CS (ltd. 70)
Almost 10 years have passed since the release of the last album of the St. Petersburg project Vetrophonia "Formula of War" (Der Angriff, 2011). Of course the duet of Alexander Lebedev-Frontov and Nick Sudnick hasn't been idle all this time: they recorded and released the soundtrack to the movie "A Page of Madness" (Zhelezobeton Film, 2014), the multimedia compilation "Vizualizacija" (Ultrasomnambula U, 2017) and the "Russian Universal Robots" EP (Zhelezobeton, 2017), not taking into consideration multiple solo ventures of both musicians – but the truly new full-length audio work is being released only now.
"Dadacacophonia Dao" was recorded over three years: from 2017 to 2020, and unlike many other recordings of the duet it's not really a conceptual work. In its form, it is a complex collage of a great number of sounds: samples, percussion instruments, fragments of TV and radio programmes, musical pieces and anti-musical noises varying from subtle yet annoying crackles to blustering industrial clatter. Like always with Vetrophonia, all this is composed utterly meticulously, thoughtfully, and spiced up with peculiar humour. This album isn't easy for listening, yet it will surely reward a curious listener with its uniqueness.
The work found its physical embodiment in the form of an audio cassette, released in an edition of 70 hand-numbered copies. The digital version is available on bandcamp.
The Russian experimental music scene features a large number of original artists and projects. But, as with any scene, there are veterans. One such person is Alexander Lebedev-Frontov, who started creating sound in the 1970’s- he’s connected to a large number of projects, one of the most famous is the industrial project Linija Mass , and experimental soundscaping venture Nikolai Sudnik. He’s also the founder and participant of many collaborative projects too, such as ZGA. In the mid 90’s he formed Vetrophonia with Nickolai N. Soundnick. Over the project's history, it's released twelve full-length albums, three singles and EPs, and one live album. Dadacophonia Dao, was originally released digitally in 2020 on the Russian label Ultrasomnambula U. In early 2021, another Russian label Zhelezobeton re-released this album in the form of a cassette.
The album cover is a kind of black and white photocopied collage, slightly reminiscent of newspaper fragments, visually divided into three horizontal parts. The middle and largest section is a photo of a vintage plane lying on the ground or some other surface on its back, landing gear up. The upper part is a light strip with the name of the project written in Cyrillic. It is made in the form of cut out and located at different angles of white letters on a black background. At the bottom of the cover is the same strip with the title of the album in the same style. It should be said that the design of the cassette release is different from the cover art made for the digital version of the album. The cassette cover is also made in the form of a black and white collage but made more minimalist. Against a black background is a white triangle pointing downwards. This triangular background features an image of an aeroplane of the same type, as well as the name of the project, made in the same style as on the digital cover. The album title is on a general black background. The letters are placed more randomly, which makes the word a little difficult to read. It seems to me that this cover fits perfectly with the musical part of the album and has a certain old-school industrial feel.
The album is one hour and six minutes long and consists of eight tracks and is an impressive collection of soundscapes- that are so varied and rich, making it is difficult to fully describe. I would call the style in which Alexander and Nikolay work unpredictable cacophonic sound art. At their core, tracks are sound collages assembled from various voice, noise and harmonic samples taken from films, TV shows, field recordings, and so on . These segments have completely different lengths, sound and content, but they are so closely intertwined that they form a single structure. At first, the listener may think that the overall sound is incoherent and cacophony. However, upon further listening, an immersion in the atmosphere of this album is created and it begins to seem that these are planned compositional moves with certain accents and background.
It should be said that Dadacophonia Dao is primarily intended for a Russian-speaking listener since most of the voice samples are in Russian. These voice segments turn out to be related to each other via linked themes, and the way they are brought together often sounds like flowing dialogue, even though the elements are taken from completely different sources. Sometimes these dialogues or ongoing themes are woven into rather funny tirades. I think this is proof that a tremendous amount of work has been done creating the album. In addition, according to the official information, Dadacophonia Dao was recorded for three years.
The titles of the compositions are rather difficult to adequately translate from Russian into any other language since they are a play on words and meanings. To give one example - the sixth track is called something like "The Paradigm Shift of Intrauterine Buddhism". You should not try to understand the meaning of this title, it would be much better to accept it. From the point of view of perception, the album is quite difficult. Apparently, for comfortable listening, a certain emotional attitude is necessary, close to the perception of the atmosphere of the early albums of the industrial, noise and, in general, the experimental scene.
This isn’t an album that will capture the listener straight away, however, with repeated plays it does pull you, as you pick out a lot of new details & nuances. In general, Dadacophonia Dao is a very strong and complex album, which is full of subtle humour, and, despite the obvious complexity of perception, has a certain ease and a more than little nostalgia to it.