Soviet Heroism and Hindu Thought: Nick R 61, Oshi Kito, and Shema
November 11, 2010 | Acid breaks, Downbeat, Electronic, Glitch, Idm, Instrumental, Lo-fi
Nick R 61 and Oshi Kito have been discussed before on this site, albeit separately. Some recent releases, however, have now brought these performers together, specifically through the efforts of netlabel Fusion. That project declares an interest in a wide range of genres: abstract, dubstep, glitch, hip-hop, idm, and reggae. Those individual styles are not promoted in isolation. The label’s founder, Nick R 61 himself, encourages contributors to mix and muddle canonical forms as much as possible.
Are there any guidelines for this celebratory disorder? The folks at Fusion have little to say for themselves, preferring instead to gather a large number of images, many of which celebrate the lives of history’s iconic rebels. Foremost in these ramshackle galleries are the figures of Che Guevara, Bob Marley, and a host of Soviet heroes, all the way from “dissident” bard Vladimir Vysotskii to cosmonaut Iurii Gagarin and late comedic actor Andrei Mironov.
In short, therefore, Fusion’s sense of adventure comes primarily from a nostalgic view of daring – from times when life was simpler and social goals were clearer. This same yearning for uncomplicated romance is evident in the label’s recent graphic work.
Our first visit to Nick R 61 was in the context of some 8-bit publications. To be precise, we wrote: “Nick R 61 has a page at PromoDJ, suggesting that his itsy-bitsy instrumentals can also be used on the dancefloor. Put differently, this is music designed as potentially mainstream, which – in turn – implies that the current mainstream – in all its 32-bit glory – is simply wrong. Hi-tech [and well-funded] entertainment has made artistic, if not ethical mistakes.”
Somewhere in the chaos of modern business, the simple joys of music-making have been lost.
His newest material extends the benefits of simplicity and smallness even further. We offer here some material from a fresh EP that draws specifically on Hinduism’s concept of purusarthas. These are four goals of life, viewed in terms of spiritual ascendance. Nick R 61 grounds these ancient ideals within some images of a local Russian motorway, shown at the top of this post. Somewhere beyond the mundane shuttling back and forth of daily existence is the opportunity for an alternative “passage.” In fact this EP comes with an animated GIF cover that turns the grey sky above that same motorway into a flashing series of technicolor clouds.
Somewhere beyond the mundane shuttling back and forth of daily existence is the opportunity for an alternative ‘passage.
Tedium can become an epiphany, which is an uplifting thought across the equally drab skies of Nick R 61’s hometown of Shakhty, in southern Russia. Local mine shafts and Mother Nature produce the same colors; we can see a mountain of coal slag in the distance.
The EP’s tracks are titled “Kama,” “Artha,” “Dharma,” and “Moksha.” These are the names of steps to be taken through life’s various stages of pleasure, material wellbeing, and ethics – in order to reach Moksha – a complete freedom from the endless cycles of reincarnation. Even though the other stages are eventually to be overcome, they are – nonetheless – also to be enjoyed at the proper times. Balance and multiplicity trump obsession.
“Fusion,” once again.
Nick R 61’s work is full of radically broken beats – a kind of deconstruction in search of the earlier, simpler values he celebrates on the Fusion website. Likewise, his labelmate Oshi Kito has an interest in mistakes, upset, and failure, also as a path to that same simplicity. After all, grandeur and arrogance are easily sidestepped through collapse.
Kito’s only self-portrait does not suggest that stasis or permanence hold much value for him.
Earlier, we noted: “Samara’s Oshi Kito (aka Pavel Gurin) experiments with glitch, dubstep, and downtempo canvases. In his recordings, correct and proper language is reduced to the level of mistakes that speak – ironically – of better states beyond their designation… Oshi Kito’s catalog talks of using various human or ‘pillot [i.e., pilot] errors.’ The inclusion of dubstep in his discography likewise allows him to employ echo and reverb in order to map these growing dimensions, out across swamps, marshes, and other places responsible for the ‘creation of nature.'”
The inclusion of dubstep in his discography likewise allows him to employ echo and reverb in order to map these growing dimensions, out across swamps, marshes, and other places responsible for the ‘creation of nature’
“It’s interesting, in fact, to note that one of Gurin’s side-projects is called ‘The Sounds of Lifeless Nature‘ (Zvuki nezhivoi prirody), as if any intentionally structured noises, be they linguistic or musical, run the risk of compartmentalizing and therefore degrading the object of their attention – nature itself.”
“Silence, in that case, is not only golden; it’s organic, too.”
These evolutionary circles are touched upon in Oshi Kito’s new work for Fusion, entitled “EP2.” It claims to be written in celebration of Apamea and Napata, in other words the two ancient – and once powerful – cities of Syria and Sudan. They slowly appeared from the wilderness, grew in magnificence, and yet vanished. The theme of deconstruction comes once more to the fore; even the artwork shows us the solidity of stone – covered with huge cracks.
The animated GIF version of that same image includes a tear, running over the stone’s surface time and time again, perhaps mourning the collapse of what once seemed permanent.
Third in the roster of Fusion Records is an EP from Shema, a Ukrainian project baed in Kiev. Shema’s recent release is entitled “Booble Gum” and draws most clearly upon “Alice in Wonderland” for its raison d’etre, using a reference to that English heroine in the title of the EP’s opening number. Shema’s page at PromoDJ states explicitly that this carefree, singalong composition – full of childish wonder – was written after having read Lewis Carroll’s book and, says our musician, “it hopefully captures the mood of the story, too.”
Shema’s most commonly used logo likewise suggests a suitable pose for fans of Alice: wide-eyed marvel and an over-active imagination.
Although his new recording touches on the danger of darker forces (with references to both “The Exorcist” and symbolist painter Vrubel), Shema’s recordings are more upbeat than ominous; he has elsewhere described his work as “idm interwoven with symbolism.” Those symbols are predominantly hopeful.
His closing, programmatic track is entitled, very simply, “What It Is.” Full of broken, decelerated, and damaged beats, it’s a celebration of mistakes and constant interruption – all on the edge of (inevitable) collapse. The failure of normality or stasis leads, in the minds of all Fusion artists, to grander opportunities. Put differently, the only way to pass through the four purusarthas is for the lower stages to fail; when we discern the sad limits of materialism, for example, other vistas will open.
Below we see one of Shema’s images, used to illustrate this notion of ascendance. It’s easier to climb a staircase if your pocket’s aren’t burdened with material baggage.
Travel light, think simply, go far.