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V/A – Myths & Masks of Karol Szymanowski: Music by Ukrainian Sound Artists

V/A – Myths & Masks of Karol Szymanowski: Music by Ukrainian Sound Artists

CD, Kvitnu, 2011

Karol Szymanowski was a Polish composer and pianist born in what is today Cherkasy Oblast, Ukraine. “Myths & Masks…” is a collaboration project between Kvitnu, a Ukrainian label, and the Polish Institute in Kiev. Curated and produced by Dmytro Fedorenko, this tribute compilation gave eight Ukrainian sound artists the opportunity to freely represent their respective visions of Szymanowski’s music, life and ideas. The result is a gorgeously packaged disc and twelve-page booklet that details the concept behind each of the works therein. Limited to 1000 copies, “Myths & Masks…” will be difficult to obtain, as its distribution is restricted to the label and the Polish Institute, and is not for sale.
It begins with “Andante – In Modo D’una Canzona”, by Dunaewsky69, where spacious and peaceful orchestral notes lean toward a detuned melody, the interspersed bass droplets serving as rhythmic device. Glitch elements create an unsettling atmosphere, a feel which resurfaces in various ways elsewhere throughout the release. Kotra’s “The Dust of Nihilism” uses deep strings for a shadowed and menacing atmosphere, and introduces piano notes – another of the collection’s logically characteristic devices – in a repetitive loop. Andrey Kiritchenko combines piano and voice in “Op.58-9”, the melodic singing sometimes bolstered by atmospheric under layers, while Zavoloka’s mesmerizing “Anxiety” sees a faint piano leaking into the background while twinkling and shivering patterns of noise shift over a pillowy bass pulse.
With “Variations Opus 3 – Coda”, v4w.enko presents a minimal, barely-there drone that deepens to include multiple layers, and further evolves to include various tones. “Nokturne by Shi_Syn_Fi”, by Ujif_Notfound, is another drone-oriented piece, beginning with a penetrating buzz out of which buried notes eventually surface, quieting the drone and allowing bass rumbles to flourish toward its end. Unique to these interpretations is the trembling violin present in “Mithe IV: K.S.”, by Alla Zagaykevych. Later manipulated into digital shrieks, its melancholy first impressions are dissolved in a flurry of chaotic passages.
In terms of bringing exposure to little known Ukrainian artists, this effort is commendable, especially considering the fact that these reinterpretations of a respected 20th-century composer via experimental electronic music have been created at the behest of a state-sanctioned cultural institution. The highly abstract and minimal compositions presented here are, in that sense, rather unexpected. “Myths & Masks…” is a collection for lovers of drones, glitch, noise and pure, eclectic experimentalism in sound – yet with strong classical nuances. Although intriguing and well conceived, the release still compares with many such experimental tributes in its fleeting interest, musically speaking. In short, it’s a fantastic collector’s item, but one that will likely gather dust on the shelf.


— Dutton Hauhart

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