Pavel Milyakov & Yana Pavlova – Wandering
Russia is fascinating place, culturally speaking. Seemingly insular, the music that arrives from this part of the world is often incomparable to anything else that’s happening right now. Sure, there’s the odd Tatu or to some extent even Pussy Riot, but for the most part Russia’s artists have avoided assimilated to the rest of the world, meaning the only boundaries in place are the ones they set for themselves. From strange formulations of eurodance that could easily be misunderstood as satire (work, Vitas), to the menacingly austere grime interpolations that are starting to find internet fame in the form of IC3PEAK. For producer Pavel Milyakov, AKA Buttechno, it’s a matter of genre or perhaps a rejection of genre altogether. 2016’s Yalta is full of gravel-like and cavernous basement techno, subterranean micro beats, muffled snares and acidic machine sounds that does Dettman by way of Burial. Then there’s 2020’s menacing Masse Métal, an ambient industrial horror story that’s more Chernobyl than Tresor. His moniker sort of echoes the duality of his craft, but whether making sledgehammering beats or distorted soundscapes, Milyakov’s style remains distinct. Last year saw him try his hand at (kind of) funk and shoegaze, alongside collaborator Yana Pavlova. Blue was an unsurprisingly curious record; lighter than his other work, sort of gleefully woozy with a psilocybin drunk gait. Now, again with Pavlova, Milyakov finds himself occupied with the opposite end of the spectrum. Seemingly fixated on damnation, Milyakov and Pavlova’s latest album Wandering finds itself lost in the aesthetics of doomcore and industrial noise.
Wandering, released on Milyakov’s own Psy X Records, is an album that does just that. It takes its time exploring Milyakov’s ideas and motifs and stretches Pavolva’s voice into inhumanly vast passages of sound. In fact, some tracks sound as if Milyakov has just slowed down a single bar of his favourite death metal track to investigate the layers of crunch and distortion. This is certainly the case with Denying, which slows down time itself as its guitar riff extends into vastness and a distant drum fill repeats against Pavlova’s ghostly slowed and reversed vocals. This is also true of Litak, whose flanger soaked electric guitar roars like Godzilla across a desolate soundscape of icy nothingness, while Take A While literally does this to one of Milyakov’s own tracks by turning Blue’s twinkling ballad Strong Willed into a droning bat from hell. It’s entirely unnerving, and at most times Wandering blankets everything with such thick despair that it’s necessary to gasp for air. There are subtle moments of reprieve, however. The endless loop of Rural is almost hypnotic, or perhaps more accurately hallucinogenic. Vitayu and Halo both play with melodies that sound pleasant enough, but pleasantness isn’t really the modus operandi here. Things skew and bend out of shape quickly on Wandering, and as soon as something begins to feel comfortable, it plunges further into the uncanny. On Halo, it’s the chugging, infernal guitars copulating beneath Pavlova’s angel-like vocalisations. On Wandering Fugue, one of the album’s stronger moments, it’s the jarring computer bleeps that pierce through a whimsical 8-bit synth symphony.
At some point, everything wanders a touch too far into the abyss. While this seems to be Milyakov’s intention, the overall bleakness is also the record’s Achilles heel. Things feel too intentionally skewed, too bent toward the pursuit of sonic bizarreness for it to feel truly experimental or happenstance. It’s difficult not to think back to Milyakov’s turn with experimental saxophonist Bendik Giske on the duo’s eponymous album. There’s a freedom to the abstraction there that’s missing on Wandering, or at least crushed under the weight of the music itself.
Listen to Wandering Fugue from Wandering below.
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