are turning into volunteers. It’s no longer just about the music. Now it’s more like a way to spread important and meaningful information, to tell as much truth to the foreign audience, to raise awareness, and attract attention to the war, and to cheer up Ukrainians who are bravely fighting on the front line or sheltering in the basements from the air strikes.

 Nowadays most of the shows are charity-based and everyone is trying to help in any way they can to collect funds for the army and victims of war, and we use our tour for that purpose.

And we are glad to be part of it.

Of course, living in times of war is a completely different state of mind, and emotionally you are much more unstable, sure it can change your sound and delivery. When you’re facing the threat of extinction, your focus changes completely.

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

Our lives changed entirely, and we live according to these new circumstances. On the 24th of February, we moved out of our apartment in Kyiv, and since then we have been living on the road. Haven’t been home, and haven’t seen our families since then. All of our loved ones are in different parts of Ukraine dealing with all sorts of issues in their lives, and we are in the middle of a tour, every day on a new stage, in a new city and a new country.

Photo – Aris Messinis

The idea to make a charity tour was born in the head of our booking agent Robin Heller, he organised all these shows and provided outstanding support for us during all this time. Without him, nothing would have happened, and we are extremely grateful for that.

Right from the first days of the full-scale invasion, Robin was helping Ukrainian refugees, and other musical friends of ours were driving for thousands of miles to the Ukrainian border to bring humanitarian help and take displaced people to Germany, Czech Republic and France. Most of them keep on supporting in any way they can, organising shows for Ukrainian artists, spreading information, and collecting money. We are really blessed to have such friends.

The next phase of our tour will involve raising money for generators as recent airstrikes have had a serious impact on the energy infrastructure. MDU is already fully involved in it.

Professionally, we are moving in the right direction. We played more shows than ever before, went to some big festivals and radio stations, and met lots of great people who were extremely supportive of us and Ukraine. We are truly grateful to keep on doing our thing and at the same time be useful to our country in these hard times and collect money. That really helps back there.

Where are you now and do you consider yourselves to be displaced because of the war?



Yes, we were displaced. Currently, we are in Berlin getting ready to go on tour to the UK. We already had to cancel our UK tour dates twice due to visa issues. For Ukrainians, it’s not easy to get one and it is also super expensive, but finally, we’ve got it. At the moment we are collaborating with an English company Fair Sound, they are helping us to organise shows and produce vinyl on their Press On Vinyl plant. Looking forward to it.

What are the greatest challenges you’ve had to face with Musicians Defend Ukraine, and what would you consider your greatest achievements?



Creating this fundraiser was the best and most useful idea we could’ve had after the war started. I guess it already saved many lives and will do much more in the future. MDU is now starting to get more funds and support from abroad, becoming more famous and influential. Guys are doing a great job in developing the inner system of the fund, and it’s becoming more professional and capable of doing more operations.

The latest great achievement was getting support from GVL, a German music copyright collection society that represents the interests of performing artists and producers of sound recordings.

How do you avoid burnout, and how do you keep the momentum going?



We are experiencing it, it is not possible to avoid it completely. But the tight schedule keeps us going.

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

Yeah, we wish this song would top the charts “russia is a Terrorist State” by ТУЧА (Tucha).

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?

In the West, some people still live in the fairy tale of “Dance Dance No War Make Peace” mood. War is over if you want it, but it has nothing to do with our reality, we never wanted war in the first place, but ignoring it definitely makes it even more catastrophic. Ukraine needs more weapons to protect itself, there is no other way, and people have to realize it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable they feel about it.

Do you recognize yourselves in and subscribe to any of the 10 Terrible Leftist Arguments against Ukrainian Resistance compiled by Oksana Dutchak in Commons, the journal of social criticism?

Completely. Mostly on our tours, we meet with people who support Ukraine and really understand what’s happening there and why. In some cases, you may meet people who are throwing you these shablons like it’s all capitalism and someone benefits from it, so let’s stop the war and shake hands as if nothing was at stake. We noticed that they are using the same channels as were used for anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories promotion.

Recently we found one German article from a Hamburg magazine, where almost all Ukrainian bands including us, who are touring in Europe were accused of propagating fascism. After a brief investigation, we found out that it’s just one more channel of russian propaganda, and they are using russian articles as the reference point.

How do you unwind, and what makes you laugh nowadays?

It’s really funny when Russian propaganda breaks down. When illogical and completely fabricated information is exposed.

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

The national anthem of Ukraine. It wasn’t easy to fully understand it in a peaceful time, but after a full-scale invasion, every word seems in its place.

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

You can interview these girls krapka;Koma, they are touring a lot and collecting money for Musicians Defend Ukraine.

Also, you can interview our good friend Nikita Kravtsov, he is a famous Ukrainian artist based in Paris. He’s working hard in a cultural field to promote Ukraine and raise awareness about the war. 

Recently, we collaborated with him on our music video Love’n’Joy – “Reinvented Wheel”.

 

DECEMBER 13 2022 – UZHHOROD

Yaryna Denysyuk

So I am Yaryna Denysyuk, I’m 31, and I’m the editor-in-chief at musical portal Neformat.com.ua. For my whole life, I was drawn to music, though not always I had a good source of information about actually cool stuff. Finally, I got it in the last years of school, but I lost a lot of time and always feel bad about it, even till now.

It’s quite interesting that my parents showed no interest and no good taste in music at all, so for a long time I felt like an alien in my own family regarding this particular side of our life) And I was really thrilled to hear later that my grandpa, who died before I was born, actually led the local village ensemble. So finally I had that connection with my love for music and my closest family! Though one of my uncles, who leads a local philharmonic orchestra, always supported my musical intentions.

I tried learning to play the guitar and drums more seriously, and even tried my skills with violin and synths a bit, but was too lazy to become anything good at it. Still, I managed to write down the full album as the vocalist of the hardcore band Гніт (Hnit). I’ll admit that I’m not that good at singing either, but it was a useful experience, and I still appreciate my lyrics and my artwork there.

I have been working at Neformat since 2016 and have closely watched the development of the Ukrainian underground scene, so this should be regarded as my main music background, I assume.

part of the NEformat team

Neformat is the biggest Ukrainian alternative music website and also a label. Could you give us an idea of the demographics of your audience in terms of age, gender etc and distribution throughout the different regions of Ukraine, should you have that information available?

Those are young people, mostly aged 25-40, both men and women, who live in bigger Ukrainian cities. Though now the situation changed and many of our readers moved to the smaller towns in western Ukraine or even abroad, so the geography is not stable. But earlier it was mostly Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipro, Odesa and Kharkiv, so bigger cities with more clubs, bands, listeners etc. Those people mostly are creative class and have jobs in IT-sphere, SMM, design, marketing and similar fields but not only. Obviously, they are great music lovers, and often have their own band, or music collection of CDs or cassettes or vinyls, love visiting concerts, buying merch and all that typical stuff.

This year we also grew our stats of younger listeners, starting from 18 years old, but they have quite a different style of life and different connection with music, different taste and needs, so we are currently learning more about this audience.

fundraising compilation I – artwork by maleyeva: instagram.com/maleyevaaa

You released three fundraising compilations on the Neformat Family label back in March with proceeds going to savelife.in.ua. How do you feel about the overall number of compilations for Ukraine out there and the fact that many of those produced in the West have selected big organisations like Unicef and the Red Cross over the army and local fundraising in Ukraine?

I think compilations, especially during the early months after February, were an excellent way to let Ukrainian artists speak about their country and help it with their songs, and make their music visible. In a situation where people often couldn’t create new music at all or prepare bigger releases, compilations seem like a good and logical and rather practical way to raise attention to Ukraine. And earn some money too, and actually big money in some cases!

As for the second part of your question – I see how people don’t want to be involved directly with an army. So they live a peaceful life, where death and killings are something from the thrash news or Netflix movie rather than a real thing. And it’s probably morally easier to relate with the victims, and help women and children and animals and so on. Besides, some worldwide organisations like the Red Cross would be much more trusted abroad than local Ukrainian funds. I can understand it all, but I’d like to see more support for our local funds like savelife.in.ua, well, because their help seems to be much more clear as of now. They stay here with us, they have less bureaucracy, and they can fulfil the needs of the Ukrainian army and civil people much faster, thus more effectively.

Vidmershiy Shmat : Обрій (Obrij) Split

In terms of releases, you’ve just put out an album by Amphibian Man, and a split by Vidmershiy Shmat / Обрій. How did these come about and how is the label organised in terms of demos, scheduling, promotion, etc?

Our label in some way is more aimed at promo companies than anything else. For years, we observed how cool bands from Ukraine release their superb albums and EP with no promo at all. Like suddenly one day you see a Bandcamp link on their Facebook page and that’s all) We tried sharing some articles with useful tips, and even had personal talks, but it was mostly in vain. So at one moment, we decided to just control the process.

So for those bands who create cool music but don’t want all that burden of promo work, we do it all. We can upload on streaming platforms, create a content plan, create and publish the content on our website, prepare graphics for posts, make videos, prepare and send press releases to our Ukrainian and foreign colleges etc. We also release mostly discs, and sometimes cassettes or other merch if needed. We can even organise concerts sometimes. But still, it is group work in terms of cooperating with the artists who can have control over any parts of the process they want. So if, for instance, they have a certain design on their mind, we wouldn’t object, or they can keep control over the streaming platforms. Basically, we want to show our artists how to plan releases and how many small things can improve the performance of their releases.

It was the first year of our active label work, and it was a rocky one, as you can assume, so we now need to sit down, gather all the results and think of how we can make our work better.

