|January Sun EP (February 19, 2016)|
Kedr Livanskiy — January Sun EP (February 19, 2016)
♦ Kedr Livanskiy is Russian for Lebanese Cedar.
Location: Moscow, Russia
Album release: February 19, 2016
Record Label: 2MR
01. Razrushitelniy Krug (Destructive Cycle) 5:28
02. Winds Of May 4:10
03. Sgoraet (Burning Down) 5:22
04. January Sun 4:56
05. Otvechai Za Slova (Keep your Word) 3:22
06. April 6:11
07. Razrushitelniy Krug (Destructive Cycle) (Instrumental) 5:32
08. Razrushitelniy Krug (Destructive Cycle) (Acappella) 1:09
By Saby Reyes–Kulkarni; March 2, 2016; Score: 7.8
♦ The first thing you hear on January Sun, the debut EP by Russian singer/electronic producer Kedr Livanskiy (real name Yana Kedrina) is a Nintendo–like synth figure fading away, an envelope filter squeezing the life out of it. A rudimentary combination of beats emerges, one of which sounds like the sped–up bossa nova preset on an inexpensive junk keyboard meant for kids ages 3 and up; the other a prototypical hi-hat figure that has “I’ve just started experimenting with house music” written all over it. As dreamy–but–crude synth pads, hand claps, and Kedrina’s vocals all join in, it’s easy to mistake the song (“Razrushitelniy Krug”) as an unremarkable piece of lo–fi house music, made by someone without a developed sense for how to arrange an instrumental backdrop.
♦ But she quickly proves that not to be the case. Her production touch is too delicate to consign this EP to the same bin as other music current music that arrives already dated because it reeks of Instagram. Where so many artists give their work the sonic equivalent of a fake tan when they try to “warm” it up, Kedrina captures the charm of listening to dance music that’s been taped off a late–night radio broadcast. As such, her nods to the past appear to stem from romance rather than cynical fascination with kitsch.
°≡° “Winds of May,” for example, begins with a wash of queasy synth melodrama, the likes of which Boards Of Canada turned into a career 20 years ago. Like many tracks on this EP, it sounds like it’s being played on a sluggish tape deck, but here there’s an occasional pitch–up effect, as if you were listening to a tape that sat in a basement for years and skitters forward every time one of its reels makes a full turn. On “Sgoraet” (The Burning Down) and the title track, Kedrina dons her David Gahan hat and captures the flashy brooding of Black Celebration/Music for the Masses–era Depeche Mode. Of course, Depeche Mode’s stock in trade was to turn personal angst into stadium–sized gestures that mimicked the collective hysteria of political rallies. Kedrina turns that vibe on its ear by catching a tiny bit of it in a bottle and setting it loose on a dingy, half–empty dancefloor.
♦ A close look at the lyrics reveals further layers of interpretation and displacement. The EP title appears on the album cover in Russian, while the song titles alternate between Russian and English. Kedrina’s vocals alternate between the two languages as well, but are all listed in English. And even when she does sing in English, her delivery verges on formless much like those wordless ethereal female vocals that became Orbital’s trademark. So even when you’re reading the James Joyce verses that she quotes on “Winds of May” — “Winds of May, that dance on the sea / Dancing a ring–around in glee / From furrow to furrow, while overhead / The foam flies up to be garlanded” — her phrasing creates a sense of distance that isn’t attributable to language barrier alone.
♦ January Sun closes with an acappella version of “Razrushitelniy Krug”/Destructive Cycle (alternately listed as “Cyclic Strength of Destruction”) that, even coming as it does after a bunch of songs with spartan arrangements heavy with primitive reverbs, feels like a curveball. With her voice echoing as if across a valley, Kedrina frees the EP from the confines of her home–recording setup, or the provincial Russian club where one can easily imagine her spinning records on an off night. On their own, her vocals take on a stately elegance, and her unbound Russian verses carry and drift. As a coda to her first musical statement, it is both striking and subtle. Whatever direction Kedrina chooses to move in with Kedr Livanskiy from here, the agility she shows on January Sun suggests that we should be watching her.
°≡° Correction: The original version of this review referred to producer/singer Yana Kedrina as “Kedr Livanskiy.” Kedr Livanskiy is the name of the project.
Label Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/2mrecords
°≡° The sinister synths in Sgoraet (English: Burning Down) are inspired by the otherworldliness of Russian winter; Russia in winter is a terrible thing, but it also has a strange romantic presence to it. The drum and bass coda emulates the feeling of impending death and transition to another state when winter is over one’s shoulder.
°≡° Razrushitelniy Krug’s (English: Destructive Cycle) mood is a little lighter, but it is about self–reflection becoming self–destructive in a vicious cycle. It’s not all doom and gloom; April is almost tropical in its celebration of the arrival of spring. It’s for exploring the Russian countryside after the sun has unlocked the trees, debris and dilapidated buildings frozen in time.
°≡° Kedr on growing up in Russia and the influence that had on her music:
“Of course the big problem was perpetual drunkenness — people would drink themselves to death. I was born on October 4, 1990. It was a very interesting but critical time for Russia — a time of great change. The Soviet Union was no more, and old values were anathematized because of the reconstruction.
°≡° In my early teens no one seemed to understand me in this world (I thought), so I read Washington Irving novels and listened to The Cure. At around 20 years old I felt a real need to find myself, so I entered the directing department of the Moscow School of New Cinema. At the same time, electronic music fascinated me completely.
°≡° A small circle of my friends formed around a mutual interest in music. We always went to concerts together, of which were mostly international artists: Inga Copeland, DJ Spinn and DJ Rashad, Legowelt, Death Grips, Florian Kupfer, Dean Blunt, etc. It wasn’t long until we organized the community and DIY record label known as John’s Kingdom. It’s not only about music; it’s also a channel for art, videos and lifestyle. Now it’s the most alive and honest thing in Moscow.
°≡° My music is strongly inspired by Autechre, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada, but with the lyrics and mood of Mazzy Star. I admire contemporaries Inga Copeland and Laurel Halo, however, my songs are more pop–leaning because of the powerful influence MTV had on my adolescence.”
|January Sun EP (February 19, 2016)|