Russia may not be your first country of choice when thinking about electronic music, but it’s undeniable that in recent years it’s provided us with some great labels and artists. Pixelord’s Hyperboloid records has been one of the first labels to embrace the current digital turn in electronic music aesthetic; Nina Kraviz’s трип is now one of the most respected labels in the game; low808 founded ГОСТ ЗВУК to release oddball electronics from the big country; and the tireless Pavel Myliakov aka Buttechno runs his own RASSVET records.
Flaty and OL, who already appeared individually on ГОСТ ЗВУК, also come from Russia and now join forces as Serwed. Their sophomore album – after their debut on OL’s own Asyncro – is simply called Serwed II and it lands on West Mineral Ltd., the label used by Huerco S as a platform to release ambient experiments from likeminded producers.
Serwed II fits perfectly in the catalogue with its huge dose of abstraction and haziness that permeates the whole album, affecting even the most beat-driven tracks.
The ten tracks featured here play as oblique takes on ambient, glitch, IDM and bass music, without really being any of them in any orthodox way. There is no reference point or fil rouge to make sense of the album, apart from that of two producers messing around with their setup and making music for the sake of it, regardless of which box people would put it in. The result is an album that burbles with tiny details which start to reveal themselves to more inquisitive ears with repeated listens. Some may find it soothing, others inconclusive. Some may listen to it as plain background music, others would find it hard to swallow and digest for mindless listening. And it’s exactly what’s most fascinating about this record, that it sits in that grey area between quiet and discomfort, applying the lessons (but not necessarily the formulas) of the glitch heyday.
Listening to Serwed II over and over on a Sunday afternoon, I kept thinking of water, as if this music was coming to my ears from a submerged transmitter somewhere in the deep ocean and enveloping me in a marine environment where movements are slowed down and light and sounds are refracted and altered. The only unifying trait in the album is this undulation between styles and the short length of many tracks, which furthers the impression of audio vignettes in watercolors. Imagine Actress meets Dresvn meets Madteo and you get the amount of oddity made of abstract beats, a sketchy approach and dance-non-dance grooves.
Indeed, I haven’t heard many albums starting with a glacial, IDM-ish dancehall tune and ending with glitchy ambience, with everything weird in between from murky drum workouts to new age tones and electronic experimentation. Even the more beat-driven tracks (“Plastm”, “Grip”, “Shade Lyra” and “Plane”) share a ghostly quality: the sounds are muffled or un-categorizable; there is static, everything feels like the echo of the echo of banging tracks. It’s like hearing what’s going on at a warehouse party from underwater or through a malfunctioning transmitter.
Serwed II is not immediate nor easy listening, but if you’re willing to give it a chance and let it grow on you, it will make you feel midway between being awake-and-grounded in reality and feeling dizzy or drifting away with your mind. Like that semiconscious state when you’re sleep deprived and you try to keep on with your daily routine. The hazy atmosphere of such liquid rhythms and music resonates well (and sadly) with these days of disorientation and planetary confusion. Hopefully it will provide a temporary relief from the crisis we’re going through.