So far, as I see on Bandcamp, split by Vidmershiy Shmat and Обрій worked much better, mainly because it got to some foreign metal media. But Amphibian Man had nice sales on his own Bandcamp page, and for our Ukrainian audience, we prepare interesting merch. Due to energy cuts and other small troubles, this is delayed, but it will definitely help to raise attention to this album a bit more.

photo by Накипіло

You have written three articles for The Quietus, before we get into them, how would you describe the general coverage of the Ukrainian alternative music scene in Western media?

It seems to me that before the war, Western media didn’t show big initiative in looking for new and cool Ukrainian music, maybe not regarding covering some well-known names in wider or narrower genre niches. For instance, our band Stoned Jesus is quite popular all over the world. Then there are some bands like Fleshgore in brutal death scene or Gamardah Fungus in ambient who are well-known in their niches. At the same time I can relate to that because when we think about how many underground bands there are in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world, it is hard to maintain an active interest in all of them. Still, I think our country is big enough and our music is good enough to deserve a bit more attention than it had earlier. Obviously now the full-scale war changed the situation and our culture, in general, is being noticed much more, but the price for that is really high.

photo by Накипіло

In your second article for The Quietus from May 17th, you write, “I don’t feel like Ukraine discussed the risks of being a postcolonial country until 2013. But after the Revolution Of Dignity and recent russian aggression, most Ukrainians are rethinking the roles of the Ukrainian and russian languages and how this affects culture and politics in our own personal lives.” You then list a number of artists and bands who switched to Ukrainian after February 24, or even in the months before, as in the case of the Kharkiv band Kat.

Has this language switch been evident on the ground in the daily interaction of people and would you say this has sparked a real cultural shift?

I’d say it has, especially in the younger generation. Earlier they mostly listened to russian bands, and some made their own music, but with the start of the full-scale war, those kids didn’t want to support anything russian anymore. So they were left with a rather unfulfilled need for songs in Ukrainian they can relate to, I assume. And suddenly like a hundred or more new names emerged out of nowhere with their creativity, thoughts, and emotions. This youngster scene has only just srtated forming, and not all the artists seem good enough to survive in the long run, as for me, but definitely, a new musical culture is forming, and it is centred around our native language. And this is obviously good for us.

As for personal interaction, I can say that many people from my social bubble actually started using Ukrainian not only in their songs but in everyday life too. Although I must admit that here we mainly talk about the creative class, and many Ukrainians still have to reflect on their postcolonial burden.

photo by Накипіло

You have addressed the issue of cultural boycott on the pages of Neformat, as well in your second article for the Quietus where you wrote, “For me, we should remove all (I mean it – all – with no exceptions) russian cultural product from our country for at least 50 years, till our own culture is free of any postcolonial influence. Because it was this ‘soft power’ that held us mentally, and we often didn’t even think about what it did to us. But now we do.”

Has the public appetite for Russian cultural products significantly abated in Ukraine over the past nine months?

Yeah, it seems from streaming app charts and Youtube tops that the shift is actually happening. And some local creators even have doubts if the shown statistics are true, so the situation may be even better than it is shown! Then our laws progress to forbid the influence of russian culture more effectively, this is very important. Yes, you can still hear occasional russian music in a taxi or some small store, but we can’t change, not even decades, but hundreds of years of russian influence at once. So this is a long-term process, and it moves well enough, although in some cases I’d wish to see even faster and more radical changes.

fundraising compilation II – artwork by maleyeva: instagram.com/maleyevaaa

Without wanting to enter into the specifics of the case of band Jinjer, if I got this right, in an interview with Ukrainian Rock News, while addressing the criticism levelled at them for scheduling dates in Russia just before the war, the bassist Eugene Abdukhanov complains of not being offered interviews and getting scant reviews in the Ukrainian media in spite of them being probably the most successful metal band on the International stage. Does he have a point and would that be a valid one on a general level in that not enough attention was perhaps previously given to homegrown talent by the media in Ukraine?

Generally speaking, Ukrainian media doesn’t usually write about metal music at all, even now. When it comes to music, unfortunately, we don’t have many publications or websites, and especially successful ones, in Ukraine, so I’m not sure what Eugene was hoping for. Considering the shady views Jinjer expressed back in 2014 and maintained later, all the attention they got from the media afterwards was even bigger than what they deserved, and this was all possible only because their talent and success were acknowledged.

with my badmates

On the international stage, calls for the boycott of Russian artists of culture have sometimes been met by backlash as when the Cardiff Orchestra in the UK, decided to cut Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture from their programme back in March. In other cases, such calls have simply been ignored with the Scala opera house in Milan, for instance, opening its new season with Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov just the other day. What is your take on this?

I think for many years russia tried and actually succeeded in covering its true barbaric nature with that thin layer of so-to-say high culture – ballet, literature… Though we can now fully see the imperialistic state of mind not only of “usual” people but even more so to say liberal russians hold till now. So, as for me, it would be useful for people abroad to get rid of that cute shiny glaze and observe the true russia for a while. Now is the best moment for it, use it. Because culture doesn’t exist apart from politics. Here in Ukraine, we had many people who thought the same way but changed their minds as real russian culture destroyed their homes and lives. And if Ukraine doesn’t win this war, many of those russian culture lovers in the nearest countries risk feeling the same on their own skin, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. So better learn from theory and our experience.

fundraising compilation III – artwork by maleyeva: instagram.com/maleyevaaa

When asked by Natalia Korniienko in Chytomo, “How long will it take the world to stop seeing Ukraine – historically, politically, culturally and mentally – through the lens of russia?”, the Ukrainian writer and artists Anatoly Dnistrovy answers that, “The problem here is that Ukraine has never presented itself on foreign markets. And russia, on the other hand, put great efforts into it: they’ve been tirelessly retailing their messages all over the world and feeding their narratives to the European society for centuries.”

Have you seen a clear shift in the public’s perception and understating of Ukraine in Western media over the course of the past nine months?

I must admit that I’m not the most regular reader of similar articles, so it is hard to answer this question objectively.

In the same interview Anatoly Dnistrovy also states that, “…our fight and resilience against this wild and huge Russian beast has impressed the world. But we have to understand that the audience will cool off soon.” How does one keep the “audience engaged”, so to speak?

To be honest, my first reaction to this question is WTF, we, Ukrainians are literally wiped out by russia. They want us to starve of cold and poverty daily, to disappear from our lands, they want us dead, they literally say this on their TV. From here, it seems obvious to me that this level of injustice can’t even compare to some middle inconveniences people feel due to the economic crisis, gas prices rising etc. But I do get that once you are out of this situation yourself, it is not that evident, and you still have your own life to live, and maybe sometimes it’s easier to forget the problem all at once.

I think our musicians, writers, ambassadors and many other people do their best to maintain interest in Ukraine all this time, so the job is being done. But I’d say it is important to show people abroad how russia influences international politics and to explain that this influence can even grow bigger and become more drastic, causing further worsening of living conditions in Europe and other countries. So people should be interested in helping Ukraine win not just to help our country, but to save their own peaceful future.

photo by Накипіло

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 ask?

I think I’m now more concentrated on Ukrainian media covering news from the front and other Ukrainian cities, and our international politics. And that is all I can bear for now. From the important bits I get, I can see that sometimes media in the West fuck-up, and sometimes they raise really important questions about this war, so the balance seems to be maintained.

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 would recommend listening to industrial rap by Все до чаю. The EP Вольове зусилля was released in November, and it is a rather well thought out and intricate work. Not sure if it works the same for foreigners because it contains not only nice wordplay, but also some remarkable images from our everyday life. Still, try it, it’s a great album.

The easier one to understand would be O’Hamsters LP From Green Hills to Raging Sea. It works for me because this is rather energetic and funny Celtic punk in our own language (some songs are in English too). This is the right music for the darkest times we sometimes have here when stress becomes overwhelming. And then you have this album full of joy and energy, and life seems brighter for a bit.

Is Ukraine gonna win the Eurovision song contest again in 2023?

Can’t say for sure, as we don’t even know for now which artist and song will represent our country. Still, I assume we can win or get some high position because the Eurovision contest seems to be largely connected to politics, and the will to help Ukraine may reflect in the votes. Otherwise, I must admit that I’m not largely interested in this contest, so my opinion on it isn’t very professional.

photo by Vitaliy Mariash

Where are you now and have you been displaced by war at any point and how are you coping with winter and the energy cuts?

I am lucky to live in the most western part of Ukraine, so the actual war is rather far from us. But obviously, our town felt all the indirect consequences of war like thousands of inner refugees, high inflation and price raises, and now – energy cuts. For some reason we are among the regions that have it the worst, so yeah, there are constant problems with electricity. It also influences all other communications like the internet constantly failing and even our cellular network disappearing from time to time. Water and gas sometimes turn off. But the situation is generally not the worst, and the climate here is bearable, so I can handle it for now.

But we must look for some solutions to maintain our musical job, and it bothers me the most for now because like half of the Neformat editors live in my town. I’d say the biggest problem in all this is not that one can’t cope with the current problems, but the fact that the situation is totally unpredictable, as it changes daily. That’s why investing money in one solution may not work the other day. So we just hold on and wait for better.

vinyl deejaying some synthpop and punk with my boyfriend in the forest

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

I renewed my interest in my doll collection, although I try to waste as little money on it as possible. Then my job was always a saviour from bad thoughts, so I put most of my energy into it. Sometimes I play video games, the last one being Lego Harry Potter. I also started reading more but easier literature like some Foglar books about adventures. But generally, it is all interconnected, because you are constantly on your phone trying to get the latest news, and then you cover some cool local band, and then you have a free minute to read something, so life is a bit chaotic. But I’m happy to get through all this with my beloved partner, and he makes me laugh most of the time.

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

I will stay true to the music theme, but let myself be quite predictable in my choice. So it will be a song, “Щедрик” (or “Carol of the Bells” as you may know it). Via the link, it is performed by our local Transcarpathian choir and obviously in the Ukrainian language. It is recorded almost as I heard it from them the other time, but live, the sound and the influence of that melody are a hundred times more powerful. This composition is so pure and rich and multilayered, just like our country. Simply genius. So definitely try hearing it alive, it is a totally different experience.

