Oid: Systems of Mercy
Unit 21: November
From Russia with love. Anyone who thinks the country doesn't have a thriving electronic music community need only hear these three Lagunamuch Community releases to be otherwise enlightened. Founded in 2004 in Moscow , the label issues high-quality ambient and experimental electronic music and the three recordings on trial here are a solid representation.
0id (Alexandroid member Andrey Antonets) shows himself to be a masterful industrial-ambient sculptor on Systems of Mercy's seven haunted evocations. Though the recording presents them as separate pieces, they flow into one another, turning Systems of Mercy into a single, forty-five minute tapestry of varying moods and sounds. Much of the album might be classified as abstract moodscaping with an occasional foray into orchestral ambient (“Cymbidium”), beat-based melodicism (“Rosa”); “Iris” weaves bell strikes, ripples, and highwire drones into a compelling moodscape while the longest piece, the eleven-minute “Chrysanthemum” methodically transforms piano playing into an indecipherable mass of rippling blur. The duet of computer-generated voices in “Gossypium” sounds silly at first but the song's affecting melodic qualities overcomes that initial resistance, and when electronic beats eventually emerge, the song ventures into Nobukazu Takemura's orbit. That the closer “Calla”—a pulsating coda of distorted vocal treatments and church organ melancholia—resists easy definition, is no bad thing either.
An album permeated by themes of seclusion and remembrance, November offers a compelling portrait of Unit 21's (Stanislav Vdovin) deep, ambient style. Imagine the ancient crackle of Philip Jeck's decayed vinyl exponentially multiplied until the crackle becomes a smothering howl and you're in the vicinity of Unit 21's sound. The droning tones in “Baltic Morrow” might originate from planes but it's nearly impossible to determine when they're buried under a mountain of static and noise. Likewise, the title of “Longway Railpull” suggests trains as the source but again it's hard to tell when the sound is an amorphous roar. Don't mistake that for a criticism, by the way; Unit 21's music is hypnotic and engrossing, and remains so throughout the latter piece's fourteen-minute duration. Like Jeck, Vdovin builds mood through repetition; loops cycle endlessly while the surrounding mass slowly intensifies in density and volume. “Flesh” surges like a lumbering beast that ever-so-slowly consumes the track's initial sounds and replaces them with a shimmering wall of tonal slivers. Vdovin's music sometimes calls to mind other electronic pioneers: shuffling rustles in “Get Home” and the oceanic smear of “Snow on Your Bed” suggest a kinship with the Vladislav Delay of Entain and Multila, and the merging of coagulated textures and minimal techno clicks makes “To the Temptress” approximate a Chain Reaction-Pole hybrid. The hint of other artists' voices in November doesn't render it any less effective for sounding at times ‘communal' instead of wholly unique.Not surprisingly, 0id and Unit21 re-appear on the label's first compilation Deep Sea Shipping but they're joined by a dozen others, making this an appealing overview of Lagunamuch's offerings. The material's deeply submersive in character—purposefully so, as the title is a term taken from maritime logistics and navigation. Conceptually bound by an aquatic theme and inspired by a passage by H.P. Lovecraft, the fifteen pieces are assembled into a seamless, hour-long travelogue one experiences as an aural analogue to an episodic science fiction novel by Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. Much of the material animatedly pushes forward through murky depths, as the submarine's crew members nervously survey the humongous alien forms that howl and groan beyond the ship's portals. Selffish's (Andrey Eigus) gracefully gliding title piece suggests a propulsive digi-dub- Phaedra amalgam that finds a kindred spirit in “Radio X-Range,” Unbound Persistence's beautifully atmospheric, echo-drenched dub-house, while Oloolo's blistering ‘storm track' “Nano Snoi” is leavened by the hazy calm of Sever's (Vladmir Leibgam) “Waterproof.” Broken beats determinedly pierce the ultra-dense haze in Riverz End's “The Flight Day” and Batiskaf's “A Shifting Reef”; ambient soundscaping, on the other hand, characterizes Kriipis Tulo's “Frozen Morning”and Father?'s (Alexandroid's Alexander Matrosov) “Underwater Government.” Underscoring Deep Sea Shipping is an imaginative concept that establishes collective unity while also accommodating stylistic diversity.