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Dolor: 4 Pozicii Bruno, Endless Melancholy, SiJ, and Cosmonautics Day


Dolor: 4 Pozicii Bruno, Endless Melancholy, SiJ, and Cosmonautics Day

Размещено 29 Июля 2015
review, english, far from moscow

This week sees a new album from the Yekaterinburg drone/ lo-fi/ field recording project 4 Pozicii Bruno ("Four Positions of Bruno"). Its title might be translated as "Position Ten. A Room Locked from the Outside." Both that phrase and the album's disconcerting artwork continue the outfit's interest in the worrying, even demonic aspects of Russian provincial life. But why? One sometimes encounters the view that Russian literature and music constantly vacillate between two attitudes towards space. A seemingly endless landscape produces both "topophilia" (the romance of wilderness) and "topophobia" (the horror of unknown places). In the same way, 4 Pozicii Bruno often interweave childhood nostalgia, tabloid crime narratives, bona fide horror stories, folktales, nursery rhymes, and industrial discord in order to build fascinating, yet distinctly scary pictures of "normal life" - in countless provincial towns and villages.

The group's last recording was framed in an informative way by a major Moscow publication. The musicians themselves had the following to say: "These are songs about love, revenge, fear - and some kind of tedium. We're always interested in extremes - in deeper shades or colors. Those same extremes should ideally be in any song, really; by that we mean some kind of 'overload.' In the same way, all of the characters in our newest compositions have done something... and they're going to pay for it." Local existence, it seems, is not inclined towards moderation or mercy.

A newer interview works along similar lines. A conversation began last week with the band's two founding members, Aleksandr Sitnikov and Anton Klevtsov. The first question concerned the origin of 4 Pozicii Bruno's frightening soundscapes. How are they composed and edited? "Everything sounds so brutal. In your noises and fragmented phrases or melodies there's plenty to suggest hallucinations, fear, and irrationality. How do you build that sonic atmosphere?" The answer: "It all just crawled up from beneath us... and still does. We didn't go looking for anything special - and where exactly would you go looking for stuff like this, anyway?"

Sitnikov and Klevtsov are a little more forthcoming when it comes to the live reproduction of their tracks on stage. "We use whatever we can get our hands on. Any old synths, tape players, and various musicians. Sometimes we'll even use members of our families, ranging from two to sixty in age. Then there are the animals[!], both domestic and wild..." Fact slips briefly into fantasy.

The junkyard or gutter aesthetic of 4 Pozicii Bruno is, to some degree, designed to reflect the current status of music online. "It almost seems as if the web has exhausted itself. There are endless advertisements, full of useless information. You have to dig really deep in order to find anything worthwhile or interesting. The web has become a dumping ground... yet one that's designed to control everything. There's more music appearing every single day, but our willingness to sort it all out is fading fast. Maybe it would be more interesting [or appropriate] to have music delivered in black trash bags..."

In closing, 4 Pozicii Bruno are asked about the ominous, closed room mentioned the new LP's title. "It refers to those moments when you're locked in a room, away from irritating people. You sit alone and gradually lose your bearings - in fact you lose all connection with the outside world. Your start to create your own little world with its own laws - or lawlessness, perhaps. It might be elegantly conceived, or it could be full of the chaos and disorder you see in untamed nature. Whatever the case, you should never leave [that room or mental state] until you've got things figured out."

4 Pozicii Bruno, it's worth mentioning, record in their own home studio; apparently some major anxieties need to be investigated behind closed doors. Self-therapy begins at home.

Despair is an equally important influence in the work of Kiev project Endless Melancholy. The gentleman responsible for these hushed, dour instrumentals is Oleksii Sakevych, who embodies a self-proclaimed dedication to the "expression of love and passion through minimalist piano recordings."

Sakevych is keen to use etymology in order to explain the raison d'être of his music. Drawing upon the original Greek, he pulls nuances of "sadness, darkness, and anger" from his moniker. Turning then to the subsequent ways in which melancholy has been viewed since the early twentieth century, he associates his understated imagery with some "dark lunacy" of which fin-de-siecle scientists spoke in Moscow. The sense of loss and surrender to modern rigors is here viewed in more confrontational, even irate terms. Some fading chance for peace or happiness is viewed with bitterness and regret. Sadness, in other words, operates side by side with a growing resentment.

The Endless Melancholy project began in November, 2011. As with 4 Pozicii Bruno, it has always been designed as a form of self-investigation. "The project has no concrete goal; it's really all done for my own benefit. It's only when I am happy with the result [of my labors] that the material is made accessible to the public. I believe that music should be free and I try distributing it everywhere, without any commercial purpose in mind."

Needless to say, the issue of sadness often emerges in interviews with Sakevych, even when journalists claim to discern elements of "optimism" or "radiance," perhaps, within his discography. The musician responds: "I'm naturally a melancholy guy! I'm constantly deep in some nostalgic state."

For 4 Pozicii Bruno, what predominates is anxiety - the fear of what might happen. For Sakevych, the worries are fueled more by whatever has been lost. What the two projects have in common is a reliance upon intuition. Both of their troubled states simply are; they are managed more intuitively than intellectually. "Everything happens kinda spontaneously with me. The sounds almost seem to come from nowhere. There might be a melody that takes shape in my head, something I'll try to remember and reproduce. Occasionally something will get written down when I'm actually at the keyboard... but there's no standard practice or system."  