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

You can try Phil Dobrov from Robustfellow label. It seems not to be your niche exactly, but neither do we seem to be, so maybe you’ll find it interesting. Robustfellow is the most successful Ukrainian underground label, I think. It is notable mostly for a psychedelic scene like sludge, stoner etc, but it always makes cool aesthetically pleasing merch. Phil works both with Ukrainian and many well-known foreign bands, so definitely has something to say in terms of connecting our scene with the rest of the world.

 

DECEMBER 15 2022 – DROGHEDA, IRELAND

photo by Androsova

Pereulok pyatniskii

My name is Loman. I’m the founder of “pereulok pyatniskii” from Ukraine. I’m from the Crimean city of Sudak and I’m Crimean Tatar (indigenous people of Crimea). I’m 24 years old and have no idea what to say about myself 🙂

What is your background in music?

When I was in high school, a schoolmate sent me FL Studio and I started to make some shit for fun. It was beats and instrumental hip hop, I only used samples. In 2016 I called my project pereulok pyatniskii (I regret that now, as it’s a really hard and long name, maybe I’ve lost a few thousand listeners because of that. Anyway – I’ll change my moniker soon.)

What is your setup?

In 2017 I bought a “Roland Quad capture” sound card and started creating my own guitar samples. I used VST programs like BIAS FX 2 or Guitar Rig 5 but now I find them boring. I want to finish my pedalboard and record my stuff in a traditional way.

How would you describe your sound?

Before I attempt to do that, I should say that I was influenced by artists such as Bones (and all SESH team), Black Marble, Whirr, Low Roar (RIP Ryan), The XX and the third album by Valentin Strykalo. It’s difficult to explain my sound. I think only listeners might do that. For me it’s something mysterious, personal, maybe something about the mountains and the sea and other nature stuff. But I’d say that every track represents a mental state.

Serbestimiz – 2022

You are from Sudak in Crimea and your latest EP, Serbestimiz, is dedicated to Crimea. Was this a difficult album to make?

Yes, I’m from Sudak, or “Sudah” if you are native :)) Honestly, every single one of my albums is dedicated to Crimea. I lost a piece of my soul when I moved to Kyiv from home. Technically speaking, it wasn’t a difficult album to make because I didn’t use any drums and bass. Only the last track is different because I used Ableton.

Your family was forced to move from Crimea in 2014 when Russia annexed the peninsula. Crimean Tatars are often expunged by the war narrative. Could you give us an idea of yours and your family’s experience over the past eight years? And do you speak Crimean Tatar at all?


Yes, but my mom is still there. You are totally right, but it makes sense. My people are not currently under ruzzian bombs, so maybe we’re lucky.

My experience, you ask? It sucks. Even before the occupation some kids at school bullied me, including on ethnic grounds, and after 2014 they did not hesitate to call me “black ass” behind my back, or names that have no equivalent in English.

My dad left from Crimea straight away because the ruzzian government targeted him for his openly pro-Ukrainian position. He is still “persona non grata” there. It’s tragic, really, because he was born after the deportation of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia. And yes I do speak the language. In our home we only speak Crimean Tatar. But because of the deportation / genocide of the population in 1944, the language hasn’t evolved. It’s really sad. But we’ll fix that after the de-occupation.

Don’t Forget to Breathe – 2021

You’ve left Ukraine in 2020, what has it been like for you having to witness the events of the full-scale invasion from afar?



Heavy. I can’t feel my people’s suffering, I’m just watching and it’s terrible. And I feel isolated. My friends told me that I’m lucky as there are a lot of guys who’d like to live in Europe. I only understand what it’s like to live with blackouts because in Crimea we were used to them. I’ll go back to Kyiv in march.

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 ask?



Yep. There are ruzzian narratives even here. Some people told me something like, “putin is protecting his country because of NATO’s expansion” bullshit. Some people only think about their own business, some people are tired of it, some people don’t give a shit. But generally speaking – everything is ok. I’m working in a bar and when people learn that I’m Ukrainian – they only show their support.

Inner Waves – 2021

What are your top Ukrainian releases for 2022 that should feature in everyone’s end of the year lists?


Every song by Povod, especially “ловити суть”.
примара” by Джозерс.
мало” by Люсі.
Philosophy of Structures by Corn Wave.
Загублене літо” by Electrobirds.
ДРУЗЯМ” FT. Lykho by Лунар.

Who should represent Ukraine at the Eurovision song contest in 2023?

Odyn v Kanoe.

Have you been following the news compulsively over the past nine months and have you suffered from burnout at any point?

For the first 4-6 month, yes. Now too, but less so. No, I feel only cold hatred after burnouts.

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


Book – Valeriy Markus –  сліди на дорозі
Film – Stop Earth
Album – Okean Elzy – Мірa
Dish – YANTIK
Podcast – POTOP PODCAST
Building – Квіти України [Flowers of Ukraine]
Meme – НІХУЯ СОБІ БЛЯТЬ. В’єбав…

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

Povod or Serghii Voronov from джозерс and POTOP.

 

DECEMBER 16 2022 – LVIV

photo by Juris Rozenbergs

Krapka;KOMA

Krapka: I am Ira, I’m a classically trained piano player, who got enough of classics and our outdated music education system and went to gain some knowledge in modern and electronic music in London, UK. Since then I’ve been composing music for video games, other artists, teaching music production and started a duo Krapka;KOMA with Alona.

KOMA: I am Alona, I speak a particular central-Ukrainian dialect and Ira Krapka often makes fun of it 😀 As for a music background, I grew up listening to some shitty russian pop, cause that was the music that mostly surrounded me. I think it was only at the age of 13 when I first heard Linkin Park, Guano Apes, Tokio Hotel and other rock bands of the 2000s. Then I had a period of heavy rock & metal music, which by the time I was in my 20s, smoothly transitioned into post-rock, then into trip-hop, then into jazz and electronic music. I also realized that I never listened or was interested in well-known bands, I mean, I know almost nothing about the Beatles or any other history-changing artists, but I can tell you everything about some Estonian folk-duo or some Australian experimental jazz band 😀 I never had a professional musical education, only tried playing guitar when I was a kid and then, as an adult, had 3 years of private drums classes at Jazz School. I played drums in a variety of bands from rock to jazz until I met Ira and finally felt “that’s the project I’ve been looking for”.

What is your setup and how do you go about composing new material?



KOMA: We built up a mobile setup for touring which literally fits into 2 backpacks and 2 low-cost bags: 2 small midi-keyboards, a small trumpet, small electronic drums (Roland SPD-SX), a small foldable midi-guitar, yes, everything is small 😀 Also, a sound card, laptop and vocal mics. And we used to compose music with all these toys, mix and master it in Ableton, all by ourselves. Usually, I would start writing something and then together with Ira Krapka we would finish the song; but, we haven’t been doing it for such a long time now that I don’t know how the process will go when we finally get to composing new material.

© Julia Altenburger | http://www.juliaalt.com

You’ve recently released (n)Ince Beats, the second compilation of instrumental beats you composed during lockdown times in 2021. Has the experience of lockdown prepared you in any way to face the current challenges of making music in times of war?

Krapka: What a good question. The lockdown has totally made us more adaptable to new realities. Plus, we are confident in making music online with other artists now, as we’ve done some international collaborations online during lockdown. We live in a relatively safe region and can carry on making music. The things that make it more complicated are: electricity shortages (we have to literally ration electricity now as russian missiles target critical infrastructures) and at times there is no electricity for 6-8 hours in a row. In addition to that – air raids don’t make it easy either, because you have to stop working and go to a safer place. During these past 9 months I’ve done a couple of collaborations with a Polish artist, and another one with a Lithuanian one and one soundtrack of an art project, where young Ukrainians express how they were affected by the war.

photo by Juris Rozenbergs

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

Krapka: At the very beginning it was very important for me to be active and I surrounded myself with people of action – we were organising a shelter in the library for temporarily displaced people, translating articles about Ukraine from Ukrainian history professors into English, fundraising money and supplying first aid products to the front line to help soldiers survive when they are injured – I still do that until now. I also worked as a fixer for international journalists and for a demining organisation from the UK – organised meetings and was an interpreter for the Ministry of Defence and other state institutions, visited Bucha and Irpin not long after these cities were liberated. I was happy I could utilize my English skills, organising, management and problem-solving and be useful for my country in such terrible times.

My boyfriend was mobilized in August – it also impacted my life, but we were prepared that this might happen as we are in the middle of the war, so it didn’t come as a shock.

Professionally, it feels silly now to make music just for the sake of music, it feels unimportant and selfish if it doesn’t play a role in spreading the word about Ukraine or keeping the morale high – guess I’m into music activism now 🙂

photo by Juris Rozenbergs

KOMA: Professionally it hasn’t. I used to work online – teaching Spanish or doing some audio design jobs, and I can continue doing that.

On a personal level, well, with the advent of war I kinda lost the dearest friendship of my life when my closest person just cut off all communication without any explanation. That’s not what you expect from your nearest and dearest when such dark times come. It also shattered my trust. Anyway, it’s my personal drama and I realize that life goes on and there are things that are more important, although that doesn’t change the fact that it hurts.

Other than that, the war hasn’t touched me directly (at least until now). I mean, of course, if we’re not mentioning the general impact that all of us experienced, daily air raid sirens and hiding in basements, seeing all the atrocities of war in the news, hearing horrible stories from friends from the Eastern-Southern cities, living in fear and despair for some time… But there is even a useful point in all that – it made us stronger and seems like we all learned to take life easier and with humor. Dark humor especially 😀

photo by Juris Rozenbergs

Has the full-scale invasion had an influence on your motivation to make music and on your playlist?

