Lit Daw, Lit Eyne and Lit Internet—the trio of pseudonymous producers who comprise futurist avant-club trio WWWINGS—live in what they describe as a "post-Soviet hell." Hailing from Kiev in the Ukraine, Tyumen in Siberia, and the Kamchatka Peninsula in Far Eastern Russia, respectively, the artists are no strangers to a world wracked by cultural malaise, government corruption, and censorship. For Lit Internet, you can add active volcanoes and bi-monthly earthquakes to that list. "Our lives have bad vibes," he tells THUMP in early August over the Russian messenging app Telegram. "So our project is kinda escapism from that reality."
Fittingly, every WWWINGS song sounds like the end of the world. Pummeling percussion, frenzied pacing, and alien timbres—distinctly machine-like, cold and hard—are hallmarks of the group's sound. The music they make locates itself in the spaces between future-shock and techno-optimism, where dystopia and utopia blur into one. Like experimental collectives NON Worldwide, N.A.A.F.I., and Janus, as well as next-gen producers like Endgame and the duo Amnesia Scanner, WWWINGS lurks on the penumbral fringes of club music, repurposing grime, trap, and various regional dance strains into something altogether new, exciting, and devastating.
Not much is known about WWWINGS—almost nothing. Now ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-four, the three producers have cycled through countless individual pseudonyms, SoundCloud pages, and project names over the years; as of this writing, they've yet to reveal their real names. Their Instagram accounts feature no photos of themselves, and their Twitter feeds give even less away, consisting of little more than sporadic SoundCloud, YouTube links, and WWWINGS-related retweets. Until now, they also haven't given anybody a substantial interview, instead preferring to troll fans and journalists with evasive maneuvers and outright misdirection. Last year, when THUMP asked them what the concept was behind their EP 3000 they replied, "Now That's What I Call Music For Internet Suicide Pact"; when we asked what the recording process was like, they responded with a photoshopped stock photo depicting a young boy with a laptop, headphones, black angel wings, and a telling smirk.
Yet despite how vague they were when pressed for specific details or biographical clarifications throughout our four-hour interview, not once did the artists ever come across as anything but genuine. They were reserved, cautious—cagey certaintly—but never deceptive or insincere.
The truth is, in a very real sense, WWWINGS is an entity that exists solely online. The three artists have never met in person, much less performed live. They communicate with each other exclusively over the internet, and they compose and collaborate solely across digital pathways, via email, SoundCloud, the popular Russian social networking site VK, or Telegram, an end-to-end encrypted cloud-based app that allows users to message one another without fear of prying eyes, and where they have asked that we conduct our interview. "It's literally WWW FRIENDSHIP," Lit Internet quips. Hence the "WWW" in WWWINGS.
As they tell it, Daw, Eyne, and Lit Internet gave up on finding creative, cultural, and intellectual nourishment in the so-called "real world" long ago. Even the language they speak is noticeably informed by internet culture: their answers to my questions are delivered in short, condensed bursts, punctuated throughout with the jargon of memes, instant messaging, and hyperlinks.
Lit Eyne and Lit Internet were the first to collide online, meeting roughly four years ago via VK group chats and music, meme, and anime-related interest pages. Their relationship began as "efriends," Lit Internet says—just "sharing memes and edgy music"; various next-wave hip-hop acts like the Sad Boys and Young Thug, along with a steady stream of prickly electronic tracks brought them closer together. Shortly thereafter, the two cofounded a now defunct music blog on VK entitled WEBCOAST. By 2013, Eyne was already making dreamy, faded tracks under the name GRADIENTKID. As the pair's friendship developed, the two began a joint project, BWWWOYS, a big-beat driven enterprise that often sounded like R&B made by some Artificial Intelligence.
"Even strong political figures can't fix what's wrong here, so how we can do it thru music? We can only express anxious vibes—we see no future for Russia or Ukraine."—Lit Daw
"BWWWOYS was my school," Lit Internet explains, "Lit Eyne was experienced—he taught me how to produce." Like the bulk of underground producers, Eyne and Lit Internet spent hours excavating YouTube, SoundCloud, and Google to sharpen their skills. But as is the case with many online experimental club projects, SoundCloud pages get scrubbed, YouTube links vanish, blogs die, and after approximately two years, they discontinued BWWWOYS in 2015, as IRL responsibilities like work and school made it difficult for the duo to colloborate effectively.
After BWWWOYS, Eyne and Lit Internet took a break from music-making—that is, until Lit Daw entered the picture, when he messaged Lit Internet out of the blue on VK. Daw was initially the most experienced of the group, having made beats for American rappers for years. "I can only tell you they're kinda popular artists," Lit internet says, adding: "Daw was already a pro at sixteen."
