Low Orbit Satellite, Aaortha, Echochorus, And Ales Tsurko
Catalogue number: | Artist: Aortha | Date: 25/08/2013
Over the last few months, the Minsk netlabel Haze has been publishing a series of experimental compilation albums, each dedicated to a different Western writer. The authors in question have thus far included Saint-Exupery, Beckett, Hemingway, Woolf, Kerouac, Conan Doyle, Joyce, and others. Each LP brings together a range of glitch, noise, and field recordings, many of which refer directly to narratives by the poets, playwrights, and novelists in question. Words are turned into sound.
Now that the series has grown quiet large — and received the overall designation of «Sound Interpretations» — a few of the participants have taken their own contributions and bundled them as solo releases. One of the first people to do so has been Dzmitry Ladzes, a key figure in the operation of Haze and known professionally asAortha.
The first time we looked at Aortha, his music was attributed primarily to a liberal — and literal — use of «field recordings,» but the resulting grind and industrial glitch both suggested we were far from any traditionally hushed or ambient practice. There were more empty factories than birds’ nests to be heard. Those compositions were — as a consequence — designed to highlight some social failings of the present, rather than advocate any pre-modern, rural alternative. Lifeless drone spoke of a societal dead-end.
Some of those same ideas and noises were then carried over into a sonic consideration of the Pussy Riot trial, which we also looked at. Now we have the regathered Aortha tracks that were once included in «Sound Interpretations«; together they have been re-titled as «Chronotope.» This recompilation comes with a few sentences from Ladze himself, explaining his attitude towards wordless, sonic tales. He begins by celebrating literature as a treasured exit from quotidian numbness. «Literature for me is like [the existence of] bums on the road. You walk through marmalade fog — and meet Mr. Godot at the end. You run away from [Steven King’s monsters known as] the langoliers, jump into a silent abyss, and find a Vincenzo Bernardelli [shotgun]. Bang! … Literature is a fictional world. It forces us to abandon reality and travel beyond any boundaries.»
These extraordinary realms, in the literal sense of the word, are evidently thought to be close by. Put differently, the Aortha compositions on «Chronotope» are made wholly from field recordings — and free of speech. Placed together, they evoke what Ladzes calls «the choir of the crowd, the symphony of urban transport, and the sighing of the wind.» A magical, though melancholy domain runs parallel to ostensible reality. It lies beyond the «boundaries» of mundane chatter and/or primetime harmonies. It offers a sense of freedom, a bittersweet divorce from comforting typicality that’s known to «bums on the road.»
The comfort of routines and endless chatter must be jettisoned — or lost — in order for anything revelatory to commence. Homelessness — a life spent in nameless locations — brings both emancipation and anxiety.
In fact that reference to «bums,» being so redolent of Kerouac, leads us to the large paragraph that was used to promote the «Sound Interpretations» gathered in his name. The words taken from Kerouac by Haze include the following. «[There was something] he could sense even from the old house they lived in, with its solidly built walls and floors that held together like rock: some man, possibly an angry pessimistic man, had built the house long ago, but the house stood, and his anger and pessimism and irritable laborious sweats were forgotten; the house stood, and other men lived in it and were sheltered well in it.»
Enduring truths emerge within fleeting, trivial concerns. Beyond debate, discussion, and wordy anger is a very different sense of home.
A related conclusion comes from the new recordings published by Latvian ambient composer Kriipis Tulo (aka Kirils Lomunovs), who also performs under the stage-name Echochorus. Based in Riga, he continues to stress some themes tied directly to that second moniker. In other words — and as we’ve said before — the term «Echochorus» evokes an empty realm in which various forms of reverb are gathered in «choral» patterns. Implicit, therefore, is the suggestion that the sounds’ origin is also absent. Only echoes remain.
From the outset a certain romance of absence and isolation is foregrounded.
Those wide-open spheres, imagined without human presence, are nonetheless full of natural enterprise. The ecosphere itself is often understood by Kriipis Tulo as a realm devoid of both center and human presence, yet full of microscopic industry. That which appears blank is actually full of tiny turmoil and the sounds of a universal harmony.
Recently the expanses of his northern nature were replaced by the cosmos. A recording from Echochorus was inspired by Yakov Protazanov’s 1924 silent film, «Aelita.» In the briefest terms possible, the movie tells of an uprising on Mars, led by an earthly revolutionary and guided by the mysterious Queen Aelita herself. In order to bridge the considerable gap between 1924 and 2013, Lomunovs used Soviet analog synthesizers, thus «constructing modern sounds as a continuation of Protazanov’s visual reality.» Some of those analog tools actually came from Riga‘s RMIF studio, a famous building that once fostered Latvian rock bands under socialism.
Lomunovs offered a few thoughts on the genesis of his «Aelita,» which was — for the most part — an improvised work. He cast a fond glance back to Soviet tales of change, metamorphosis, and revolution… on a distant planet where they never actually happened. Against the backdrop of Echochorus‘ «natural» aesthetic, these sci-fi adventures, which arguably include the fantastic history of the Soviet Union itself, simply emerged, evolved, and then faded out of sight. Human «achievements» became part of an endless natural ebb and flow, a process devoid of center, stasis, or stability.