Krapka: Of course! For me now music making has gained a new meaning – it has become a tool to convey the message about the war and living during the war to either Ukrainians or to the international audience. Now when I speak to other musicians, the thing that drives a possible collaboration is not shared taste in music, but the fact that we are on the same page regarding russian war against Ukraine and what emotions we feel towards the situation. The emotion that drove my past 2 collaborations was aggression – I’ve never done music that was driven by this emotion before and I think it’s a very powerful one, a lot of people can relate to. It doesn’t mean that the songs came out particularly aggressive – one was indeed accusing Western world of fear, hesitation and the lack of action and the other one was a sarcastic song about how we’re sorry that the war is not a fun topic to be trending, but it’s not finished. There is lots of motivational and morale-lifting music or meme-music appearing in Ukraine and I don’t think we had a lot of it before and we need it now.

KOMA:
There was no motivation.

You have been touring extensively as of lately and fundraising for Musicians Defend Ukraine. How is that going and what has the reception been in different countries?

Krapka: In most of the cases, the reception was very good and we felt support from the audience in every city. We had a weird response from one of the people in the audience at the Sziget festival back in August, he commented that we were too radical in displaying the phrase “russia is a terrorist state” and showing pictures of people who suffered from russian invasion from the stage. But Hungary is the country that has an extremely worrying position towards the war in Ukraine, so we anticipated the reaction, but it was important to us to still get this message across.

You’ve taken part in the RIGaLIVE songwriting camp. Did you manage to create radio hits? And does music make money?

KOMA: Not sure about radio hits, but it was a really great experience, working with strangers within a very tight time limit, that’s quite a challenge.

You do comics as well, are you working on a new volume of your series and will you be tackling current events?

KOMA: Thanks to this question we remembered that we should work on a new volume 😀 So, yeah, the first two volumes of comic books describe our life and adventures during the first 2 years of Krapka;KOMA’s existence. Basically, we were accumulating illustrations and stories through the year and then just arranged them into a book. But the 3rd year started with a war, so we put off a lot of our band’s activities.

Now, as we are finishing our long fundraising tour, we’ll just get together and remember everything that happened to us during 2022 in order to document it all in visual and textual form. The 3rd volume will definitely be tackling current events; the style of visual representation will be different as this year has changed us a lot, and the illustrations will express that.

Photo by Katya Stelmashchuk

Where are you currently based when you are not touring and have you been displaced at any point by the war?

Krapka: I’m based in Lviv and I stayed here the whole time. It was important to me to live through this together with my people and not to drop out of the context. At the very beginning I asked myself whether I wanted to leave, but I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself had I left my boyfriend and my mum and dad behind to flee to safety – I’d rather go and join the territorial defence and fight russian off with whatever I have in my possession (we were preparing bottles for molotov cocktails in our residential building in the first days of the full-scale invasion – just in case :). It’s weird, but when the whole country is being shelled – you feel unity with your friends in Kyiv, Dnipro, Odesa and other cities and live through this together with them.

KOMA: We are based in Lviv, in Western Ukraine. We’ve been living here for the last 8-10 years. But yes, I was displaced. On the very first night of the full-scale invasion I fled. I lived in Berlin for 1 month and then in Barcelona for another 4 months, until I came back to Ukraine in August.

Photo by Ezra Leese

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?

Krapka: Definitely. Saying “Ukraine crisis”, like it’s an internal problem or a civil war and not an invasion of a neighbouring country, saying “the Ukraine” like we are a territory, not a separate country; “Putin should be offered a way out to ‘save face'” – I don’t understand why do we care about the reputation of the international terrorist. “putin’s war” – an astonishing percentage of russians support the war, so it’s russian war, not putin war. “Ukraine causes hunger in Africa” – if russia wouldn’t have invaded we’d keep supplying food, so in fact russia causes hunger. Everything about peace talks and how we should stop fighting and negotiate with russia instead – while they occupy Ukrainian territories, torture and kill our citizens every day – they is no way for negotiations. Everything about donating for refugees and children is a fair game, but donating for helmets, bulletproof vests and god forbid weapons – is bad. There should be understanding that helping refugees is good, but it doesn’t stop the war – weapons stop the war.

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


KOMA: Can’t say anything about global hits, cause in that case I wouldn’t listen to them 😀 But I can mention some of the recent releases of young Ukrainian artists that are worth listening to. For example, a new EP “Fall” by Sheetel. A single “Tempo” by Sophistication. A collaboration of Hyphen Dash & Tamara Kramar – “Pilgrim“.

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

Krapka: I turn off notifications on my phone for an hour or two and watch a film or play a video-game – it helps me live in a different reality for a bit to unwind. Also memes are life-savers. I watch tons of them daily and post a selection of my favourite ones on my Instagram stories. My friends say they got used to them so much over the months and they go check my insta stories when they feel down – it warms my heart.

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

Krapka: This shelf on the wall of a ruined house in Borodyanka.

KOMA:
It may sound cheesy, but the traditional dish I associate with Ukraine is borscht 🙂 I really like this dish, even threw a few “borscht parties” for my foreign friends when I lived in Spain.

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

KOMA: Love’n’Joy is the band we have already become friends with as we’ve been constantly meeting them at festivals & showcases around Europe. They’ve been touring extensively in support of the “Musicians Defend Ukraine” foundation as well, and surely have a lot of stories to share.

Ragapop is another captivating Ukrainian band; we met them at Sziget Festival 2022.

Stas Korolyov is a truly unique artist who never gets tired of producing some crazy & cool ideas, for example, on his birthday on the 13th of November, he & his team organised a “never ending” concert/streaming, with the aim of raising 1 million hryvnias [$27,238.95] for a Ukrainian volunteer medical battalion. They were playing the same song for 7 hours (!) until they achieved the goal.

 

DECEMBER 18 2022 – KYIV

Emil AsadovEmil AsadowDigital Himalayas

I believe I started playing music quite late for a professional musician. At the age of 14 I played in a band that played pop punk – Sum41, Blink 182 and others. Then I entered music school, and before finishing I decided to join the military orchestra in Odesa, Ukraine. After that I played in various bands, looking for a new sound and experimenting with jazz, kraut and various types of electronic music.

Did the full-scale invasion change your approach to music, your motivation, your set-up and your playlist in any way?

During the full-scale invasion, I decided to focus exclusively on writing and performing music and making visuals – because at a time like this, when you don’t know what might happen to you, you should only do what you want to do for the rest of your life. Regarding the playlist – I started listening to a lot of old Ukrainian music and completely excluded anything to do with the soviet culture.

True of Tide – Digital Himalayas, 2017

You are an audio visual artist and your music is impossible to put in one genre box. Not only that, but you are part of both Digital Himalayas and the Potreba Group. If that wasn’t enough you also host a series on Gasoline radio as dj yobaboba. How do you manage all your different musical activities?

I work a lot every day, so I do almost everything possible. The secret is simple – to sleep for one hour in the middle of the day.

You’ve contributed to a number of fundraising compilations including Sestro, and Operation Perevtilennya. How do you feel about the number of fundraising compilations out there and how effective would you say they have been in raising awareness?

This is my small contribution to my country, these compilations help to raise money for peace. What all Ukrainians are doing in their own way is to raise awareness around the world.

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

I moved from Odesa to Kyiv because it was time to change my life and environment.

What is the current situation on the ground in Kyiv and how are you coping with the cold and the outages?

In Kyiv the electricity goes off without warning and it gets cold when you don’t get dressed on time 😉 in fact, there is always a fork in the road, and it is very important to know in advance what you might do at any given time. If there is electricity, I make visuals and write music, if there is no electricity, I read books, play the bandura (a Ukrainian national musical instrument with many strings), or keep a diary.

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 ask?

I think it is very important to highlight what is happening here. To tell stories that happen here and to always have a critical mind when covering the war from the russian side. During the ussr, they destroyed Ukrainian culture, killed Ukrainian artists, and starved an entire nation, but now the end of this dictatorship is coming.

I think that the most important thing that can be done is the preservation of Ukrainian culture and history, the creation of a new epic and new works, this is incredibly important to save the country. This can also be a good example for other countries on how to protect their identity.

Have you suffered from burnout and how do you unwind?

I just do my morning chores, try to sleep more, hang out with friends, walk alone and call friends abroad.

Are there any tracks by other artists that are now forever associated with the war for you? I don’t mean necessarily war tracks, simply music that you might’ve been listening to at a specific time over the past nine months. If so, are there any tracks that you know consider triggering or that you’ve found healing in any way?

Yes, of course! There are many Cossack songs that help to keep your spirits up and not lose heart. I think the people who wrote this music felt quite similar feelings to modern Ukrainians. Not only songs, but also Cossack dumas (stories and thoughts about life in singing form).

What are your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022?

It’s pretty hard to think of music as a competition, I don’t really understand how people make the right choices.

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

Ukraine is a very diverse country, it is difficult for me to somehow determine how exactly it should be reflected.

I think one of the most important things to know is that the first constitution in the world was drawn up in Ukraine, the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk.

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

I think you need to write to Oleksandr Guzeev, he is the founder of Ukrainian parties Heavy Culture, a musician, artist and volunteer.

 

DECEMBER 20 2022 – KYIV

Makido

My name is Katia (short for Kateryna). I was born and raised in Donetsk (which is occupied by russia since 2014) and relocated to Kyiv in 2015. Makido [mɑ:kı:’dɔ] is actually my real surname; it sounds pretty cool so I decided to use it as my moniker.

Music was and still remains my sweet escape, I have always been fascinated by different sounds, instruments, and vocals, and always been interested in exploring something new. I grew up listening to many different genres: from jazz and hip-hop to post-punk and emo. I think this is the reason why I don’t limit myself and love experimenting. I used to say that I play electro, breakbeat, UKG and ghettotech, but I tend to be more genre-fluid. The energy, the rhythm, the bass are more important to me.