The chance connection inspired Lit Internet to start producing again, resulting in the stellar 2015 release, ANGELYSIUM, which contorted the squelches and brisk silences of eski grime into a series of thrillingly fresh shapes. Daw mastered ANGELYSIUM in full and contributed production work to "Lit Future," arguably the release's most infectious track. In addition to supplying the trio with their name—ANGELYSIUM's closer is entitled "WWWINGS"—the album was the catalyst that finally brought all three producers together. So captivating was the release that it lured Eyne back into the fold. "The production inspired me to come back to making music," he recalls.
To call the three producers "prolific" would be an understatement. Not counting one-off singles—of which there are many—WWWINGS has delivered seven releases in just the last ten months, covering everything from gloomy hip-hop, to hellish club cuts, to icy ambient fit to soundtrack apocalyptic films. Considering that all the trio's tracks are made in what is essentially a piecemeal process—adding or subtracting elements and sharing the results back and forth across SoundCloud and Telegram—the rate at which they bring new music into the world is a testament to the chemistry they share.
But for all the brilliance found in their catalog, one release scans as especially important. Originally self-released in March of this year—then reissued on vinyl by Planet Mu earlier this month—PHOENIXXX is the most searing and challenging statement from WWWINGS thus far. Its list of collaborators reads like a who's who of today's most forward-thinking producers—Chino Amobi, Lao, IMAABS, Kastle, and Endgame, among others—and it's bursting at the seams with moving parts. Colossal bellows, needling synthetic bleats, and grating textures unfold in explosive, angular blocks; harsh noise sits next to shimmering, pristine sounds, dissonance directly up against eerie silences. Bringing to mind the harshest corners of club music—see ANGEL-HO's Red Devil mix or Lotic's Agitations—the album sounds like the groan of unimaginable technologies thrashing to life, envisioning a new, distinctly 21st century brand of industrial music as much as any internet-accelerated dance strain. But what sticks out the most—and what is ultimately PHOENIXXX's defining quality—is the release's fierce kineticism, a that takes juxtaposition and raw energy as its primary organizing principles. Lit Daw describes it as a "symphony of cacophony."
Of all their contemporaries, WWWINGS say they feel a particular kinship with NON Records and N.A.A.F.I, two collectives that have supplied the trio with some of their most rewarding collaborations, and which share their affinity for vast, alienating soundscapes, jarring hairpin turns, and erratic beat programming. Still, there are clear differences between them. Many of experimental music's most compelling voices use their art as a means to empower, defend, or otherwise celebrate underrepresented and marginalized communities. NON's mission statement, for example, describes the entity as "a collective of African artists, and of the diaspora, using sound as their primary media, to articulate the visible and invisible structures that create binaries in society, and in turn distribute power." WWWINGS, however, takes a slightly different route, eschewing narrative or any sort of explicit political cause in favor of a decidedly fatalistic atmosphere.
"We love NON," Lit Daw explains. "But for us, mostly we just express our own feelings, 'cuz we are from Russia/Ukraine. Even strong political figures can't fix what's wrong here, so how we can do it thru music? We can only express anxious vibes—we see no future for Russia or Ukraine."
Lethally unpredicatble and unrestrained police forces, online censorship, and mistreatment of the LGBTQ community are just a sample of the injustices the trio say they observe daily. But instead of using their art to convey a message, WWWINGS music relays an experience—using unsettling compositions as a vehicle to replicate how it feels to live inside the unsavory social and cultural environments where our artists feel trapped.
Following the death of BWWWOYS and the release of ANGELYSIUM, the three producers experienced a moment of uncertainty, unclear on how and in what form they would make music moving forward. In hindsight, they view WWWINGS, and ultimately PHOENIXXX, as their rebirth. "It's our comeback," Lit Internet says. "We are ordinary guys IRL," he adds, "so for us this is our big achievement."
"We just wanted something to be remembered for after death," Daw explains, "sort of like the way people have children."
Like all children, PHOENIXXX is both a joy and a utility, an outlet of hope and a way of reaching forward into the future. In WWWINGS' case specifically, it's a means of taking flight in the face of mounting evils—but recognizing them too. It's not an insular artifact—concerned only with the three individuals who built it—but rather a channel for connection between people, individuals who might find solace in knowing that they're not alone in their suffering. For others, it provides a rare, if distressing, chance to better understand the plight of those whose lives are worlds removed from their own. It's a music that, much like the internet that spawned it, helps bridge the gap between people.