Nothing, in a word, is ever permanent.
Lomunovs added a footnote: “The main mood of ‘Aelita‘ came to me as retrospection — as discrete memories from my Soviet childhood.» The newest Echochorus material — called «Sima» – is also retrospective. Originally performed in Riga‘s Tokctoka Studio twelve years ago, «Sima» has been republished and remixed by some artists well known to FFM: FACDUB, Tennisist, and Samwel.
The original recording was «pure improvisation, recorded on magnetic tape,» and nowadays harks back to another memory from Lomunovs’ past. «At the end of the 1990s — or the start of the 2000s — there was a long, deserted street [where I lived]. It meant you could reach the center of town really fast on a bike. The street passed by various abandoned gardens and low-rise buildings; at some point it even ran close to a small bog… The monotony of my track comes from the equally repetitious, monotonous passage of my bike [along that road].»
Field recordings — and the music inspired by them — suggest what lies on the other side of the garden fence, so to speak.
It’s hard to imagine a stage-name that speaks more to these imagined «fields» of revelation, located on the edge of ostensible reality, than Low Orbit Satellite. This project has published a number of new singles and EPs this season in Tula, which is just over a hundred miles from Moscow. L.O.S is/are unwilling to give any other information relating to physical location — or a social background. The images available constantly show some distant planets, vague illuminations, or — in one case — a very under-lit and lonely figure at a laptop or turntable.
The Low Orbit Satellite account on Soundcloud currently uses a witty avatar in the place of any human portraiture; we see a cat wearing an astronaut’s helmet. History is not full of happy parallels or examples here. In the early 1960s, the French space program decided to send a tomcat into space. It ran away before the launch date. A female replacement was found; it was dispatched a hundred miles upwards — and then descended by parachute in a capsule. What happened to that animal subsequently, nobody seems to know. In any case, the next French cat died during a similar experiment, after which the scientists decided to use monkeys instead.
What of Russian low orbit experiments, though? What subtext is implied here? Four years ago, a US communications satellite collided with a defunct Russian equivalent. They ran into one another at 22,000 MPH. The romance of whatever lies beyond discernible experience endures; it does not, however, seem easily attainable, according to the imagery used or invoked by L.O.S. Dead cats and exploding satellites speak of a troubled ideal.
Taking these issues to a final — and very grand — conclusion are Aliaksandr Tsurko and his Minsk colleague, the cellist Anna Ivanova. Together they’ve released a five-track mini-album in Belarus, «The Ranges of Time-Space.» Tagged — among other things — as «ambient, dark ambient, electronic, improvisation, field recordings, and modern classical» — this recording extends the previous efforts of Tsurko and Ivanova within the Belarus Modern Orchestra, a project designed to erase the boundaries between contemporary academic and electronic modes.
Back in the spring of 2011, Tsurko first suggested to colleague Victor Kamenetsky that classical endeavors should be added to the roster of well-respected Minsk electronic organization, Foundamental. What transpired was a Society for the Development of New Music (SDNM), «a group of enthusiasts engaged in the growth, promotion, and research of modern classical music.»
The SDNM not only contributes to academic conferences and organizes festivals: it also distributes free software for musicians, helping to lessen the differences between performers, amateurs, and listeners. This charitable inclusiveness is something the musicians would like to see on a much wider scale: «The SDNM [SRNM in Belarusian and Russian] is a non-profit NGO. All activities are undertaken in the name of the future, not to mention the development of a nationwide, Belarusian culture.»
Outlining all these plans are some manifestos or short essays, published by Aliaksandr Tsurko on the SDNM website in Russian. One of them discusses the organization’s value system, over and above academic prestige or profit. «Through his self-realization in musical form, a [proper] performer aims for a universal form of expression. He also looks [simultaneously] for his own language, since without that there’s nothing more than a series of cliches. History remembers the people who first make these [communicative] breakthroughs. That’s genuine renown.»
Once more, revelation is sought outside the confines of standard expression, typical language, and (tediously) familiar places. This ongoing hunt for something beyond quantitative norms has led Tsurko in the past to assert that: «Creative work must be brave and authoritative. Honesty will remove all kinds of [communicative] hindrances. Your stories will be about you – not just somebody. If you squeeze anything unnatural from your work, then you may like it, but other people will only be irritated. Music reflects individuality: it’s the landscape of a composer’s heart and soul.»
In short, the best route beyond convention is honesty. According to this rationale, social habit and rigid mores lead one further from self-expression and self-realization. Normative language, so often shackled by tradition and propriety, does not help. Hence, perhaps, the quote currently used by Tsurko on Vkontakte — and attributed to his father. «A spiritual [or heartfelt] state is the purest of all… Are you sure of truth? Obtain it; act as your heart dictates. Life will both make you wise and reveal that truth, too.»
Aortha, Echochorus, and Low Orbit Satellite all toy with the idea that profundity remains partially hidden to us. It resides in unspoken words, unnoticed noises, or distant places. The newest recordings by Aliaksandr Tsurko and Anna Ivanova, although invoking the grandest spatiotemporal realms of all, proffer the simplest solution. If, in short, we feel that daily norms are either restrictive or even mendacious, the quickest escape from suffocating limits will come through honesty.
Both to oneself and before others.