Since I moved to Kyiv I started developing a more serious interest in electronic music. As some time went by I felt that groovy bass music and broken beats evoke the most powerful emotions in me. Being inspired by awesome DJ sets I’ve heard and events I’ve been to, I did some practice in early 2019 and debuted the same year in my favorite bar. This is when I realized that being able to share my favorite music with other people and seeing them getting excited about it makes me incredibly happy. At such moments I feel like I’m in the right place.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to music?

Just a little. I had a few russian musicians in my Spotify playlist, however, since they remained silent about the russian invasion of Ukraine, I was disappointed and removed all of them without hesitation.

I also used to play some tracks from russian producers as a lot of them make tunes in my favorite genres. But not anymore. I don’t want to promote russian artists and labels in my mixes.

What makes the HVLV bar in Kyiv special and how would you place it in relation to other venues in the capital?

HVLV is a very special place for me in many ways. Apart from the fact that it’s a great venue with amazing and true-hearted people, this is where I started learning how to mix, where I had my DJ debut, and also where I played the most. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity.

I wouldn’t compare HVLV to any other venue because it’s very unique. It’s not solely a bar or a club or a concert hall – it is all in one and even more than that. But most importantly – it’s a safe and welcoming place with a strong and proactive community.

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

My life definitely has been divided into “before” and “after” for the second time, as I kind of experienced this in 2014. This time I realized that I cannot plan anything in my life for longer than just a month because everything is so unstable and unpredictable now. It made me reconsider some things in life and change my priorities. The good thing is that we all started to appreciate small and simple things that we took for granted before, like being able to go for a peaceful walk, attend a concert, have dinner at the cafe, take a shower, use a laptop, etc.

Also, from a professional perspective, I decided to try something I have always wanted to do but was afraid that it wouldn’t work out: produce my own music. Now I’m in the process of exploring Ableton and making some beats. Hopefully, I will create something cool next year, fingers crossed 🙂

How did it feel to play live again under present circumstances?

At first, it felt a little bit surreal but other than that so amazingly good. Being able to do what I love again and for a good cause, because now almost all organisers donate proceeds from their events to the army or volunteer organisations – this makes me really happy and proud.

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

Back in 2015, I was displaced to Kyiv and after the 24th of February 2022, I spent the first very hard week here, then went to Bratislava, Slovakia, where I stayed for 3 months, before coming back home to Kyiv in June.

How are you coping with the winter and the blackouts?

Winter is always challenging for me because it’s tough to live under this cold weather, most of this time without the sun and even more so now when thanks to russian attacks we have problems with heating and electricity. Fortunately, it cannot always be winter.

As for the blackouts, I think we all pretty much got used to it. I use a hybrid work model (home/office) depending on the situation with electricity and the internet. In addition, more and more places are now getting electric generators so you can come and work for a few hours there or charge your gadgets.

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 ask?

The West should definitely stop asking Ukraine to sit down and negotiate for peace with russia. They are terrorists and should be treated as such. What we need from the West is solidarity and continuous help to win this war as soon as possible.

Also, I would like to remind them that the war started not in 2022, but in 2014 with the occupation of Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions by russians.

Has the full-scale war influenced the language you speak on a daily basis?

Oh, for sure. I grew up in a russian-speaking family, and the majority of the people in my hometown were russian-speaking as well, as the result of the soviet colonization politics and massive labor migration from russia. From an early age I knew both russian and Ukrainian but was speaking russian in everyday life. After moving to Kyiv, there were often times when I would switch to Ukrainian while talking to someone but continued to speak russian on a daily basis out of the habit of so many years.

The full-scale invasion has changed a lot. I do not use russian in public or on social media anymore. I still use it sometimes with some friends or my parents in private, especially if they speak to me in russian first, so there is still work in progress but it will get better.

Our language is a cultural weapon and we must use it against russian aggression. I won’t speak for older generations as this might be harder for them, but I think that further on young people, especially kids, should not speak/be taught russian at all. I’m glad that since February I hear people speaking Ukrainian more and more, as it should be.

Which would be your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022?

I would like to highlight the following tracks: “По кому подзвін?” by Oi FUSK, “Zhupan chornyi” by RUSIIICK and, of course, “russia is a terrorist state” by Туча x BADWOR7H & RUSIIICK.

Also, below are my favorite albums of Ukrainian artists of 2022:

Distortion (UA) – Bullets Seeds [mystictrax]
CODE COMPILATION [mystictrax]

Polje – Kombinezon [система | system]
Raavel – INSECT REPLICANT [JUICY GANG RECORDS]

Radiant Futur – Hypersensitive [Muscut]
Sider – UA Code

How do you unwind and what makes you laugh nowadays?

Music is my main therapy. When I’m listening to my favorite songs or dancing at home or parties, it heals me. I’m also a big admirer of drag and ballroom culture so I often spent time watching related shows, TV series, and documentaries. Other than this, I really cherish those moments when I meet my friends and we hang out together, talking and laughing.

Speaking of laughing, I really cannot live without memes. Memes are such a simple yet genius way to reflect on and laugh at everything that is going on around us.

Pyrohiv

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

I truly admire Ukrainian poetry; my favorite authors are Vasyl Stus and Mykola Vinhranovsky. Also, I want to mention Serhiy Zhadan‘s poems as well as his novels.

My favorite Ukrainian dishes are deruny (potato pancakes) and banush (Hutsul dish made of corn flour and sour cream) – so yummy!

I would certainly recommend anyone to visit Pyrohiv – the national outdoor Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine. There are about 300 pieces of Ukrainian folk architecture from the XVI-XX centuries.

When it comes to art I can’t help but mention the famous Ukrainian “naive art” representative – Mariya Prymachenko. Her works are so brilliant. This year I was visiting the Venice Biennale and was so proud to see there one of her artworks called “Scarecrow” which was saved from the museum that housed most of her paintings and was burned down in February by the russian army.

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

I would suggest you talk to Borys Tkachuk aka Pringlz, he is the DJ and one of the organisers of the independent music community called Fusion. These guys are throwing events and popularizing modern jazz in Ukraine and I think that’s awesome.

Alex Savage. He is a well-known figure in the local electronic scene, I’m sure he has a lot of interesting stories to tell. Maybe ask him if he’s going to release some new music under his Prinx Hashime alias.

 

DECEMBER 20 2022 – LONDON

photo Alex Kozobolis

Natalia Tsupryk

I am a classically trained violinist. I started playing the piano when I was four, and violin – when I was five. My parents weren’t professional musicians, but I was raised with music at the centre of my life.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to music, your motivation, your set-up or your playlist in any way? 

It most definitely has. I was always very interested in making music about Ukraine, especially when I moved abroad, but after the full-scale invasion, I realised that it was my number one job. It was quite impossible to keep working for the first couple of weeks of the war, as I didn’t know what was going to happen tomorrow. At some point, it almost felt like making music was the last thing I would have liked to do at that moment, but all things settle eventually, and one starts thinking more rationally. I wanted to do the fighting, but I didn’t know how to hold a gun. I thought the best way for me to fight was to keep making music.

You hold an MA in Composing for Film and Television from the National Film and Television School in the UK. What did you learn about your own practice by composing for fiction, documentaries and animation? 

It was a very useful experience. I loved cinema and film music but never expected to get into the NFTS, as I had little experience in the area. I almost felt like I got in by accident. But it gave me a lot of opportunities, and most of my film-related and personal connections in the UK come from there.

You’ve just released a new EP When We Return To The Sun. It opens with “Son Kolo Vikon”, which draws from a Ukrainian lullaby. Your composition “Verbova Doshchechka” is also inspired by Ukrainian folk music. How important is your Ukrainian musical heritage for you? 

Ukrainian musical heritage is the essence of my everyday life and my music. I had been fascinated by Ukrainian folk songs long before the full-scale invasion. I thought it was a bit of a shame that this heritage wasn’t that well known in the West and was overshadowed by the russian culture, which is very much admired over here, so I decided to introduce Ukrainian music to my western colleagues and friends.

Kyiv – artwork by Svitlana Oliynyk

Air raid sirens have featured in a number of Ukrainian tracks since February 24, including your own track “Kyiv“. Have you personally found reworking the siren cathartic in any way?

I definitely have. There is no analogy for that sound. The moment I heard it in a video on February 24, I knew I had to do something with it. It was the most horrifying, but at the same time almost beautiful, sound I’d ever heard… The most uneasy feeling, especially when heard in person. I managed to record some of it when I was in Kyiv for the second time, which was for Ukraine’s Independence Day in August. It took me a while to decide to release the track, as I felt it was maybe a bit insensitive.

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

A very strong one. No need to go into all the details of the first few weeks or even months of the invasion, where it was impossible to eat or sleep. I was very, very worried. I was trying to find a way to go to Ukraine, but first, this stopped me, and then that stopped me. I also had a lot of work to do, so I didn’t manage to go there until the summer. I made it my priority to release as much music about Ukraine as possible instead.

You are currently based in London. How does it feel for you having to witness events unfolding in Ukraine from afar?

It is pretty hard. All my Ukrainian friends and colleagues who live abroad agree on one thing – it is much harder not to be there when all this is happening. In a way, my happiest days since the invasion were the days I spent in Ukraine. When you are there, you even stop worrying that a rocket may fall on your head at any moment. When you are not there, it breaks your heart to see all the familiar places torn into pieces.

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 ask? And have you had any awkward conversations with people in the UK about the war?

I think the level of support in the UK has been impressive. I am really grateful. This is, unfortunately, not the case for some other European countries, where russian propaganda was at work for many decades. I find it fascinating that so many people say, “Stop the war” and “War is bad,” but are afraid to say who should stop this war. What exactly do they expect when they say such things? It’s so clear who started this war and who should end it. It is very disappointing when people put Ukraine and russia the invader as two guilty parties, it’s such nonsense.

