5 min read

#3: Zayence blends contrasts into sonic mini-adventures

#3: Zayence blends contrasts into sonic mini-adventures

Contrasts are the fabric of society. Alla Blehman has internalized a way to use them in her artistic work. Not deliberate: Blehman is sensitive to contrasts, even if they are delicate. She sucks them up from cultural settings, social events, music, in a way every occasion can fuel the process. After it conflicts with the assumptions, thoughts, and believes she already has, she carefully finds a place for them. "This conflict is not only worked through in my brain and soul but also in my body." The music she makes is a tool to guide the conflict that arises when contrasts collide within her. "It feels like it keeps me alive on a physical level."

Blehman just releases her debut Face under her moniker Zayence. It is a remarkable album on many levels. It flirts with the early 1990s with its eclectic nature by combining elements from many different styles. But Face is not about being eclectic: the songs are crafted into a sort of sonic mini-adventures that are all well defined within the contrasts Blehman molds. The fantastic pop song 'Amanda' is a perfect example: the bitter-sweet, introvert vibe and melodies go extremely well with the deep techno beat, that reminds of mellow hardstyle, and Blehman's jazzy vocals. This is songwriting perfection. There are multiple examples of her incredible talent on this debut. Let's just mention one more: 'Besedushka' consists of a broken beat, a sterile and extremely funky bass line that flirts with layers of Russian vocals. Sounds a bit like LCD Soundsystem visiting a traditional bar at 4 am on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg. But better.

Six years ago Blehman left her hometown Saint Petersburg for Amsterdam to study jazz music at the conservatory. She already had a BA in jazz saxophone and experimented with blending different genres in for example her band UMBRA Falstrwti. As a little girl, she performed at a lot of festivals with a combination of Russian folk singing and EDM arrangements. Blehman was fascinated by science fiction. In the early 2000s, she saw the movie The Matrix, her bookshelves were filled with Soviet sci-fi books. "My grandmother's house was filled with science fiction paintings. My childhood smells like motor-bikers festivals, techno raves, and car races." At that time she listened to Kraftwerk, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Yello, Judas Priest, Aretha Franklin, Jean Michel Jarre, early jazz, a lot of radio streams of 80s and sci-fi music.

This openness and a super-diverse pallet of influences contrast radically with her years in academic jazz and classical music. It left her trapped in an environment where rules and borders are more important than playfulness, expression, and creativity. Moving to Amsterdam helped her moving on. It gave her to strength to make a radical decision: leave her prestigious position as a student at the Amsterdam Conservatory and start studying at a technical university. It gave her the freedom to enjoy making music from the heart again. For 3,5 years she worked on Face. Meanwhile, she became a master student at the art of sound department of the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and fell in love with Eurorack and modular synthesis technology. Without the strict borders of academic jazz, she opened up again for her long-time love for sci-fi books, cinema, design, and aesthetics and embraced the borderless genre hyperpop.

Eventually leading to Face, one of the best debut albums I have heard in a while. Expect more about Alla Blehman and her moniker Zayence in a while. I think there is still a lot to tell about this amazing artist. (direct link to Spotify)

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SHORTS

ACTIVISM

The introvert and romantic optimism that slumbered on the first two albums by Odd Beholder is mostly absent on Sunny Bay, her latest that came out last Friday. Still, Daniela Weinmann uses an introvert and dreamy sound to build her songs upon, but the overall vibe is now more subdued, even a bit negative. For a while, Weinmann is taking a more activist stance. She founded the Swiss chapter of Music Declares Emergency, a worldwide organization that encourages the music industry to fight climate change. She also is questioning her own role in the music industry: why is she acting like a 'white man under capitalism?' Sunny Bay is a collection of beautiful, moody synth-pop songs and covers a lot of current issues, like climate change, gender inequality, and mental health under capitalism.
Sunny Bay by Odd Beholder is released Sinnbus and can be listened to here: https://oddbeholder.bandcamp.com/album/sunny-bay

TRANSITION

This is as minimal as dub techno gets. Deep slow drums that act as bass, very few other effects that form some kind of melody. Let's agree upon the minimalist nature of Æ, the debut of Domingæ. We know her as a founding member of Föllakzoid, the Chilean krautrock band. Currently, Domingæ is living in Mexico City, waiting to move to New York City to transition. This album, or EP - those formats don't matter anyway, is partly recording during her stay in Yamaguchi where she worked together with Japanese designer Kozaburo. During the pandemic, she moved to Mexico City where she experimented with sound and silence. The stunning result is this debut. Five minimalistic tracks capture the feeling of loneliness, dread, promise, and inevitability.
Æ by Domingæ is released by Sacred Bones and can be listened to here: https://domingae.bandcamp.com/releases

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HYPERSPEED

Some old dudes (their own words) from Amsterdam copying the 80s sound of alternative USA (you know: Replacements, Hüsker Dü, etc). And it's awesome. They are also doing a free tour in Amsterdam to support clubs that were hit hard during the covid19 lockdown. Listen to Tuesday by Love Supreme here: Https://lovesupremeams.bandcamp.com/album/tuesday

Remember the Excellent Everything Is A Remix documentary by Kirby Ferguson? Well, he just revised it and tells the story again in a new way. Part #1 was released last week. It's here: https://youtu.be/MZ2GuvUWaP8

On 28 to 30 of October, the 2021 edition of FIBER will take place at the Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam. Definitely one of the coolest events on the blend of technology, art, and design. Expect talks, installations, performances and a lot of music. FIBER also launched a call for collaboration in their Sound Ecologies Lab. Check it out here: https://www.fiber-space.nl/project/sound-ecologies/

One of the most exciting places for music at the moment is Dar Es Salaam. In the capital of Tanzania, a lot of young producers are stretching the boundaries of dance music. With sometimes beats up to 300 BMP, the Singeli Sound is defining a new generation of producers. Focussed around Sisso Studios and Pamoja Records Studio, a lot of experimentation is happening. The fresh and unpredictable result is a blend of fast rhythms, rattling beats, hyperlocal sounds, and elements of techno, footwork, and hectic dance styles with rapid body movement. Check this short documentary out: https://youtu.be/1vqwMFM1Z_U