CD, Dars Records, 2006
Dars Records is an independent Russian label dedicated to varied genres of intelligent electronica (IDM, glitch, ambient, abstract and others) and based in the area of the South Urals (Chelyabinsk to be precise). While this remote location may come as something of a surprise for some, it may partially explain the strong component of traditional Russian folk music in this curious and eclectic compilation of experimental electronics.
For the most part, the music in “Slavosonic” is extremely evocative of landscapes, untamed nature, history and tradition: from Lapland and the margins of the Volga to the deepest taiga and tundra, from the Siberian shamanic tradition to Orthodox Christianity. This is an obvious result from the skill with which, in most tracks, traditional folk elements (whether ‘just’ sampled or actually performed) are weaved with more modern electronic music into rich suggestive sonic tapestries. This is particularly noticeable in the first two-thirds of the compilation, with the second third focussing more on glitch and voiceless compositions and the final third veering off towards more ‘conventional’ territories in the fields of experimental electronic music.
An important and evident aspect of this compilation, is the extreme care and attention to detail that was put into the composition of every track (which is hardly surprising considering the quality of the releases by ILI, one of the label’s artists and its manager). Another other striking aspect is how the artists succeeded in ‘humanizing’ music styles that frequently are cold and impersonal by resorting to the incorporation of traditional melodies and singing, creating organic wholes with actual ‘souls’. Tracks like “Olyushka”, “Deep Blue”, “Kruchu” and “Jakby Sontze Znalo” are particularly good examples for which the opening track, an interpretation of a Lappish jingle, paved the way. This ‘soul’, even though less ‘human’ can also be felt in tracks like “Valenkee”, “Flow” and “Vodking With Ghosts”, which consist of sound manipulation of field recordings or traditional music tunes.
One thing that is missing in this release is information about the participating artists. While it may be readily available to anyone with an Internet connection and a modicum of googling skills, it would be nice to have it available at one’s fingertips when listening to the album.
In the end, “Slavosonic” is an excellent horizon-opening listening experience, sure to appeal to anyone with varied music tastes. While it is certainly a ‘themed’ compilation, it is also a label sampler and, judging from it, Dars Records is a rather promising label.
— Miguel de Sousa