As for the awkward conversations, I’ve had my share of them, for sure. From being called a Nazi to being told that Ukrainians and russians are the same people – all this is happening to us on a daily basis, unfortunately.

I think it is still amazing how the West united with their support for Ukraine now, especially after how they ignored everything in 2014, but if I was allowed to give some advice, I would say that they should listen more to the Ukrainian voices. They shouldn’t lecture us on things that we may know better. They should trust us.

What are your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022? 

I am not sure I have my picks for the best Ukrainian releases of 2022. So much has emerged in the past ten months, in all possible shapes and genres, that it would be wrong to pick just a few. I think it’s time for young Ukrainian artists to shine, there is so much talent, but people, including those inside the country, keep listening / reading / watching the same stuff.

In the UK people go bonkers for the Eurovision song contest. Who would you select to represent Ukraine in 2023?

Oops, that was already decided [the track “Heart of Steel” by Tvorchi was selected on December 17]! And I am not sure I am enough of an expert on the subject in order to comment, haha.

Have you suffered from burnout and how do you unwind?

I have been working almost non-stop for the past ten months. It’s one of the few ways for me not to go mental with the war at home. I am just grateful that I can work and do what I love – my friends in Kyiv sometimes have to spend days without electricity and heating due to russian shelling. I will probably burn out eventually, but I haven’t allowed myself to do so (so far). If I am tired, what are the people in the trenches then?

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

Oh, where do I start? There is so much that captures Ukraine for me, from an unknown old folk song discovered somewhere on a tape recently to a simple conversation with a Ukrainian friend. It’s knowing that we are all going through the same thing that best captures Ukraine for me. Oh, and Saint Javelin is the one, meme-wise.

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

Do interview a film director. Maybe Iryna Tsilyk, if you haven’t interviewed her already?

 

DECEMBER 23 2022 – KYIV

Axxent13

Hello! My name is Oleksii. I am an electronic musician. I have a long history with different Ukrainian bands as a bass-guitarist, but more recently I focused on writing electronic tracks as Axxent13. This is like self-therapy for me and also these spontaneous experiments sometimes give me unexpected results.

Also, I have some background in sound engineering, and this helps me to work with sound in a more purposeful way. As a listener I always had an interest in spontaneous, experimental, conceptual and even radical forms of musical art, so, I believe this also influenced my background.

On an everyday basis I work as a UI/UX designer in an outsourcing IT company, so I can say some approaches work in a similar way both in design and music.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to music, your motivation, and your setup in any way, and has it influenced your playlist?

Yes, sure. In the first 2 months of the  full-scale invasion I experienced a very strange feeling when I opened DAW. It was like… “everything has no meaning now, the past is ruined”. How can I write music with a sense of pleasure and delightfulness and even melancholy, as it has nothing in common with what is happening everyday. Later I realised that music can bring me anywhere I want, even now and also music can let me experience the emotions I missed so much. So I continued to write and make improvisation solo-jams. Now, with the blackouts and power outages everything has become a serious challenge. But I will continue without any doubt.

Regarding the setup – during the war I realised that I have everything I need on my laptop, so now I rarely use hardware synths and samplers. Just midi-controllers sometimes. About the playlist – aggressive techno or industrial tracks were left behind, now I prefer long meditative ambient tracks or mid-tempo drum’n’bass or broken beats.

How would you describe the electronic music scene in Kyiv and how do you see it evolving under present circumstances?

Well, it’s not a surprise for me that bad circumstances often can trigger any art activity. What I see now, is that the electronic music scene in Kyiv is very active. Every weekend there are daily-events in Kyiv focused on electronic music. I also see new fundraising compilations featuring musicians from Kyiv and several electronic albums or EPs released every month. For sure, a lot of musicians have left Kyiv and live in different European cities now. But even considering this – the scene remains active and I hear more and more new names.

How has the war affected you both on a personal and a professional level?



On a personal level, what I have noticed is that all the emotions are hiding deep down. No matter if it is joy, happiness, sorrow, pain – they all remain locked away. On the one hand – this is good, because that allows me not to live in a constant state of trauma. On the other hand – these emotions are like frozen. And who knows how they will affect my life in the future.

On a professional level – the biggest problem is a lack of concentration which is caused by anxiety. It affects almost everything, starting from the work I do and even down to my interactions with other people.

On Nina Eba’s Air Raid Siren podcast you tell the story of a colleague of yours, an IT guy who joined the army after the full-scale invasion and was killed. If I am not being too personal, how does one come to terms with such a tragic loss of life?

Well, it’s the first death from the russian invasion that touched me personally, because he was someone I knew personally. He loved life in all its beauty and paid the highest price to stop this war. And if we are alive now it’s thanks to him, and to our defenders, and supporters, and thank God. So, now we always remember what the price is for us being alive and well. What I understood is that every loss should be mourned to the fullest, with all the heart. One thought that supports me in such moments, “It is where I am now, but it is not the end.”

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



At the beginning of the war me and my wife evacuated to Western Ukraine. In those moments we didn’t know what to expect, everything escalated too fast and we didn’t know if we would return. But 2 months later we returned back home to Kiev and it was the most comfortable place in Ukraine before the blackouts started.

How are you coping with the cold and the blackouts?



Well, it’s a serious challenge now. The most complicated thing during power outages is that you can’t be sure when the electricity will be on again. Usually I work from home, but if the power outage lasts longer than expected, I go to some bars in the centre of Kyiv that have generators and internet to work from there and make online calls. I also got a travel gas cooker.

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 ask?

In the West there’s this idea that Ukrainians should reconcile with “good russians”. I must say that everybody who has a russian passport strongly associates with the crimes done by russia on our territory, even if these people do not support the invasion. Yes, we know the difference between “good and bad”, between those who really support Ukrainian refugees in russia, as well as in other countries, and those who just pretend it’s nothing to do with them, or even worse, those who actively participate in the invasion. We know the difference, they are not the same. But it’s too naive to think that any partnership in any context between Ukrainians and russians is desired now. It’s important for the West to realise that even humanitarian projects with both russians and Ukrainians can be a very traumatic experience for the refugees. And the worst idea is common humanitarian art-projects including both Ukrainian and russian artists/musicians.

And also the idea that we should give up some territories to save lives and stop the war. Well, this idea is just the worst. We faced a similar situation 8 years ago and we have seen that this just doesn’t work. If the wild bear is trying to bite off your hand, what are the chances that it will be happy with just the hand? Probably zero.

Have you experienced burnout and how do you unwind?

Sure. I experienced burnout in the first months of war. What helped me the most – to spend some time close to nature and also dedicate some time to creative activities (creating tracks). Some time with friends helped too. So, nothing extraordinary, just simple things, familiar to everyone.

Are there any triggering tracks or albums that are now forever associated with the war for you? Conversely are there any tracks or albums that you have found healing over the past nine months?

I can’t say that any track associates with the war for me. But in terms of healing, not so long ago I discovered a Japanese composer – Takashi Kokubo. He has a series of albums dedicated to nature. His music is so kind and connected with the magic of nature and life… It’s the most anti-war music I can even imagine. I believe I listened to him hundreds and hundreds of times during this period. It is a really healing experience and I would like to recommend his music to anyone experiencing constant stress and grief.

What are your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022?

I would like to highlight these:
Kateryna Gryvul – Tysha
White Ward – False Light.
stonefromthesky – Zero Origin.
Trinidad Shevron – Torches.
Monoconda – Horizon.

 

DECEMBER 26 2022 – SPAIN

Manoua

Hello, my name is Azis, I am the person who behind the Manoua project. I have been making music for 12 years, it all started with drums when I was 16  years (I still play as a drummer, and even have several projects in which I participate). I played in different bands, mostly it was post-punk and all sorts of jams in which I actively gained experience and enjoyed being on stage.

When I turned 20, my friend dragged me to a party where a DJ played, it was something like a tech house party, I liked the vibe and lightness and how the dude at the console connected with the public, handled the tracks and changed the people’s mood. I remember saying to my friend, “Dude, we should have our own party!” So we became promoters and quickly made acquaintances in the field of parties in our city. I began to make parties, listen to electronic music, and meet interesting people. And so began my long journey into music. Then, after 5 years, I came to the conclusion that I have a need to express myself as a creator, but this is a completely different story, one I would need to write a lot of text for.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to music, your motivation, your set-up or your playlist in any way?


It completely changed it. I decided to rethink my work. At first there was apathy, then depression, acceptance and already a new round of inspiration. I fell in love with music again like when I was 16 years old and practiced drums for 6 hours a day, or studied synthesizers and various studio hardware whenever I was on my own at my cousin’s studio. It’s just that this time round it’s not some unstable desire of mine for the sake of pleasure, it’s already an existential impulse that I believe will live much longer.

Back in June you released the album War’s a Bad Trip, which you had been working on on the eve of the full-scale invasion. Did you have a feeling this was going to happen and were you already psychologically prepared for it, as much as one can be?


I was finishing work on the album when the rockets flew in front of my window. I can’t say that I was ready and had planned this album to be about the war. It was all pretty abstract, and even if there was information about the impending invasion everywhere, I think that only the military were really ready and knew what was happening. I could only feel the general mood around me and convey it. I wasn’t more politically aware than most other Ukrainians.

You released the album in June. Did the unfolding events make you change anything about the album and did releasing it feel cathartic in any way?

From the moment the full scale invasion began to the moment the album was released, I did 3 things. Finished the mastering, made a cover and corrected the working titles of some tracks without changing their essence. The track called “Reckless Hero”, for instance, was originally just entitled “Reckless”.

