Various - SUBWISE V/A 002 - One Year Of SUBWISE (2010)


Noise, Chiptune, Abstract, Broken Beat, Glitch, IDM, Dubstep, Ambient, Post Rock, Shoegaze, Experimental, Hip-Hop

This tiny statement of intent is now one year old, and Subwise has just released a double-CD/net-album entitled, fittingly enough, “One Year of Subwise.” Looking back over twelve months of various styles and genres, the label is able to tag its musical output as “electronic, downtempo, experimental, idm, post-rock, glitch, hip-hop, chiptune, etc…” On the new compilation, these multifaceted tendencies constitute a total running time of two hours, forty-six minutes. That’s a very generous helping of sounds, considering that it comes for free.

Looking for six or so representative compositions from this double CD, we decided that it might be interesting to go slightly against the grain and select works that are less typical for the label. Not only is this site already peppered with Subwise artists and related instrumentals that fall neatly into the framework of “downtempo, glitch,” etc., but it’s also worth remembering that this is a celebratory publication. Such occasions deserve a slightly faster bpm, something designed for the dancefloor, even.
The following paragraphs, then, consider ways in which some Subwise ensembles have pondered faster formats beyond the label’s typical styles – and what conclusions might be drawn from those moments of mild deviance. How does Subwise define its modus operandi by finding or breaching the limits of experimentation?

First of these more uptempo instrumentals is “Vertigo Ice Cream” by My Automata, who are not terribly keen on placing themselves within concrete geography. Their site at Bandcamp has four fully-fledged EPs/albums available for download, yet none are tied to a specific locale; both the place of their recording and the artists’ address remain a mystery.
Instead we’re offered a lively breakbeat number, tied to some frenetic drums and hi-hat while – lurking in the background – the retro-warble of some antique synth staggers around. Put differently, the elegance of a jazzy rhythm section is robbed of any lounge-like assurance by a constantly jarring foreign object. This slight mismatch between styles, outlooks, and soundscapes will be important later on.

Even when we are able to map some of the Subwise acts in tangible space, they may still seem to float in the middle of nowhere. Take, for example, Mombus, otherwise known as Sergei Bakanev, of whom we wrote very early on in the history of this site. We noted then that he works at a Murmansk Polar research institute. In particular he specializes in population patterns of red king crabs and northern shrimps that live in the Barents Sea. In his leisure time, as he says, “Mombus makes music, videos, and organizes festivals. He has been making music since 2000 when he purchased his own sampler and PC.”

Mombus has long been associated with the “Light” or “Legkie” series of compilations, which remain one of the best introductions to a rarely-sought realm between Russian lounge and ambient traditions. Distant, barely visible locations are orchestrated to barely audible sounds.
The Mombus contribution to the new Subwise album, though, is surprisingly “loud,” relatively speaking, in that it could at least accompany a slow dance. Yet here, too, the vocals of Natalia Groshak are deliberately off-kilter in ways that wouldn’t seem out of place in a David Lynch restaurant scene. Something unnerving resides in realms of pleasure and – perhaps – in passion.

Equally far away, this time to the south, is the musician from Kazan known rather wittily as Olympic Smoker, about whom we have also written before. At that time, speaking of Kazan, we pointed out that here, in the last year of the Soviet Union, a boy was born by the name of Emil’ Shakirov. At the age of 14 he would start experimenting in various realms of electronic and dance music. Now, at the advanced age of almost twenty-one, he lists his preferred styles as minimal, techno, tech-house and “experimental.” These same experiments began to be published a couple of years ago, initially through the Shoki Recordings offshoot of netlabel Deep-X, located in Ekaterinburg.
His other basic home, should we wish to follow Shakirov’s future trajectory, is Bypass, another web project – this time based in Beijing, of all places. Working hard to erase the significance of political geography, Bypass was founded in 2008, and has already produced more than 60 releases, spanning ambient works, chiptunes, more vague “experimental” compositions, idm, trip-hop and field recordings. Irrespective of one’s native language, Bypass is happy to see contributions from “all artists who work seriously in the name of free music and sonic creativity.”

If we turn our attention to Shakirov’s MySpace page, a few photographs are available, plus links to earlier recordings, several of which can be found at He heads the MySpace location with a reference to the 2006 US film-satire, “Thank You for Smoking.” That rather dark, though successful movie sought humor in a reversal of politically correct stereotypes; it concerned the professional fate of a businessman entrusted with the suspect goal of making smoking socially desirable, much as it had been for Hollywood movie-makers decades before.

The text-heading at his PromoDJ page continues in the same vein. It reads – in Russian – “This is really bad music. I had hoped that it’d turn out a lot better.” Clearly this is not be taken seriously. Shakirov has uploaded his music – onto a site that’s specifically designed for promotional goals. This tongue-in-cheek approach serves an important purpose. It allows for a sense of subversion in the face of primetime entertainment; one can mock the conservative canon from afar – by refusing to take its PR rules seriously. Rather than busy himself with self-congratulatory haughtiness, no matter how (un)justifiable it may be, Olympic Smoker instead produces “counterproductive” humility.

