Dissonant Field Recordings: Raw N^D, Aortha, Koin Nockio, And Roomdark

Catalogue number: | Artist: Raw N^D, Aortha, Roomdark | Date: 29/09/2012

The city of Tiumen‘ in southern Siberia is located more than 1,300 miles from the Russian capital. It is also, on a less celebrated level, home to the youthful glitch-hop practitioner known as Koin Nockio. In other related venues, he sometimes adopts the equally mysterious identity of «Konstantin Chyo» (his real surname, however, appears to be Bolotnikov). Partially responsible for the workings of a Siberian dubstep label, Nockio has been authoring his own music for the last three years. In his own words, «my first efforts were a real experimental mishmash, but they at least were an initial, important step en route to further developments.»

Whatever that evolution may bring, though, he remains committed to a lo-fi sound. As we’ll see below, there’s a good reason why any such progress would — or should — remain shackled to understatement and slight distortion.

He describes his overall aesthetic as redolent of some «depressing, yet mystical atmosphere, soaked by the rain. My lyrics [if at all present] tend to be brief — but they get straight to the heart of the matter. The main themes are love, surrealism, nostalgia, and society.» There are virtually no promotional images to accompany these short, earnest observations. The few photographs on display — as we see below — have been doctored in ways that do not lead us to expect any roseate tales of «love» or an optimistic «society.» Fragmentation will be a major concern.

Some of his recent work has been released far from home, namely through the Belarusian label, HAZE, in Minsk. Ardent fans of uppercase letters, the label’s organizers have the same affection for reticence that we see in Siberia. The one, tiny text that does appear on the pages of a central website tells us the following in rather dry terms:

«HAZE is an independent and noncommercial netlabel, publishing experimental and avantgarde electronic music from around the world. We offer everything free of charge — and legally, too, through the Creative Commons system.»

And, with that, a hush falls over the proceedings, at least from a linguistic point of view. Any of the websites overseen by HAZE will be dramatically free of text; neither editorial nor public comment is encouraged. Mournful, unpunctuated sounds take precedence over anything overtly grammatical. As a result of that enduring wordlessness, we showcase here some of the more recent publications with minimal commentary of our own.

They include a split EP from Minsk noise/drone exponents Roomdark and Aortha. The combined efforts of these two camera-shy individuals are credited in part to the use of «field recordings,» but the resulting grind and industrial-sized glitch both suggest we’re far from any traditionally hushed or ambient practice. More empty factories than birds’ nests.

The compositions on display are — as a consequence — designed to highlight some social failings of the present, rather than to advocate any pre-modern, rural alternative.

Contrary to our stereotypical expectations at the mention of field samples, it’s clear that Roomdark and Aorthaare striving to express some form of universality — albeit a rather sad version. More specifically, their new EP, entitled «Tree,» is built around a long, fourteen-minute composition called «Cholotrope.» Here, presumably, we’re toying with some notions encapsulated in the English equivalent «holotrope,» itself a play upon the Greek terms for (a linear) path and (ubiquitous) plentitude simultaneously.

In other words, an empirical passage hopes to reveal some surrounding, enduring state that simply is. Or, in related terms, we might say that a forward-looking, «progressive» style of music aims for a reinterpretation of the same civic domains that interest Koin Nockio.

Far from the modishness of any eco-friendly activism, we therefore encounter a very different view of today’s social order. And, thus far, it doesn’t look good. Dissonance has the upper hand over harmony, in several senses.

Simplistic though it may seem to then link any industrial or experimental Belarusian project to «discordant» political events within the country, the LiveJournal account of HAZE has made precisely these connections. Troubled sounds both echo and engage forms of communal dispute in nearby streets. The pessimistic considerations of a healthy, modern habitus we encounter in these recordings have — in recent times — been linked directly to outrage over the gross malfunctioning of internal politics.

HAZE, in feisty (if not dangerous) terms, made the following, increasingly strident observation: »Many people are calling for solidarity with the [independent] presidential candidates — and their supporters — who’ve been held against their will or already convicted. We’re already in solidarity with them! We demand that everybody be released and that an independent investigation be conducted into the actions of these KGB provocateurs. We demand that Lukashenko be removed from office. We demand there be new elections without Lukashenko!»

In order to have some tangible influence on the situation, the following suggestions also came from the label. In the time-honored spirit of HAZE, wordy debate was replaced by subversive action: »Until such time that our conditions are met, we promise: 1. Not to buy any products produced in Belarus; 2. Not to keep any money whatsoever in a Belarusian bank account…» Other threats included the deliberate underuse of state-owned credit cards and plans to pay all forms of rent on state-run property as late as possible.

In the meanwhile, the noises of an ailing organism continued to appear, accompanied — as we see — by the symbolism of ecological failure.

The reason for this gradual retreat from current society was then made clearer still:

«All of you who sympathize with these plans, don’t forget that the police shields and truncheons [used in situations of public protest] are all purchased with our money. In reality only 30% of people in Belarus support Lukashenko! Join our action! Crush this regime!»

The elections took place; Lukashenko won, claiming almost 80% of the popular vote. Or so the story went. And thus HAZE continue their efforts, saying almost nothing and reconsidering, with ominous, industrial field recordings, the kind of sickly «holotropes» that persist in regional civic forms. These same reconsiderations address the kinds of micro- and macrocosmic issues that were well documented by Konstantin Bolotnikov in Siberia: «Love, surrealism, nostalgia, and society» itself. Put differently, the challenging, often jarringly harsh sounds produced by HAZE, full of distortion, are generated in melancholy consideration of that which should be and the ominous — if not threatening — oddity of what is.

It’s all done with an occasional, understandable glance backwards, as per Koin Nockio‘s «nostalgia.» For a time when various civic metamorphoses looked rather more promising.

Far from Moscow


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