I love your latest track “Muse“, for its modular vibe. It’s uplifting and melodic, more heart than technology, shall we say. There’s always been a narrative drive to your work, I’m thinking of your albums Techno Stories or Electric Stories, for instance. With “Muse”, I get the sense you are exploring more the emotional side of things. Do you see it as a natural progression or does it signal a shift?

I think it’s about different things, even if you look at these comparisons, I created them in different circumstances. I would characterize them like this, Electric Stories and Techno Stories are fantasy albums, I indulged in dreams in them, these are fantasies that exist only in my imagination, and thus I decided to share my observations that you, as a listener, can only abstractly imagine.

I wrote “Muse” while living a real story, in a real place with real people, this track does not fantasize anything, but only broadcasts my emotions. Behind this track there is a real person who touched me then, I was inspired, I experienced  feelings that were transformed into music. This is essentially a track about a specific person.

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

I ended up far from my native land, I learned to be a little kinder to people, I realized that happiness is in small things, that it’s not the place that matters, but the people. It’s also good when you have friends and you can spend time together. Generally speaking, I can say that I now appreciate the meaning of the word “life” more. Of course, even what we eat affects us, but the fact that people in my country, my compatriots, civilians and the military, are dying, such phenomena as destruction and terrorism occur, my friends and relatives suffer, and all this has a profound effect on me.

Like everyone else, I want all this to stop. Not a single day passes by without me thinking about it, but I’ve had it easy compared to those who lost loved ones, had their houses burned down or saw their health compromised. It’s the ordinary people that I think about, those suffering because of this war the russian federation has been waging for 8 years now.

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

I’ve been in Europe for 8 months now. I fled the war because I didn’t know how everything would turn out, I want to return home soon, and engage in cultural projects once again. While abroad, I can get experience and share mine.

How are people coping with the cold and the outages?

My girlfriend went to Ukraine to see her relatives when the outages started. It was really difficult for her and for everyone to handle it. There’s always noise from the generators on the streets. Many people are just staying at supermarkets to warm up and charge their phones, there is no connection, no electricity, no heating, it looks like the apocalypse. But after 2 weeks everyone got used to it and now it seems even weird when there is uninterrupted electricity for more than 4 hours per day.

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 ask?

I think that people in Europe don’t fully realize that war is much closer than they might think, and that the only way to stop it is to give us weapons for self-defense. Those who think that it is possible to give up the territory and then everything will be fine are deeply mistaken. History shows that the appetites of empires after capitulation only leads to more aggressive behaviour.

Have you suffered from burnout and has the war had an impact on your mental health? If so, how do you unwind?

It’s hard and it hurts.

Are there any tracks by other artists that are now forever associated with the war for you. I don’t mean necessarily war tracks, simply music that you might’ve been listening to at a specific time over the past nine months?

I just recently started listening to music and enjoying it again, until recently I just couldn’t do it. There is a track that helped me relieve tension, “War” by Edwin Starr.

What are your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022?

The Future by Wheatness. It was the release I immediately clicked with.

Who would you send to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision song contest in 2023?

I don’t watch Eurovision, it’s not the kind of music I enjoy, it’s more about making a political statement. I am grateful for how good everyone treated us this year.

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

The best film that illustrates Ukraine for me is the film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Sergei Parajanov.

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

Wheatness. Whatever you want to ask)

 

DECEMBER 26 2022 – KHARKIV AND OTHER LOCATIONS

LHB @ Winter Mass 2020 – photo by Androsova

La Horsa Bianca

My name is Eugene, I play bass most of the time, and dabble in woodwinds and other instruments. I have zero formal training, but I can tell a 7/8 from a sharp 4 if I try hard enough. I’m extremely lucky to share the vision of La Horsa Bianca as this fluid sort-of-progressive-psychedelic thing with the other musicians in the band: Olga, Kirill, Andrew, and Igor, who are always keen to follow me into an experiment to see what comes out the other side.

One of the questions I routinely put to electronic artists is whether the full-scale invasion changed their approach to music, their motivation, their set-up and their playlist in any way? When it comes to bands things are further complicated as often band members end up being scattered around the country or abroad. What is your present situation, and how do you see the future of La Horsa Bianca? 


We are indeed all scattered, all five of us are far away from each other. The future is uncertain, because our growth as a band was in no small part defined by our ability to improvise together and develop a great sensitivity to each other’s dynamics and expression. We’re now trying to create something in a remote format, where each of us records their part separately, but whether anything comes out of the thing we want to make remains to be seen.

LHB @ SkhidOpera 2019 – photo Victor Vysochin

You are mostly an instrumental band, but you’ve also produced lyrics for a few tracks over the years. Considering Kharkiv is by and large a Russian speaking city (if I am not mistaken), having opted for the Ukrainian language all along seems like a deliberate choice. Was that the case and what does the West most often get wrong about the “language issue” in Ukraine?

If we consider meaning, context, and aesthetics, then we will see that creating music in Ukrainian wasn’t one of equivalent alternative choices, but rather the only thing that made sense. Using English would have felt like we had an “insert lyrics here” placeholder, because any nuance that we could have mustered in English lyrics would be largely lost. Using russian would have felt incongruous, like we would be grafting our nascent music onto the bloated self-important ouroboros of the so-called “russian rock”. The context of being a Ukrainian band making music the likes of which had barely ever been made here means that we want to contribute our work in Ukrainian — few as our lyrical works may be. Introducing poetry by Izdryk and Antonych into our music further connects us with the modern and historical context of the place we’re from.

I would say the thing that “the West” doesn’t get is the complex way that two languages with very different historical power dynamics exist in a single country. The prominence of russian is due to how much the prestige of it was inflated during the soviet times, pushing Ukrainian out into the margins. But as soon as the crutches propping up that prestige were gone, Ukrainian rushed back in, with varying speed in various parts of the country. The funny thing now is, no matter the percentage of russian speakers in a place, the russian language now exists here in the context of Ukrainian, and not the other way around.

Olga Ksendzovska fundraising

Your keyboardist Olga has been coordinating medical supply requests for the volunteer charity Dopomoha.Kharkiv. It has been widely reported that local volunteers are more effective than big international organisations like Unicef or the Red Cross. How does one keep momentum going and keep the donations coming when operating on a grassroots level?

PSA: Unicef and the Red Cross are on the scale of useless to harmful, do not be fooled into donating to them. Yes, local volunteers are quicker on the ground and know the actual needs much better, and also do not entertain idealistic notions. When it comes to keeping momentum going, you’re spot on with the question: it’s the most difficult thing. Especially when it comes to small-scale volunteer groups focusing on healthcare and food. People are much more eager to crowdfund pickup trucks for troops and paramedics, drones and Starlink stations, helmets and tactical gear — and they aren’t wrong, because the army is dealing with the root of the problem and the better they do it the safer everyone is. But it doesn’t mean dealing with the consequences is unimportant.

LHB @ Intercity Live 2020 – photo Artem Gromov

What is the current situation on the ground in Kharkiv and how are you coping with the cold and the electricity blackouts?


Kharkiv is suffering from regular blackouts like the rest of the country, and it’s also still within reach of short-range rockets fired across the russian border. One of us is there most of the time, others are elsewhere. We all have emergency supplies, powerbanks, charging stations, but when you get 3 hours of electricity, water and heat a day (at least one member of the band has been enduring that) you have to really focus all of your ingenuity on restructuring your life. It’s not the character-building experience one would wish for.

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 ask?

Kirill Gonchar

It seems like the people abroad are starting to wake up from the illusion of “putin’s war” that’s been perpetuated. I think it was the ISW who published an opinion that the war will likely outlast the dictator. You can’t off-ramp something that has so much momentum, only push back with all the force we have and get it to stop in its tracks, eventually, and then hopefully crumble and shatter because this momentum was the only thing that kept it going.

Of course, for every person coming to terms with this there’s a nutter on Twitter thinking this is all an elaborate green screened spectacle. A good thing to remember is that “alternative facts” is an oxymoron. Facts are what constitutes reality, and we all share a single reality. A reality where Ukrainians are being eradicated for having an identity.

Another thing on top of the point our president made in the US Senate is that helping Ukraine isn’t charity: a lot of people in the West may get an impression that we’re fighting this war at their cost. They have no idea how much the Ukrainian public is donating to our own funds, like Savelife.in.ua, and to volunteers who are relentlessly delivering pickup trucks and drones to the frontline. One volunteer group I know has delivered their 90th pickup truck recently, and it’s one group out of hundreds. We can’t easily crowdfund APCs, howitzers and ATACMS, much as we’d love to. Can you imagine how hard we’re going to build back the country when the invading army is gone? We’re going to build back SO HARD you’ll want to Netflix that shit.


In an article for Commons, Oksana Dutchak lists 10 Terrible Leftist Arguments against Ukrainian Resistance.

1. “If another country attacks my country, I would just flee”
2. “I would never fight for my government”
3. “Our government supports Ukraine and I can never take the side of my government”
4. “Ukrainian and Russian workers, instead of fighting with each other, should turn their guns against their own governments”
5. “Who benefits from this war?”
6. “What about the far right on the Ukrainian side?”
7. “Russia and Ukraine should negotiate. Upgraded version: here are our propositions for a peace deal”
8. “The West should stop supporting Ukraine because it may escalate into a nuclear war”
9. “We won’t even talk to you because you are for weapons”
10. “Good Russian resistance vs. bad/inconvenient/non-existing Ukrainian resistance”

Do you subscribe to these and have you had to counter any of the above points yourself?

Great article, I struggle to add anything xD I haven’t had to counter those arguments because thankfully all my friends abroad have been on our side since forever, and I don’t find engaging with people online a fruitful pastime.

Have you suffered from burnout and has the war had an impact on your mental health? If so, how do you unwind?

If it’s about burnout at work, then I just have to ignore it because I have no choice, innit? Can’t afford to take a sabbatical or change jobs in the middle of all this, money won’t donate itself.

