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Varietas, cover
  • Konstantin Samolovov – selected drums, objects, radio, voice recorder,
  • Alexey Sysoev – no input mixing board, max/msp, ableton live.
  • Released February 1, 2018.
  • Intonema

This disc is the third Intonema release with a duo of percussionist and electronic musician. This time it will be Konstantin Samolovov from Saint Petersburg and Alexey Sysoev from Moscow, who recorded the album Varietas in June 2017 in the DOM Cultural Center. The rhythmically saturated free improvisation, which in itself is unusual, adjoins with delicate electroacoustics; micro-events included in the macro form do not get bored; unconscious next to the meaningful.

Review by Ed Pinsent

Konstantin Samolovov is a Russian avant-garde drummer and co-founder of the Spina!Rec tape label whose outputs are often noted in these pages. Here he is teaming up with Alexey Sysoev, an electronics guy who we have heard performing with Denis Sorokin on a 2014 tape from that label. «Shabby, disorganised, and virtually unlistenable» was my verdict at the time. On Varietas (INTONEMA int026) we have two tracks recorded at the Dom Cultural Center in Moscow, with Samolovov rattling his objects and percussion while his radio set and voice recorder sometimes sneak in some stray vocal obligattoes in the background, while Sysoev is wringing the guts out of his set-up (mixing desk, Max/MSP, Ableton) with his unyielding, clasping digits.

This release is heavy going and at times felt like sheer rhythm, no patterns, no friendly sounds and few recognisable sources, and the surface sound is about as abrasive as a chewed crocodile hide. Even so I found myself caving in and surrendering to the unpleasantness of it all, admiring the way they keep going at it as if they were going five rounds with a greasy pig in the wrestling ring. I often have a soft spot for this kind of formless abstract music if the players are persistent enough with it (with similar escapades on the Public Guilt label, I find the musicians — many of them West Coast Americans — are just too willing to meet me halfway). This isn't to say Varietas is «uncompromising». That word was often used far too freely, especially in the 1990s, when writing about any improvising musician on an underground label, as if conferring some sort of moral high ground on their position. With Samolovov and Sorokin, I think it's just plain stubbornness; these guys won't budge, and keep on grinding away at this joyless, unrewarding task of music production, regardless of whether it means anything to an audience. Long after their original aim is forgotten, they still keep on doing it, going through the motions like disaffected badly-made robots.

The long track «moto» is the more satisfying of the two in all respects; 25 minutes of rattling objects and electronic grunts set forth with the grim determination of a wrecking crew entering a deserted shopping mall. «Cycle» is just too short even at 11 ½ minutes, and the playing feels tentative, full of uncertain gaps. The cover artwork deserves notice; sees to combine a photograph by Alexey Sysoev of men standing somewhere on the Steppes and regarding a bleak mountainscape view. This has been overlaid with a drawing by Alexandra Samolovoa, whose grey lines and pink blocks suggest the side of a gloomy apartment block. The total effect is to convey how lonely and separated we are in modern society, city life is a trap, and there is no possibility of escape or communication. Great!

Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, From .

Review by Frans De Waard

Here is a duo recording from Moscow, June 2017 and there is Konstantin Samolovov on «selected drums, objects, radio, voice, and recorder» and Alexey Sysoev on «no input mixing board, max/msp/ableton live». Just a few weeks ago I heard a release that involved the no-input mixing qualities of Toshimaru Nakamura and that was quite a blast. That is, I thought, inherent to the use of no-input mixers, resulting in feedback. That is however not the case with this duo. As with many of the releases on Intonema (a label from St. Petersburg) there is something careful about this. And careful doesn’t necessarily equal «silent», as this is surely not really a very silent release. Things burst and bubble around here for sure, and there is some excellent interaction going on between these two players. The rattling of the percussion is something that is very much central to this, and I wouldn’t be surprise to learn that in many instances here the electronics are connected to each other, following Samolovov’s drumming. Peeping, scratching, feeding back, responding, whatever term you use, it all seems appropriate for this release. Everything is played with great care, quite calm, letting sounds breathe and develop and not play it all out in a relatively short time frame. Action and reaction seems to be he deal they made. Sysoev is by far just supporting here. He took can take the lead and go out on a limb. The recording is very direct, doesn’t hide anything and is straightforward but I thought that was most enjoyable. Excellent release throughout.

Frans De Waard, Vital Weekly.