The very puzzling young Russian artist from Perm, under his Kondratie alias, creates synthesizer music inspired by Russian culture and European darkwave tradition, combining hypnotic mechanical industrialized drum machines, dangerously obsessive, throbbing bassline, glacial dramatic analog synth melodies over ominously distorted cryptic vocalizations laced with poetic lyrics delving into gloomy shades of vintage Russian despair and literary cultural tradition. Described by someone as a ‘dark synth edition of Dostoevski’, Kondratie has just released his poignant and gripping debut album, aptly entitled ‘Мгла’ (Mist), we just need to know more…
Did you grow up surrounded by music? What music or bands were most inspiring to you growing up?
My parents are archaeologists, so all my childhood was spent in different expeditions with drunk students and professors. I wasn’t interested in music, but people were playing it near the bonfire and I was listening to them, remembering some words and googling these words after. There was nothing left to do but the music. Did I grow up surrounded by music? I think I’m still growing up, I’m just 17 years old. Well, if we’re talking about bands, I really love new Russian music. I’ve noticed that almost all the bands I listen to are Russian. Who’s inspiring me? I don’t know.
When did you start playing and composing music? Did you start with classic instruments or go directly to synthetic machines?
I started with the guitar when I was 12, but then I decided to start recording my music. I was too lazy to figure out how to do the sequencer work, so I was recording strange and experimental music, bizarre avant-garde, noise, industrial. Now I cannot listen to it, it’s too weird.
Perm is almost on the border of Europe and Asia, I read it’s considered one of the richest growing cultural centers after the 2 largest capitals. Some well-known bands like Gnoomes come from your city, how close-knit is the music community?
I love Perm. Really. Perm is the apotheosis of Eastern Europe. We’re not as wild as the Siberians, but we have our unique culture. I feel this city like the soil and texture. Our culture also has unique textures; Europeans usually recognize the bands from Perm really well. You can’t avoid Perm when you are a musician from Perm, otherwise, your music turns out dead. Your art turns out dead. Yes, Gnoomes are from here, I really love them, we’re friends, I never miss their gigs, I’m always listening to them. Their music is alive, vivid. You asked about the music community. Everyone knows each other, I think… Everyone is listening to each other; we have cool parties, gigs, bars… Gnoomes have their own cozy bar called «Garage Healthy Bar» it’s my favourite place in the city, by the way.
Any new bands to tell us about?
Гагат is an experimental project of my close friend Oganes Chilingaryan, it’s inspired by Russian and Armenian culture, it sounds gloomy and cool. Гагат inspires me, I love these percussions and voice. We have two featured tracks Vnimanie and Разобрать. My favourite гагат‘s tracks: ‘Es u du, Любить’. ‘Переосмысление’, ‘Новый День’.
Cave Sunrise — such a cool band! They are mixing post-punk, psychedelic rock, and synth-pop. Listen to their first EP on Bandcamp and their last LP on Spotify. My favourite band. Love them!
Я Растение — I can’t describe it, but I love it. Unfortunately, this project does not exist anymore, Dima has moved to Moscow where he is recording dream-pop tracks for his new project Мелодии. Я Растение is the sound of your body when you’re hanging yourself or trying to drown.
Anton Ripatti — he’s traveling all around Europe and Russia by his van, he’s playing his guitars and singing his strange songs. Love it!
Polycythemia — darkwave, gloomy coldwave.
Half-Moon Glass — dream pop
3000K — there will be dream, and the dream won’t stop
Kikok — minimalistic electronic
Галил — Russian garage summer, check them out to feel young
The list is endless…
What is your view on the alternative underground Russian scene? Who are the Russian artists/bands you feel closest to?
I’m afraid my answer is boring: «I just love it». Closest? Well, if we talk about music, I prefer to keep the distance, if we talk about people making it, I don’t know, I have a big number of friends, and this number is growing up every day.
Your project is clearly inspired by Russian culture, Could you delve deeper into the concept
My aim was to have a dialogue with Russian culture. Russian culture is alive, but sometimes ossified. Almost all the Russians (especially young ones) think that Russian culture is dead, venomous, boring, uninteresting. They don’t understand that some of them are creating a kind of Russian culture, growing a new branch of it. My aim was to have a dialogue with Russian culture like other bands do (ex.g: Shortparis, Ic3peak, Kedr Livansky, Electroforez, Stadt, Hadn Dadn). I think my album is boring a bit because I didn’t have a dialogue, I asked the questions moi-même, and I answered them moi-même. Some people compare my music with Srub‘s music. Well, I love this band, their music is really cool, but I don’t think they have a dialogue with Russian ossified culture, I think they are just reproducing it and making it dead, sucking out all the juices. Again, and again… I like the metamorphoses of that band, their last song (‘nikogda ne videt zla’) is my favourite, but their previous albums are dead. It’s a dead language, a dead way of saying, despite their music is exciting. It’s boring a bit.