Musically, it wasn’t burnout as much as a stupor, I just struggled to write anything that made sense to me until very recently — when I started trying to envision how the complex traumatic mental states I’ve been going through could be reflected in a musical piece. Not something the public will get to hear until the rest of the band gets their hands on these demos. As unwinding goes, I go to the riverside and look at the river. It sort of helps, at least when I’m there. “Only a river gonna make things right…”

Are there any tracks by other artists that are now forever associated with the war for you? I don’t mean necessarily war tracks, simply music that you might’ve been listening to at a specific time over the past nine months. If so, are there any tracks that you know consider triggering or that you’ve found healing in any way?

I have been very careful to avoid creating these mental links. I struggled to listen to any music at all for the first month or so; then I began listening to things I’ve known for ages that wouldn’t therefore become interlinked with the war: The Beatles, Jesus Christ Superstar, those kind of records, whose place in my life is so much bigger it wouldn’t be erased by trauma. As I began to compartmentalise my mental state, I learned how to listen to new music and avoid making it about the trauma. Of course, we’ll have to see how Kikagaku Moyo‘s last album will sound for me after we win the war, but listening to it this summer was very therapeutic.

What are your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022?


Sherpa the Tiger – Ithkuil
Sherpa the Tiger’s album was recorded before the war and they’ve released it as a kind of “memories of days gone by”, but it is such a sublime and brilliant record to which I will be coming back again and again.

Ptakh – Vidbudova
Vidbudova is a 9-minute electronic sonata by Ptakh, which was written as a vision of Ukraine after the war. I have been absolutely enchanted by it.

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

Since I brought up Sherpa the Tiger, I suggest you talk to Artem Bemba and ask him how he’s faring, and in which ways he thinks joining Somali Yacht Club as their new bass player will influence his other numerous projects, like Sherpa, Sealand Airlines, and solo works.

 

NEW RELEASES AND FUNDRAISING ALBUMS

Poly Chain ~ Fairy Disco

“Poly Chain and Lostlojic here 🌞
This is our second charity project together and we hope for your help and support. All money from the “Fairy Disco” Digital and Limited Physical USB Chain’s will be sent to “Повернись Живим/Come Back Alive” foundation which is the first one charity organization in Ukraine that received a license for the purchase and import of military and dual purpose goods.

This mini album contains 6 tracks by Poly Chain made in 2020-2022 and two remixes from Kharkiv based Dj Sacred and Frankfurt’s finest Luz1e. Mastering magic done by Ben Pest.

‘The release date is my 29th bday and my wish is very simple yet quite complicated as well as contained tunes themselves: keep supporting Ukraine, it’s your every days shield.'”

 

Symonenko ~ Rozpad

Compiled as a kind of diary for 2020-2022
where each of the five compositions records a separate moment of the prewar and wartime periods, Rozpad charts the disintegration of “naive hopes”, long-term plans, and social connections.However,” states Symonenko, “the process of the final disintegration of the last of the empires becomes the key refrain. This agonizing relic monster. We must support each other in forced disintegration.”

 

Code ~ V/A Mystictrax

By mixing genres, creating new sounds, sewing the codes of the people into the latest works, we are creating a beautiful future here and now.

6TH CROWD & Yasya Saienko, Sider, Revshark (ft. Jules Ester), Venture Silk, Lostlojic, Eczema, Kørper, Radiant Futur, Sergey Russolo and Demian Feriy created compositions using fragments of folk instruments, voices of the melodious Ukrainian language, rethought folk songs and took a new look at the use of kobza, floyars and trembits, while the tracks really rock!

All funds from the sale of tracks will go to support Ukrainian musicians affected by the war – MUSICIANS DEFEND UKRAINE

 

Electronic Resistance: Reconstruction ~ Various Artists

Second Electronic Resistance compilation from the good people at side-line magazine.

“The title of this new volume clearly indicates what the concept is, it’s all about reconstruction, reconstruction of people’s lives, but also reconstruction of a nation which is still being brutalized by Russian aggression. The release holds again more than 50 darkwave / post​-​punk acts from the Ukrainian underground scene only including a lot of new names. We again were confronted with difficult conditions to get hold of the necessary files as some disks were in occupied territories, other files were lost and so we sometimes worked with very raw source material to reconstruct the tracks. Many track titles again refer to the current situation.

The compilation features artists from allover Ukraine and just like the first time we again had the honor to have music from musicians active on the frontline, from soldiers to medics, and from people who continue to help out where possible. Heroes.

All donations this time will go to United24, a global initiative to support Ukraine. ”

 

Various Artists — Construction vol.2 ~ kulturamedialna

“The first Construction festival took place in October 2014. It was a reaction to the Revolution of Dignity — we all wanted to do our part in creating new Ukrainian culture and be drivers of change. The first Construction’s program was vibrant: audiovisual performances in the planetarium and aquarium, a rave party in an abandoned factory, educational, urbanistic, and art events. It was then that the only album with the tracks of the festival participants was released.

In 2022, the Construction festival was supposed to happen for the eighth time. However, like many others, these plans were destroyed by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Though it’s currently impossible to hold a proper festival in Dnipro, we are still gathering together on a new album. It will feature the works of Ukrainian sound artists who have already performed at the Construction festival or whom we planned to invite this year. All tracks were created after February 24, 2022, and have their own story, which we will tell separately.”

 

Slavic Breus EP ~ Bejenec

Bejenec gives his all, soul, heart, skin and guts, for this joyous and defiant EP, four tracks skidding through electro somersaults and techno backflips.

 

From Ukraine, For Ukraine ~ V/A

“The war is still happening. Every day Ukrainians are bravely resisting the senseless russian terror. Standard Deviation has had to suspend its activities in recent months. During this period, we were putting all our energy towards helping those in need, and collecting the pieces of all that we’ve built in two years and that was taken away overnight. For a long time releasing music and art did not seem to have meaning to us.

Eventually, we were left with no choice but to adapt to this new reality. We made the decision to keep on doing what we believe in, no matter the circumstances. Our first release in 9 months is a bittersweet moment. In honor of the club’s third anniversary this weekend we have put together our second fundraising compilation titled ‘From Ukraine, For Ukraine’. The compilation consists of music from Ukrainian artists and from our friends from abroad. In accordance with our current feelings, the tonality of this compilation is melancholic and fragile, yet hopeful. All proceeds will be donated to The K41 Community Fund.”

 

back to home ~ undo despot

Just over 8 minutes long and spread over four tracks, back to home is an uncompromising and beguiling EP of spacious sonorities undulating purposefully along guitar and piano lines with proceeds going to humanitarian causes.

 

очі розберуть ~ ногируки

Another quivering and haunting track of fragile beauty from ногируки, “очі розберуть” (the eyes will open) is a seasonal offering of voice and piano with just a dusting of field recordings. Sparse and luminous.

 

Keeping The Border ~ Anklav // electro, garage, breakbeat

Five tracks by Ukrainian artists (Hockins, BADWOR7H, Costa, SVZZ, and Bodro) and five tracks from international artists (STRIPE N CO, AK Sports VS Danny Goliger, Muriel & Stolen Velour, Hermet and An Avrin) with proceeds going to UNITED24’s fundraisers for generators to support medical facilities in Ukraine, and for C-class ambulances. Fast, furious and fun.

 

Radio Bavovna ~ brainhack_musicbox

Technical note:

– Nobody plays any instrument here: everyone is busy fighting with terrorist state.

– All sounds are made by a pedalboard treated like a modular synth/FX system.

– Guitar pedals are usually designed for sound processing, but many of them have resonators, modulation and builtin LFOs (like choruses, flangers) enough to generate complex modulated waves from sine to noise.

– Multiple choruses/flangers connected to each other in a feedback network may produce chords, formats, tone clusters and cloud-like textures.

– Graphic Fuzz and ring modulator can add more harmonics related to already existing ones. Finally, to make it sound like a noise orchestra, somewhere in the middle of the patch there is a C9 pedal trying to turn any input signal to organ sounds.

– No multitracking here, everything was recorded straight to the Zoom H4N.

– More space and stereo image was added by the almighty Lexicon M300.

 

Amulet ~ Zavoloka

“Ability for the impossible.

Ukrainian folk instruments dissolve into abstract psychoactive sounds from the improvisational universe. The meditative engine of multi-instrumental music drives the magical means of influencing perception. This is the sonic amulet, which is decorated with radiant tones and the colorful ceremonial musical outline. Mythological music is spirited by epic historical times and ideas of freedom, dignity, and bravery. The acquired knowledge of ancient generations is infused into the present tense and crystallized into the art of liberation.

Transform pain into gratitude, fear into love, rage into action, self-importance into empathy, fatigue into inner peace, anxiety into courage, and hatred into strength. Say “no” to darkness and direct the light on it, disagree to compromise with yourself, create on the destroyed, free yourself from stipulations, believe in wonders, burn and resurrect free. Always remember your own path to walk.

And plant the blossoming cherry tree in the funnel from the bomb on the heart.

Dedicated to free Ukraine.”

 

False Light ~ White Ward

One of the albums of the year that we never got round to feature. At one point we were in touch with the band but as these things happened, the interview never quite materialised. Here’s hoping for 2023.

“Heavily conceptual and rich with meaning, the 8 dystopian tracks use overarching inspiration from ‘Intermezzo’, a 1908 impressionistic novel by the Ukrainian author Mykhailo Kotsubinsky – in addition to works by Beat-writer Jack Kerouac and psychoanalyst Carl Jung – to explore government-sanctioned murders, imminent environmental catastrophes, police brutality, domestic abuse, the psychic emptiness of cities, falsity of modern mainstream culture and ill-effects of overconsumption.”

 

VIEWING ROOM

 

(Gianmarco Del Re)

 

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