I can’t recall how I first stumbled across Anushka Chkheidze’s Soundcloud page. What I do remember is being drawn into a soothing sonic world, which beautifully marries ambient, atmospheric, and classical music. So I was pleased to discover three new tracks by the Tbilisi-based artist on a compilation of eight other female Georgian producers. As with Chkheidze, the sound palette on Sleepers, Poets, Scientists is delicate and peaceful yet uninhibited, forcing you to focus on individual elements, whether it’s drifting saxophone, the gurgling of hardware, or chirping bird song.
This is a gentle, healing record; a respite from the industrial, bass-heavy “new club music”
Sleepers, Poets, Scientists is the first LP from the CES Creative Education Studio, an experimental school specialising in sound, audio, and design, which has been running for more than seven years in Tbilisi. With over 1,600 alumni, it was time the school started its own music label, CES Records. The artists on the inaugural record are all graduates of Natalie TBA Beridze’s three-month short course in Music Productions, which she runs alongside Nika Machaidze, AKA Nikakoi. When I contacted the label, Nastia Sartania, head of CES Records, told me proudly: “The last spring course was full of talented and determined female musicians that gave us the drive to work on our first release.”
The retro cover is a nod to the famous group shot from the 1927 Solvay conference, which brought together physicists like Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Marie Curie, and others. With this in mind, the name Sleepers, Poets, Scientists rings like a call to action for today’s brightest minds, to wake up and save our chaotic, troubled world.
Still, this is a gentle, healing record; a respite from the industrial, bass-heavy “new club music” gaining momentum on the opposite spectrum of experimental electronic music. There are no hard beats, no kick drum pulsing away. The album’s high-speed track Girl Galaxy is by Beridze herself, yet even here the pulse is generated by synth loops and soft vocals. Five Margarets by Ani Zakareishvili, by comparison, is absent of any sound but the haunting repetition of one word and the fluctuations in its recording.
Georgia’s electronic music scene is usually associated with Bassiani, the megaclub whose raid and temporary closure in 2018 provoked a protest rave in the streets of Tbilisi. A year on, Chkheidze tells me Tbilisi is not a “quiet, orderly city,” yet it’s an interesting time to be making music: “Everywhere you go in Tbilisi you run into barriers. Music, by comparison, doesn’t have boundaries. This is how we share our feelings with others.” Ultimately, CES gives its students a freedom that goes beyond the ability to experiment with making and producing music, and this quietly triumphant record is a testament to its power.