I hope my next album will be less «Russian», but more «fresh». I want to have a dialogue.
I was listening to Russian bands like Црвених Цветова and figure out that almost all the bands who sing about Russia it’s just «Russian sadness», they are just depressive. My aim was to make a project inspired by something great and something connected with Russia. Russian culture is that something great. You asked about the closest bands. I love Shortparis and Штадт. Why them? Their music is «really great and really Russian»… Hi, guys, if you’re reading it, miss you!
You devote a lot of attention to the lyrical content, some lyrics are written in old Russian orthography, using alliterations, rhymes, and Old Slavonic words, very hard to translate even using a dictionary? Tell us about the process.
All the Russian lyrics are published in old orthography. Just aesthetics, I’m not a monarchist (yet). I just love how it looks. I’m collecting antique books, I think I was inspired by their stylistics. I think that the words should be accurate and well-directed; I’m a kind of acmeist.
The album contains three poems by Osip Ėmil’evič Mandelstam, who, unlike Mayakovski, is lesser-known outside of Russia even if he regularly translates over here…
Not three, but only two. I love Mandelstam and all the Russian Acmeism. My favorite poet-acmeist is George Ivanov; I will also release a couple of tributes to him soon. Mayakovski is the legend, yes. All the famous rappers suck when we remind him! However, I prefer to leave his bones to Shortparis, they all are sincere modernists. I prefer Acmeism, words must be so precise that your bones are shaking. By the way, I don’t think that Mayakovsky is translatable, Fabrizio 🙂
By the same token, music-wise you play synth music inspired by the European darkwave tradition…
I don’t want to bring superfluous shit from abroad, we have all the eternal things here. Sometimes we do not have forms, shapes, that’s a different case… Darkwave is accurate. Darkwave is the best soundtrack for all the novels by Dostoevsky and not only by him!
Gloomy moods and dark atmospheres combine with Gothic and esoteric images as key components in your music all sprinkled with a heap of vintage Russian despair, depression, and Slavic nightmares …
Yes. But… Now I want to move to something more personal, than something «Russian» or «Slavic». You’ll hear it soon I hope.
What shaped the narrative both music and lyric-wise, as you wrote the tracks and compiled the album? Is there a unifying thread? Take us through the genesis of it?
I was making it in my own instinctive way that I can’t describe. This album contains my personal worries about modern life, about the plague of our souls, about the plague of our ideologies. A series of sequential but ruptured utterances. I write some little poems and then I try to sing them while the music is playing.
What is your song composition process? Instinctive or ponderate, or a mix of both? What kind of processes/instruments are used in your productions?
It’s instinctive. I use Soviet and common analog synthesizers. Sometimes I use some VST’s, but I’m trying not to overuse them now. At gigs, I use Volcas, fx-pedals, floor tom, and crash.
Let’s talk about your minimal-synth side project with another odd name, Toska Po Domu, how is it important to you? Do you see further developments from it?
I do. I love minimal-synth, but I have no time to record more tracks now. Toska po domu doesn’t have that dialogue, but is making understandable music. Listening to Kondratie is a kind of spiritual practice; you have to be ready if you are going to listen to it, while toska po domu is just a common minimal-synth project. It’s a kind of understandable music, pop music. Russian culture isn’t stopped, Toska po domu is an example of unossified Russian culture, which is, of course, far from Dostoevsky and Glinka, but closer to contemporary people and contemporary problems. It’s still a Russian culture.
As literature has a big impact on you, how about the visual arts? Visuals, images, cinema…
I’m painting and sculpturing. I know nothing about the cinema. Really. I don’t watch it.
You should have played live recently, could you talk about your live experiences so far?
People like my gigs. I do not really like the venues, but I want to play more and more. I want my music to shake people more and more. And then to shake myself like it shakes people.
What and who are you listening to at the moment?
I can’t listen to music now. It’s a big stress for the brain. I should have a rest. I’m tired, I listen to music every day, at concerts, at raves, at rehearsals, in buses, in taxis, in bars, in shops…
Please, share with us a record, a movie and a book from Russian cultural heritage we should know…
I think you already know everything you have to know. Don’t you know Brodsky, Mayakovsky, Vrubel, Shalom Schwartz, Dostoevsky? Don’t you know Kino or Zvuki Mu? Don’t you know Shortparis, Gnoomes, Inturist, Electroforez, Sierpien, Molchat Doma? Now you know even about Kondratie! You know about Russian cultural heritage even more than Russians do, I’m serious.
Any final words you would like to share?
Keep up with Kondratie: