School of the Arts
Karelian-born, Barcelona-based artist Ivan Zoloto releases his new album. An old romantic. A postmodernist. A polymath. A psychogeographer. A producer. A mediator between one thing and another. Where repetition is change. And death is birth. This is his house. A figurative location where the last particles of man stick to like metal shavings to a magnet. A Pleasure Prison. By Ryan Walker.
Hypnotised by each ominous voice. Overlapping patterns in various stages of decay and ascendency. Intermittent, subtle eruptions of madness and malady. Melancholy and other oddities of a beguiling, melodic euphoria. Radiant with strange sensations. With nihilist eyes and semidiaphanous skin crawling the walls like they were to climb the skies, eternally imbued with chromatic hues, doomed to drown as victims of their own addictive spirit, fed directly into the battery compartment at the back of one’s head. Resting, mesmerised, between devices of wires and light.
The title-track is over 35 minutes long. A collaborative effort with Russian-Finnish multi-instrumentalist Sasha Kretova from Petergof. A subdued spillage of a pot of black paint over footpaths of stone. A damaged path. Expanding all the time. And we feel so small in the middle of this mushrooming explosion of synths. Beatless but with an innate pulse throbbing throughout. The bones shaken to piles of something flimsy thanks to some stampeding bass from the back of the mind to the base of the spine. The 25-minute mark provides a passage forth. A change of pace remaining in the density of the darkness for such an extensive, intensive period of time. A gradually warming glow, drawn towards the dawn, approaching from afar. In the palm of one’s hand. Grown out of the skin and working toward disarming the unsurmountable opaqueness of the cold, as an opportunity, to dislodge and evolve.
The chromatic, cosmic darkness, which has, up until this point, permeated everything, which has ravaged nature to cinders and barren lands of ashen artefacts, now shakes away to reveal a colony of lost souls in a befuddled, slumbering numbness. But it looks good.
It’s a piece you can freely explore and appreciate at diverse, disparate moments. Something of a sonic puzzle. A sonic swarm. A sonic tide. It’s an atmosphere. Sometimes warm, sometimes cold. One can leave, virtually exiled. One can return, virtually enraged. It works on levels somatic or otherwise, therefore allowing the piece to breathe and exist in more than just one dimension, but many.
These are peculiar, musical creatures. A seamless suturing of passions. And seeing what survives the experiments when worlds meet, melt, and conjoin. The improvised personality of funeral-folk and techno-drone music, and heavily processed electronic experiments. Executed to unearth something stunning. From somewhere we cannot see but we sense to be real. Explicable only in terms of images. Rather than a descriptive overview of what trouble rumbles below the surface of every transcendent moment.
Nature briefly destroyed but something fruitful, and new, blooms from its flat, dilapidated ruins of before. For here, each thing possesses an unpredictable personality, something dark to harness, something magical to channel. Each flash of fire, each glimpse of noise, uniquely planted amongst the rest of the calamitous damage, moving closer toward, or farther away from, the edge of something big. It’s a summoning of spontaneous spikes of phantasmatic life. Half-alive tape recorders, recalling all they can muster. Ropes around rogue notes, adrift and agitated, spiralling upwards from hell’s belly and teetering on heaven’s gilded edge.
All of which are conducted by Zoltovo. Here behaving as shamanistic dub engineer, laptop on the sacrificial plinth, mixing desk within arm’s reach, and a handful of some Soviet and handmade effects. Everything holistically arranged, free to drift, and be dragged back down, little differently upon having experienced a new kind of orbit, a different tasting air; upon their gradual return.
For here, we are situated in the room; whether or not one is present, or elsewhere; we cannot help but be caught between this vast array of perturbed flirtations, these gathering of melodies, unmasked, and disappeared, uncoil when the cloak is thrown. Specimens in the middle of some maddening, hypnogogic, oscillating dirge forevermore.
Our bodies as the intermediary point between something starting and something ending. Without collision but coddled and cradled by the multiple weights within every formidable moment, every fleeting impression. Something growing and something degrading. Voyeurs on some hauntological odyssey. Physically and psychologically so.
These are scenes, rather than songs. And they are ours to get lost in. Because nothing really finishes. It lingers. It leaves something behind.
Problem no.2 and The Door Is Open are demonstrations of Zoloto indulging in another feature of his heritage, but in a way that works to deconstruct and purposefully encourage the deconstruction of something until its innards are unveiled; the jouhikko; a Karelian-Finnish bowed lyre.
This instrument is used in such a way, artistically charged, and experimentally inverted, to arrive at new conclusive uses once played. Appropriated this way; it behaves as a blade peeling the skin from the surface of bones. A compass pointing towards some other direction; some otherworldly dimension. The two tunes in question demonstrate how one stringed-limb of the instrument, once aggressively plucked to the point it’s practically pulled off; resembles sharp objects ceaselessly scratching sheets of steel.
It’s intense. Dragged backwards and cast forth again, through time and space, sucked through a vortex, spat back into the sand. From one pitch to another, the slow stretching of some bizarre membrane surrounded by a succession of Rothko canvases. Radar blip kisses from the cold, dystopian Soviet space station captained by Martin Rev. The audible equivalent of drawing medicine from the vial with animal-alien urgency.
