The sounds of war become the sounds of music.
ummsbiaus first appeared on international streaming services with “melynchka,” recorded in the early days of the Russian invasion. She recorded this track on her phone, in her garage, using the sounds of “air defense systems and missile volleys,” along with an old accordion. The song is about a miller’s daughter who is waiting for her loved one to return home from the war. By placing this folk song in a new setting, ummsbiaus has connected the generations and infused the tune with an even deeper sense of pathos. At the time, ummsbiaus wrote that the song, while “dolorous,” filled her heart with hope.
Then a year passed.
The artist, now living in Lithuania, continues to be haunted by the war. Enerhomor (Energetic Genocide) revisits Kyïv and incorporates “the cold trembling of a overheated transformer, the indifferent clatter of a meter, a gentle voice that whispers through communication jamming, decreasing signal-to-noise ratio, the tight air after an explosion, the echo of eerie signals, flashes and shadows.” The EP is populated by ghosts. Yet as ummsbiaus writes, “the fire does not burn the hardened.” The artist is still hopeful, yet harrowed. The tracks are brief, and occasionally she sings, as if it is unsafe to remain in one place for too long as the bombs are falling. The music yields a post-apocalyptic tone, despite the fact that it is unfolding right now. The cover shot, captured at the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, is a reminder of how close the location came to a nuclear disaster. The label, Mystictrax, is located in the same region.
The EP builds to the title track, first heard here in Ukrainian Field Notes XXI. The timbre is industrial, but seldom has industrial music been so accurate. The genre often portrays a world ravaged by war, using electronic instruments to emulate the sound of factories and crumbling infrastructure; for ummsbiaus, this is daily life. Enerhomor is not a score; it’s a documentary. (Richard Allen)