Monday, September 13, 2010

PsyLoFi – Making imprints.

Nothing is new under the sun.

There are only seven different stories to be told in this world and no artist knows more than how to make the same piece of work over and over again, as well as no author can write but the same novel, time after time.

At least two out of three of these statements are lies: As different species meet and mate, they create a hybrid, which exposed to its environments then mutate and go beyond the controllable. It has become a new creation.

PsyLoFi is a contemporary experimental experience managed by one man whom we can refer to as Moris. He recalls the first psychedelic field recordings being made in 2004 although the first album and live performances would not surface until 2007.

The sound is ethereal with elements of folk music; it’s electronic, experimental and psychedelic and we can fit yet a number of genres into these early recordings, which at first may make it seem harder to understand what it’s all about. A concrete example stands out where it comes to record labels that generally liked the sound but didn’t know what to make of it, as there was no obvious box for this kind of music.

To add further to the amount of confusion that may have occurred by now, it should be mentioned that the roots of PsyLoFi originates in the metal genre. Bands like At the Gates, Tiamat, Moonspell, Sepultura, My Dying Bride and even Norwegian black metal group Burzum played important parts of inspiration, but not until it’s revealed that the more experimental albums of for example Tiamat, My Dying Bride and later, Katatonia, also was of great importance for PsyLoFi, things begin to clear up and it becomes possible to see how the metallic influences aren’t such an odd part of the picture after all.

Later, more would add to the sources of inspiration, such as ethnic music, trance and dub, but there are also a number of influences that go beyond the music as Moris engages in the subjects of psychology, philosophy, anthropology, sociology and design, just to mention a few. “I am interested a lot in mystical and transcendental experiences but rather from scientific point of view - I am not an occultist of any kind and don't feel I have any fixed beliefs in this regard.” he explains and adds that he listens quite a lot to his own music: “That's probably because each track is connected with some event or person and helps me to recall the moment. I many ways it's like browsing through old photos.”

In order to fully grasp what constitutes PsyLoFi, you can’t do without the audial experience, because this project is too multi faceted and can be viewed from so many angles that just words, of an article like this, simply can’t suffice. PsyLoFi is rather a concept than a band in the traditional sense of the term even though the members and contributors as well as the collaborations have been many. To this date, as many as nine different musicians have been involved in the project and there’s also a more solid core of a four-five man strong line up for live performances.

PsyLoFi wasn’t always a live group and how that changed was almost unintentional when the song “Deliberate Ocean” was awarded as the “electronic track of the month” at a Ukrainian music portal. “Surprisingly enough”, says Moris and explains that this track was a complete improvisation “It has no electronic sounds except the background which is just a heavily processed mix.” PsyLoFi were invited to perform at one of the prominent venues in Kiev, which is how the nominees of this award were rewarded. They rehearsed and prepared for a month and the performance went through successfully before a large audience. Moris still thinks of it as a some kind of misunderstanding, as he had never thought of doing live shows before, but thanks to this incident, PsyLoFi is nowadays also a live group.

But these events are all of the past and we move forward to the present day to see where PsyLoFi’s at today.

The songs of their new EP Caleidoscope, was recently finished and only the mastering remains. Also a music video to one of the songs featured is in progress.

Caleidoscope can be described as just what the title hints, as it consists of five tracks that are quite different from each other but still creates a symmetry connecting back to a specific object. Listening through Caleidoscope also makes you wonder whether there actually is a deliberate symmetry behind it all, as the first, middle and last tracks connects to each other with ethnic and folk rock influenced tunes, whilst the second and fourth tracks rather tie together by a more cold and strict electronic sound. Almost literally, however, the third track, Velikiy Verkh, stands out. Not only is it the track where most numbers of influences are mixed, but also it reconnects to the metal roots and slightly diverts your thoughts to the remix of the song Mandrivnyk, by the Ukrainian experimental heavy metal group ‘Pins’, that PsyLoFi also made.

Summing up the Caleidoscope EP, it can also be said that it neatly organizes and refines the essence constituting the contemporary PsyLoFi.

With all this said, one question remains: How do we get to this? How does this music reach the world?

“I think labels are living their last days” says Moris “I'd happily give someone the right to publish and sell my CDs basically for free, but without giving up exclusive rights.” But again, most labels are focused on niches and PsyLoFi thus looks past those. Spreading their music online has worked out this far, so that’s most likely the way it’s going to be in the future as well, although publicity isn’t always easy to come by. Only by spreading the word and the music the future audience can become aware of that PsyLoFi are out there. Unique concepts like this don’t come to birth every day and unfortunately they easily tend to slide away to a background, but now that we know about PsyLoFi, there’s no reason to keep quiet about it.

Go download the music, listen and learn @

Monday, August 16, 2010

Biokonstruktor Part II – The Man from the Other Side of the Universe.