Another common concern for both ensembles is the sense that music today has been devalued by ubiquitous digitization. Sakevych believes, therefore, that musicians should endorse any opportunity to publish on hard media. "Even if it's just a limited edition CD... I've a real passion for beautifully made physical releases; that same passion plays a considerable role in my outlook. I'm a big fan of anything that sidesteps mass production. Anything without a factory stamp will have a certain heart and soul."

Hence, it would seem, the equal desire of both 4 Pozicii Bruno and Endless Melancholy to publish their work free of charge. An avoidance of cash is, perhaps, an avoidance of crudity. If not cruelty.

The concrete setting of these nervous outlooks is front and center in the instrumentals of SiJ (aka Vladislav Sikach from Sevastopol, Ukraine). Tags such as dark ambient, industrial, and drone are liberally applied. Sikach meets the generic expectations of those dour styles with field recordings taken from "mundane city streets and abandoned military or industrial facilities."

Given an authorial reticence, Slavic reviewers, bloggers, and admirers provide most of the background to SiJ. On many occasions, these online authors imagine the locations that are evoked by Sikach's ambient instrumentals. They're always places of private, natural detachment. For example, we read about "the echo of semi-submerged caves that were formed by the delicate interaction of water, stone, and air. That same echo travels multiple paths before it becomes audible. Is it striving for a specific goal or simply dispersing, like the very first sound-wave?"

These abstractions grow in significance, given the bloggers' shared faith in music to construct soundscapes that might counter ugly landscapes. Sound builds an alternative, gentler realm. "When we create music, it creates us. In the same way, we inhale in order to live - and exhale so that life might continue. The instrumentals from SiJ breathe in and out on a grand scale..."  The closer one grows to noiselessness - and the further from raucous technogenic society - the better.

With a recent SiJ album - entitled "The End" - came an important interview. Throughout that conversation, readers discovered Sikach's lasting connections to dolor. SiJ, put differently, engineers the sound of a stubborn lack or absence. "I tend to view my music as the soundtrack to a given place or event; it's often something expressed in the name of an instrumental - or an entire album. It's a [thematic] approach adopted after my 'Deep In Space' recordings [of 2011]. Before that everything tended to lack a concept and was done for the sake of sound alone. There's a fundamental sadness running through my music, but there are some compositions you could call 'sunny' or 'good natured.'" He pauses: "Yet even they have a lot of sad elements in them..."

Sikach admits that many of his works are inspired by literary or cinematic narratives. The conclusive lines of those story arcs, however, are rarely found in real life. Actuality's stories often remain unfinished or dissatisfying. "In essence, the main idea of my tracks will appear after I've read a book or watched a movie. Things could even start after I've experienced some event or other. Put more simply, once I have the idea to create something, that becomes my goal." A frustrating gap, however, remains between any such goals and their possible realization.

The most recent interviews with SiJ have operated along similar lines. "There was no real rationale behind my first release [as a youngster]. I simply uploaded a couple of noise tracks; together they constituted a sort of vague drone or minimalist material... Slowly I began my path from noise to ambient to [superior] drone... The fundamental impetus in all of that, banal though it may sound, has always been depression."  

Audiences still respond in the same manner: "This is music for the end of the world. I don't the moment when everything implodes, all the way from human civilization to the universe as a whole. Here we're dealing with the sound of unknown natural expanses, lying far beyond familiar, well-trodden paths. They are the blank spaces on a map that medieval cartographers would mark with a specific phrase: 'Here Live Monsters...' This music transmits the impressions of somebody who has encountered the edge of the world. It describes his feelings, beginning with a devastating melancholy, together with an awareness of life's vanity. It also [conversely] invokes a faith and hope that boundless vistas will make you realize the grandeur of the world. They'll show you the importance of every waking moment, especially in love."

Other reviewers also place vanity and verity side by side. "We sense the finest line between lightness and dark; we note the slow descent of night upon a town. Masses of people begin - subconsciously - to sense the proximity of that darkness and they joke nervously among themselves. They start walking faster, hurrying to get home." Sadness is either avoided or - on rare occasions - used to reveal the "vanity" of everyday triviality. Beyond failure lies a grand realization.

These common - and imposing - juxtapositions in Russian independent music are what underline the (very) common use of either cosmic or "cosmonautic" imagery. Take, for example, the Siberian collective Cosmonautics Day, aka "День Космонавтики" (not to be confused with Moscow band Cosmonauts Day). Both of those monikers refer back to the Soviet holiday of April 12, in other words to the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight to the stars in 1961. Local legend says this Novosibirsk ensemble follows a similar timetable, with a work-rate of one release per year. The same principle is applied to stage shows, also occurring annually. A single event worth celebrating becomes a rapid departure from the Earth's gravitational pull.

Away from sad, material existence.

In fact the musicians not long ago quoted some lines spoken by Gagarin on that same day in 1961; the cosmonaut was surprised to discover that his earthly tools on board were making perception of the heavens difficult. Bright light bulbs stopped him seeing the stars outside. Human handiwork got in the way of God's mastery: "There's a black, black sky. The entire sky is black; I can't see any stars. Maybe my lights inside are getting in the way. I'll switch the lighting to a different setting. The light from my monitor doesn't help, either. I can't see anything through the porthole."

Human hopes and enterprise offer considerable cause for worry and woe. Only through an awareness and admission of that same misery will better values transpire, at least one day a year.

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