Melodies are non-existent. But we imagine them to be there. We can sense them stuck behind a wall. Shouting to us. Struggling under some immense surface. Like a shimmer of missing persons. Lamented via this distressed, funeral-folk, this dark, nomadic-noir odyssey. Like blanks we attempt at filling. Binaries of darkness and light. Crippled and dissolved. Cloudburst and sandstorm. Rainbow and bloodbath. Some endlessly erratic relationship between ones’ astute, intimate gradations of concentration, always susceptible to finally slipping below the surface, and under into states of serenity and narcolepsy.
And in these states, we travel. But more inclined to our common, corporeal selves; the album is a homage to psychogeography, the notions of “study of precise laws and specific effects on the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals” (Debord, 1955). Perhaps what we are offered here, is an opportunity to immerse ourselves in what Deboard refers to we can acquire a “rather pleasing vagueness”, which can be “applied to the findings arrived at by this type of investigation, to their influence on human feelings…or conduct that seems to reflect the same spirit of discovery” (ibid).
The LP has been composed and recorded in Russia and China but finalised in Barcelona, where Zoloto relocated before the pandemic. Like his last album, Ghosting, released Russian label CANT, the notions of being on the move, are embedded in the album’s blood. A force to thrust forward, a sense of discovery, pleased at how transitory, how incoherent, and inconsistent, life can often be. When one is presented with the bare bones of a brutalist building, sensing the presence of nature at its darkest; persistent and stubbornly so, emerging like restless, quizzical tentacles through the cracks of the past, through each wrinkle in its fragile cavity. And what a joy to not give a shit. But be complacent when arrested in a state of uncompromising, even uncaring, but still welcomed: sensation.
No matter how vague. The vaults it can unlock; are vast in the treasures they conceal. It’s a matter of configuration. Rather than composition.
And for his own subversive purposes, to indulge in the avant-garde, in all its luxuries, as this producer of sorts, this artist most definitely, but this modern, sonic Dériver: searching for something, reaching for elsewhere, unbothered by obstacles, they can be dissolved and done away with; indulging in the delicious itch, the stitch to unpick; and aimlessly drift, as lost, or looking for: the “true nature of the urban environment as he passes through it” (Coverley, M. 2006, 2018).
Here stands Zoloto, stood on the edge, confronted by an immense “variety of possible combinations of ambiances…the bleeding of pure chemicals in an infinite number of mixtures” (Debord, 1955, ibid.), affords us the ability to be swept up in restless swells and surges of psychographical relief, intrigue, and agency. A relief with its own “constant currents, points and vortexes” (Coverley. M. 2006, 2018). A relief. A release. No matter how nightmarish it might appear, we can share with him; the lost art of passing through, the concrete forest, the metropolitan wilderness, the Pleasure Prison.
The voice. The one whispering into your ears like the lunatic in the corner arrested in states of somnolent circularity, evokes nothing short of a citadel’s edge, overlooking dystopian zones of horror to harrowing effect. Voice Message ft. LSS, affiliated with the L.I.E.S artist 51717, intones, invokes, over and over, until all motion slows, that the pleasure prison is everywhere, surveillance, security, and the illusions of such, are serious. Before quickly dissipating into Elevator Scene. Radar blip kisses from the cold, dystopian Soviet space station. A script for the unhinged to read. A street for the heretics to stumble down as participants of the death drive. If Martin Rev joined Sun O))) and signed to Alchemy. If Martin Hannett recorded My Bloody Valentine and soundtracked the journey toward the event horizon.
And all means of escape are impossibly blocked. Like a message sent lightyears ago, received only yesterday. A monstrous surge of noise. Coarse to the point of corruption. Capsules and amulets of rust and rain. A battalion of caustic grooves and concrete-loops captured live. A peripatetic Zoloto, the founder of School of the Arts, and Russia’s respectable Full of Nothing label, drummer of Barcelonian-Russian dubbed-out, drone-metal trio Petrozavodsk, one half of dark-ambient, techno-drone duo Lovecult, stood at his window watching the nuclear winter settle upon the streets outside. Translating the rhythm of the machines we cannot see from the cellars of Shanghai nights, but feel them vibrate below our feet in all their odd, transcendent menace.
Then introduced to an assortment of guitar amplifiers and they spill through the hole punctured and ruptured in its ribcage. A sketch of Vini Reilly’s summer suddenly butchered by Jojo & Junko. The pillars which upkeep all planets, civilly spinning, are kicked away, and it all crumbles to granules. A ceremony of drones. Towards the citadel in the middle of this carnivorous empire. The clicking hi-hat, a trap, tripping, and trickling. The mercurial blobs, the result of an unstoppable, ongoing growth of something grotesque, broken by a bright, ghostly shot of something eerie in the distance.
A glimpse of something sent from elsewhere. Gieger counter melodies. Glacial pace bullets for ballet dancers breaking before a succession of laughing cameras. The language of laughing cameras and inauspicious, petrol station ambience. All of which is augmented to further degrees by a fantastic remix by Dale Cornish. Shy of 20 minutes in length. A collage of sorts with its occasional low-bass warbles, sways, and swoops of atmospheric sound effects, and huge, haunting, slow-motion tidal waves, each crash another explosion, carrying a kind of intensity which is utterly arresting in its darkness.
“Accommodate many levels of listening attention…ignorable as it is interesting”. Eno said that. He says a lot. Maybe this is one of those albums. Entropy for entertainment. Music for astronauts.
Mastered by long-time collaborator Moa Pillar in Moscow. Frequent collaborator from Argentina, designer Jonatan Florez did the artwork.
Ryan Walker is a writer from Bolton. His archive can be found online here.