Russia’s Amen Orchestra—scary, huh?
“Vodka for Russians is like a warming water. When it’s cold you have to drink a glass of vodka to feel warm—I don’t drink vodka to get drunk,” says Alexey Orchensky, the 20-year-old Russian genius behind Amen Orchestra, whose breathtaking debut album,
, on the Art-Tek label, is an audacious mix of zooming electronics and eye-watering classical drama that mangles Squarepusher and Shostakovich into wild new beautiful shapes. “In fact,” he continues, “we drink vodka all the time: before meal and after meal for good digestion, in the mornings and the evenings, when meeting friends, after work, when planting potatoes, when going to party or have fun, when drinking a beer, when driving a car, when watching TV, when talking on a cellphone and when there’s nothing to do.”
Alexey lives to the east of Moscow in Nizhy Novgorod, Russia’s third largest city with a population of two million. “It’s something between megapolis and provincial town”, he says, where the main industry is auto production. His mother works in a car factory as a “counter” and his father is an engineer at “the cookies-making factory”. He says that the coldest it got this winter was –38 C but right now, like most of the UK in March, it’s just below freezing. Aside from popping over to the UK for some shows this year, Alexey is studying “model architecture of neurocomputers and neural networks”, a subject that gives you some idea of the advanced complexity of his music as Amen Orchestra. He’s a fan of Profokiev and Pan Sonic and he has a weird story about the day he started making music. “It was on the 28th of June. That time I already tried to experiment something with sound. I was reading a book about music theory or history when suddenly I fell down into a cave where huge elephant was struggling with gigantic robots. I have pretend that I have not noticed him and continued reading, but when he finished he came to me and said: ‘It’s not fair, why should I do your job?’ I have kept silent. And then he became angry and said: ‘From now on you will read this book forever!’ Then I woke up.” Actually, that’s a pretty accurate description of his music: a talking elephant fighting giant robots in a dream. Can he tell us his favourite Russian joke? No. “We don’t joke in Russia,” he says, “we just drink vodka.”
At the start of the year, you might remember that we mentioned cosmic disco duo Quiet Village’s music on New York’s Whatever We Want label. From what I hear, their album will now be coming out on Virgin, so don’t hold your breath for it appearing any time soon. Anyway, one of the Quiet Village guys, Brighton’s Matt Edwards (who is also successful remixer Radio Slave), has his excellent debut album as Rekid released through Soul Jazz in May. He’s called it
Made in Menorca
a) because that’s where he was conceived (apparently; no-one really needs to know this), and b) because there’s a cloudy, chemical, heavy Balearic feel to the album. Evoking the incredible hyper-realist painting by US artist Don Eddy that’s used for its sleeve, Rekid’s trundling techno and sinister angel dust disco sounds aggressively claustrophobic in places, a bad (but not bad-tempered) trip embellished with dubby digital flourishes (“Priya”) and brightened intermittently by fizzy arpeggiated swirls (“85 Arp”). There’s not a duff track on
Made in Menorca
(though that’s all it is, a collection of cool, well-made tracks) the best of which are the smacky Italo throb of “85 Space” and the Doomsday house of “Lost Star 6” and “Diamond Black”. Admittedly, these are the first three tracks. The whole thing lasts 70 minutes and gets pretty depressing and curdled towards the end.
ENCOMPASS 2006, MAY 11th-13th
Encompass—“the London festival that navigates cutting-edge music”—or the capital’s answer to Barcelona’s Sonar festival, returns this year after its inauspicious start in the East End 12 months ago. Back then, rather than concentrating on a small number of key events and growing organically, the organisers seemed to be attempting to cover too many activities and events all at once with the end result being that no-one had much of a clue what was going on or what the event stood for. But this time they’ve tightened things up and announced an impressive line-up of credible electronic labels and acts so now the whole thing resembles a tasteful three-day rave. The live shows, VJ and DJ sets will take place at night in assorted East End venues such as Cargo, the Rhythm Factory, 93 Feet East and Herbal between Thursday, May 11th and Saturday, May 13th. During the Saturday daytime, seminars and workshops will be held in the recently renovated Shoreditch Town Hall. Last year in the Cybersonica exhibition space I attended a circuit-bending demonstration where we were shown how to dismantle a Speak and Spell machine or something. This year Encompass presents label showcases from Warp, DC Recordings, Ghostly, Border Community, Non-Stop, Tyke, Soma and Compost, among others, meaning that you’ll be able to catch guys like Depth Charge, Jimmy Edgar, James Holden, The MFA, Petter, Fujiya & Miyagi, Kelpe, Padded Cell, Jammer, Plasticman, Amé and Slew Dem Mafia. It should be good. For more details and information, including ticket prices, visit encompass-london.com.