Alexander Yakovlev was anything but happy as Leonid Velichovskiy, leaving the group also brought Andrey Kokhayev along, although he later, according to unspecified sources was said to have accepted it all by the words “It was for everyone’s best. Everyone has to do his job.” but disregarding requests of confirming this statement, to this day it still remains unclear whether there at all should be any reason to assume these words were ever uttered.
Regardless of the circumstances concerning that, Yakovlev still had the will to continue spreading his message, and the vision expanded with new inspiration.

After having attended a lecture about UFO:s, Yakovlev’s curiosity and interest increased concerning the subjects of science fiction, the universe and the cosmic mysteries, which naturally lead to the logical next step after Biokonstruktor’s relatively down-to-earth perspective.

Yet in synch with Andrey Bondarenko, still fulfilling his task as a lyrics writer, Yakovlev soon enough found new colleagues in comrades Oleg Podkoverov and Leonid Dmitrotjenko. The constellation went under the name BIO and with the new line-up the sound changed. The previously melancholic melodies were replaced with more energetic, and in particular more danceable songs which to a higher degree related to the contemporary synth pop then any previous Biokonstruktor material.

The year was 1990 and parallel to Yakovlev’s advance, Velichovskiy was arming his forces; the new project called Tekhnologiya, for which he also recruited the young Roman Ryabcev. Having spent 1990 recording demo tracks, Tekhnologiya released their first album Vse Chto Ty Khotesh (All that yo want) the nextfollowing year. With their easily accessible sound and increasing common denominators with Depeche Mode, Tekhnologiya eventually gained more publicity and bigger popularity than Biokonstruktor ever did during their short carreer, in spite of many changes, a frequent change of band members and a split up. In 1992, Velichovskiy abandoned the group in favour for starting a carreer as a pop producer, and was replaced by another old member of Biokonstruktor: Valery Vasko. Yet, no longer time span came to pass before Roman Ryabcev announced his departure after having signed a contract with Radio France Internationale, and a few months after that also Andrey Kokhayev left the group and thus Tekhnologiya were disbanded. 10 years later they would reform with in a new version but that’s a different story.

Already previous to the split-up of Tekhnologiya, the old colleagues Alexander Yakovlev and Valery Vasko had begun a new co-operation, so whilst the latter were on stage with Tekhnologiya, he was already a member of BIO. Vasko replaced the at the time newly dropped out Oleg Podkoverov and new to the group was also Anatoliy Popov (replacing Leonid Dmitrochenko).

Let’s step back in time for a brief moment: In 1991 BIO signed a contract with the label Gala Records and through this released their first album Muzika Stoikikh Dvizheniya (Music in Movement). The life span of this contract did however show to be short, but in 1993 the album was re-released under the title Tekhnoromantika, through ZeKo Records, in its time one of the leading labels of Soviet/Russian music industry. They also released a 14 track compilation, Elektronaya Lirika (Electronic Poetry), consisting of Yakovlev-singles from 1989-1993 before Valery Vasko once again disappeared in the periphery. In his place entered Olga Voskonyan who apart from playing keyboards also contributed with some backing vocals, and thus was the group once again a trio, till 1994 when Anatoliy Popov some time after the release of Muzika Stoikikh Dvizheniya left BIO. Muzika Stoikikh Dvizheniya is still to this day the last official full length album by BIO.

Concerning musical matters, BIO would henceforth lay relatively low, which can’t be regarded as anything strange, considering all the other ways in which the Yakovlevian activity was expressed: Already in the beginning of the 90’s he became a VJ for a small music show broadcasted by the Russian TVC, which often involved electronic music, not least nostalgic journes back to the days of Biokonstruktor. At the same time he wrote article about the local (Moscow) synth scene for various magazines and later on, he also came to host synth music related radio shows at, among others, Radio Russia. In 1995 Yakovlev also founded Electric Records, a sub label to Studyia Soyuz, which he still runs.

In 1996, things drastically change and as a result of too demanding work, all Bio-activity decrease to close to null.

Nine years later, Alexander Yakovlev however picked up his merely sleeping project as he alone performed at the Maiskiy Grom (May Thunder) festival, performing his old songs. Ever since then, BIO has been very much alive. Now the group is a duo consisting of Yakovlev and Alexey Pavlov. Pavlov is the man and brain behind the space synth project Pavlov & Computers, and Yakovlev…he does what he’s always been doing and with the same enthusiasm as before, no matter whether it’s about music, dreams or spreading his message.

The story hasn’t yet came to an end, but concerning what will happen next only the future can tell.

Photos used top left to bottom right:

  • A. Yakovlev with Biokonstruktor
  • Alexander Yakovlev and Oleg Podkoverov
  • Tecknologiya
  • BIO: Valery Vasko, Alerxander Yakovlev, Anatoliy Popov

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Biokonstruktor part I – Building a World.

The Cold War had begun to reach its end and the Soviet Union moved, perhaps not completely unaware of it, closer to disintegration. President Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the Perestroika and by this, new opportunities opened up for the citizens of the collective, not least for the youth, who in matters of popular culture of course didn’t differ from their equals of the west: there’ll always be a need an instinct of revolution against the establishment, and a well proven way of performing such a thing has, at least in our modern times, always been through music, and political reforms have never been necessary to deliver the message.

