Heinali ~ Kyiv Eternal

Kyiv Eternal is released tomorrow on the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  At this writing, over 200,000 people have died, and the war continues to rage … but not in the way that Putin had hoped.  The Battle of Kyiv was won by Ukraine.  The statue of Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny still stands, wrapped up to protect it from bombs.

Heinali (Oleg Shpudeko) writes, ““After the Battle of Kyiv was over, many Kyivites noticed this strange feeling. “It was as if the city was alive, breathing. We wanted to hug it, to protect every inch of it from harm. I didn’t know how to do it back then. It took time and distance to figure it out, but Kyiv Eternal is my hug.”  The album is a collage of field recordings and loops, a tribute to the vibrancy of a still-breathing city and the 37 years Heinali has lived there.  Like many of the region’s recordings from the past year, Kyiv Eternal is a statement release, but in this instance the statement is one of pride.  Time has produced perspective, and resistance a pervasive hope.

The simple beauty of the opener’s pre-recorded train announcements is that there is a train.  Life has been disrupted around the nation, and by extension around the world, but passengers still ride and even laugh, often disembarking in Stantsiia Maidan Nezalezhnosti (the main square).  Heinali decorates his compositions with brightness, not only to reflect the victories already achieved, but those to come.  In the beautiful “Botanichnyi Sad” (recorded in a botanical garden), the birds still sing, the aural rendition of a common yet priceless metaphor.

Heinali travels not only through the city’s past, but his own, communicating through drones and refracted tones.  While poring through a decade of musical snippets, he recalls the city in a time of relative peace, as well as how he was feeling during those times.  Describing the set as a “farewell,” he acknowledges that such innocence is forever lost.  “Night Walk” is the stark record of a stroll in a war zone.  How then can he remain so clearly upbeat, relaying his mood through the wind chime tones of “Silpo” and the major chords of the title track?  The answer has much to do with love: love for country and countrymen and women, a renewed attachment in the face of loss, an amplified gratitude for what was, even if it has been taken away, and for what yet survives.  As it turns out, some things are indeed eternal; even had the city been destroyed, it would still remain.

We have already heard many remarkable albums sparked by the invasion of Ukraine, from field recordings of sirens to expressions of metal rage.  The fact that the first definitive album about the war bears a theme of hope emphasizes the facet of the Ukrainian character that has captured the hearts of sympathetic citizens around the globe.  (Richard Allen)

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