Humility and self-deprecation are also the trademarks of a Ukrainian electronic outfit, once known by the name of Korrupted. Conceived in the city of Donetsk, that ensemble grew… and then fell apart. In its place appeared the duo Sport & Music, giving physical expression to a single promo-phrase that accompanies these musicians today: “The lineup of this project is constantly changing.” The images above and below might suggest otherwise.

The Memory Card EP – a recent publication by Sport & Music – consisted of four idm/downtempo tracks and was decorated by a B&W image of a girl in some distant field last summer, blowing soap bubbles. Each of those bubbles held a small amount of air in suspension, just as the photograph as a whole allowed one moment to endure amid the passing seasons. Trying to give sonic shape to these thoughts and pictures of the recent past, Sport & Music often employ various noises/field recordings – all redolent of June, July, or August.
It doesn’t appear a very taxing process.

Recent, related tracks by this ensemble have spoken directly to a couple of enduring themes: Teplaia ironiia (“Warm Irony”); and Nikogda nichego (“Nothing Ever”). The role of irony here is key; in true romantic fashion, typical instrumentals by Sport and Music are – in a very self-aware fashion! – admitting that for all their efforts, the object of their yearning may never be fully realized. There will always be a gap produced by those endeavors(!) that both allows for the expression of desire and underscores a simultaneous lack, too.
Once desire has begun, it both understands and is frustrated by its inability to be wholly satisfied.
A “warm” smile results, together with melancholy; the combination of happy summertime memories and a slightly sad realization about the mechanics of want. The unbridled hedonism of the dancefloor is not a wholly appealing option; neither maximalism nor notions of magnitude offer much pleasure. There seems to be little cause here for upset, though. The worldview of these – and many other – musicians on “One Year of Subwise” is informed by an ironic, contentedly modest understatement, far from the Center of Things. Kazan, Donetsk, and arctic Murmansk are more appealing than Moscow.
There’s a good reason why.

If we go back to the opening track by My Automata, “Vertigo Ice Cream,” there’s a very stylized cinema dialog running through the whole instrumental. Despite the title, it’s not taken from Hitchcock, but from a 1947 drama directed by Curtis Bernhardt, “Possessed.” The movie’s narrative plots the same kind of trajectory pondered by those Subwise bands who are experimenting with a faster, emotionally “unfettered” expression. The film tells of an amorous attraction that soon evolves into love, an obsession… and murder. The section of the screenplay used for the Subwise track sounds innocent enough:
“I do like you, but it just isn’t good enough.”
“Oh, I forgot. Your mother asked me up for supper.”
“Okay. Bring some ice cream with you, will you?”
“What kind do you want, chocolate or vanilla?”

Behind the apparently insignificant fussiness of one woman’s teatime choices lies the possibility for a much grander, nastier conviction. The distance between whims and obsessions, safe periphery and greedy center is frighteningly small. No wonder that Subwise artists, usually the purveyors of understated soundscapes, also live far from the Big City and its own excesses. Humility and irony are good forms of defense against the violent failings of urbanized society. The tracks here that do tend towards a higher tempo and greater volume – such as Interior Creak (above) – are framed in terms of possible estrangement from normality; unbridled emotions are a source of concern, not to mention an initial surrender to avaricious, potentially destructive passion.
Subwise parties are probably very short.

01MelomakeMy Beautiful Emotion
02x3d5Magnolia Kee
03RaumskayaNo But Thanks
04Sport & MusicImya
07Olympic SmokerJapanese Airlines
08Bad MoovEnd
09Intelligent Mushrooms2 Dnya! Evgeniy
11Interior CreakFunny Sun Children
12Мои Автоматы, HotheartKipo Machines
13FizzarumTond 7
15Мои АвтоматыToo Old Mem
16Spot Of SkyLove Like Machines
17Surtsey SoundsDopler
18Olympic SmokerCasual
20AhtictapDe Ja Vu
21SietoFade To Back
22Мои АвтоматыVertigo Icecream
23Sometimes an ErrorMistakes On Piano For You
24Uoki-TokiToki Pona
25No TabacLook Wet Rabbit
26Olympic SmokerRandom(me)
27Full FrameSleepless
28Sport & MusicSpi
29Spot Of SkyShe
30MonotrioVozmojno Ya Tak I Ne Pochitaiy Reya Bredberry
32INFINITUM, D.TiminNimpheas Mystery
33Intelligent MushroomsUmba
34Natalya Groshak, MombusMajowe Deszcz
35With Prison Cell Was EmbracedSmeshnaya
36DubpubHonor Steps
38x3d5White Lines
39Мои АвтоматыPod Kalinoy (Peppin Version)
40Candle GardenPriceless