In the beginning of the 1980’s, Alexander Yakovlev, at the time vocalist and bassplayer of the group Otvetniy Chai, had already begun experimenting with electronic music in his partly improvised home studio, which amongst other things consisted of a Jupiter 204 tape recorder and a converted recording device build from parts of an old cassette deck and a paper shredder. The synth influences were already there, appearing in the shapes of Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode just to mention some, and when Otvetniy Chai split up in 1985, there wasn’t any doubt that Yakovlev’s next project would be an electronic one.

Also drummer Andrey Kokhayev, old friend and band mate from Otventiy Chai, found the thought of electronic music very appealing and thus joined in Yakovlev’s new project The duo spent almost a year looking for additional band members, and in 1986 the line up was finally completed by keyboardists Valery Vasko and Leonid Velichovskiy. Biokonstructor was a fact.

Their debut happened during an audition at Rok-Laboratorii (The Rock laboratory – a public organisation which between the years of 1986 and 1989 worked to coordinate, or rather control, the (popular) musical activity in Moscow by, for example, arranging festivals.) The same year (1986) Biokonstruktor received the prize for “most original act” at a festival arranged by the magazine Moskovskiy Komsomolets and now the group also begun touring actively, first in Moscow and extensively in Russia, holding concerts that often finished with lectures about electronic music.

1987, the first edition of Biokonstruktor’s only album Tantsi Po Video (”Dancing on Video”), or rather five tracks from it, was released as a split album with the group Prochai Molodost (the complete version of 13 tracks was released in 1994 by ZeKo Records). The lyrics, written by Andrey Bondarenko, an old friend of Alexander Yakovlev, were of deep, often philosophic meaning that actively questioned the contemporary concepts of every day-life and mentality of the fellow human, and their lack of a soulful existence. Thus the lyrics in a credible way completed the music, which were mostly melancholic, yet beautiful melodies in what could be described as a rough metallic sound, which in its turn very much justified the name “Biokonstruktor”.

The message that reached out through the lyrics was of course the very message that the group wanted to deliver: harmony, beauty and a reminder that each and every one has the ability to create their own world. Applied to Biokonstruktor, who in the contemporary Russian popular culture still differed from the variety of young, enthusiastic bands, Yakovlev referred to the Strugatskiy brothers (authors of, Roadside Picnic, etc) by quoting:

” ’Writers and fantasies create worlds’. We create our own world. We don’t jump around on stage acting like apes. I don’t condemn any aesthetic forms, but our goal is obviously different. We only want to introduce everyone to our music and invite them to get to know what we are. “
and a bit more elaborate in an interview during the DK Gorbuna festival in June 1987:

”We want people to for a moment forget their small problems and arguments and instead look at their lives and all the existence of this world, a bit from a distance, as inhabitants of the universe and realize that there are so many problems in this world that we lose our sense for the relevant parts in life. The world is incredibly large and isn’t limited by the walls of your apartment. We believe that our music can help people expanding their orbits of thinking.”

Maybe it was the frequent touring and many concerts that limited Biokonstruktor’s time in the studio. During the most active period of the group, they were often doubly booked to hold two concerts in two different cities. This was generally solved by the band members simply splitting up two by two, entering different stages.

For reasons that shall remain unspoken of, Valery Vasko could no longer continue the intense touring, and thus he left the group in 1989.

Nothing happened on the release front and this would eventually lead to Biokonstruktor losing many of their original fans, but even though it seemed like the groups activity was limited to concerts and touring, there was still a certain measure of creative work going on: Together, Alexander Yakovlev and Leonid Velichovskiy had started the side project Pop-kombinat (“Pop-factory”) where they experimented with more easy accessible music. Velichovskiy opportunistic tendencies had started to show and Pop-kombinat released an album. The entire thing however turned out as a real flop and was referred to as “an accident and one of the biggest mistakes in music history”. Still it was important to move on after this rebuke, but whilst Yakovlev was pulling his hair over the technoromantic continuance of Biokonstruktor, Velichovskiy would enter further into his long time interest in disco pop. Anonymously, he engaged in cooperating with the group Zvyozdy ("Stars") and somewhere along these lines occurred the controversies between Yakovlev and Velichovskiy, which rapidly led to the end of Biokonstruktor as a group.

Biokonstruktor were disbanded in 1990, but the story has yet not reached its end.

To be continued…

Photos, from upper left to bottom right:

  • Biokonstruktor: Andrey Kokhayev, Leonid Velichovskiy, Alexander Yakovlev, Valery Vasko
  • Otventniy Chai with Andrey Kokhayev on percussion (back) and Alexander Yakovlev on bass (far right).
  • Unidentified single cover
  • Biokonstruktor: V. Vasko, L. Velichovskiy, A. Yakovlev, A. Kokhayev