A guide to the New East

Amped up

10 electronic underground acts from Ukraine you need to hear right now

The Ukrainian music scene is undeniably in the middle of a boom, with interest in local musicians experiencing an unexpected rise. A bonafide artistic movement has appeared, bringing with it promising emerging producers, DJs and promoters. Tight, a Russian/English-language online magazine, was born out of Ukraine’s local scene earlier this year and has quickly become a destination for discovering home-grown music and reading playful Q&As with international names. Here, its co-founders, Maya Baklanova and Tanya Voytko and picks ten musicians who are carrying forward and rapidly transforming electronic music in Ukraine.

Nastya Vogan

Having had classical composition classes as a starting point for her early musical exploration, Nastya Vogan does not limit herself to one genre, instead spanning IDM, electro-acoustic and experimental music. At one time she was into DJing and arranging events as a promoter, but then took a break to devote time to music and finishing postgraduate school. Her recent project Cyclones Slowly Rose was premiered at several events in Ukraine, including Ambience, where Nastya performed together with a string orchestra. Cyclones Slowly Rose is based on an experimental electronic sound that captivates listeners and carries them away to fascinating dreamscapes.

Sasha Very

Having absorbed influences from punk, post-rock, no-wave and fusion, promising producer Sasha Very creates collages of oddball electronic sounds. Sasha used to be the guitarist and lyricist in the alternative rock band Snaichatt Trio, but now he’s completely committed to electronic music. In his brief career, he’s already managed to release two EPs — Triplet and Metaraver — on the Odessa-based label Система (System), and this April he performed live for the first time at CXEMA. Sasha Very prefers not to play by the rules of one genre, instead focusing on the kinds of complex feelings, which, in his opinion, music should evoke.

Polje

For Victor Konstantinov, also known as Polje, music is a way to express deeply personal experiences. Employing hectic lyrics over cold and dense instrumentals, he reflects on situations in his daily life. A nice example is Schengen, his latest single, released on the Kiev-based label Worn Pop this year. According to Victor, Schengen is a cocktail of musical ingredients, as well as a brief history of his relationship with dance music, Belarusian mumblecore, the European Union and psychoanalysis.

  • Chillera. Image: Dmytro Prutkin

Chillera

Chillera is a girl band from Odessa and a major breakthrough act. Each of the band’s members — Ganna Bryzhata, Ira Lupu and Polina Matskevich — has a unique background in music, with various side projects. They debuted as Chillera last year with the seven-inch EP SCHAX, released on Muscut. In keeping with the label’s aesthetics, SCHAX feels like an artifact dropped out of time to evoke a nostalgic feel. The girls do not use synthesisers, only bass and electric guitar to go with the drums, mixing everything into a truly unique blend of surf rock, dub rhythms and funk. They’ve just performed live at Brave! Factory festival in Kiev and are coming to Meakusma in Belgium in September.

Bryozone

Bryozone is the personal project of distinctive producer Anna Bryzhata (also a member of Chillera), whose music has mostly been released by independent labels such as Система and Canceled Records. Anna used to put out music under the moniker “Anniebri” that blended her passion for piano with dreamy lyrics and soft vocals. She created the alias Bryozone to deliver a completely different sound — more experimental, packed with industrial and dub influences, abstract sounds, complex rhythms and samples. In 2016 she recorded the original soundtrack for the movie Jalma. Bryzhata is also known for collaborations with Vakula, Indirect and Buttechno, putting her on the frontline with the key players of the Ukrainian scene.

av erge

It’s not easy finding out about the Kiev-based producer Vladislav Bergman, aka av erge; you won’t stumble upon any autobiographical information, public accounts on social media or mentions in the press. Bergman tries to keep his distance from media noise so that judgements of his work are not based on his personality. His only resource is music, and that speaks for itself. In 2017, Bergman released two EPs — cuts and low level and practice runs — and this year his short track switng was included in a compilation by non-commercial label Genetic Trance titled Trance Surfin. He regularly performs live sets, converting his achievements in digital sound synthesis into abstract audio collages.

  • Konakov. Image: Maya Baklanova

Konakov

Bogdan Konakov is an active player in the Ukrainian electronic scene: the founder of a ШЩЦ label, a regular performer of experimental live-sets, a genre-crossing DJ and the man behind a bunch of self-released records. Konakov has also confirmed his status as an equally productive promoter, DJ and producer. His recent achievements speak for themselves: he has already performed live at the Polish festival Unsound, Kiev’s Brave! Factory Festival and Next Sound; been listed in the compilation series DJ-Kicks by British DJ Jackmaster; and contributed to the local underground scene by arranging a raft of activities as the head of ШЩЦ. All of his work can be considered part of the same experiment: to explore new methods of creative output.

 

Nikolaienko

Dmytro Nikolaienko is a producer, DJ, vinyl connoisseur and the founder of the Muscut label, which he uses to release his own music as well as electronic pieces made by fellow musicians. The uniqueness of the label derives from its explorations into hauntology. Nikolaienko employs a retro approach to music, hinting at the enduring presence of the past in the present through a mix of nostalgic motifs, warm sound textures and dense percussion — all while exploring topics like the exploration of outer space and extraterrestrial life forms.

  • Aleksey Podat. Image: Deomrad

Aleksei Podat

Originally from Sloviansk, Kharkiv-based experimental composer and producer Aleksei Podat used to go by the jokey moniker CHSZM. Since dropping the alias and starting to work under his own name, it has become much easier to associate his music with his own personality. In this new guise, he has so far only dropped one track, Sugar on the Polish label Pointless Geometry. Stylistically, he remains true to himself, offering up melodic noise with an admixture of chaotic, rhythmic textures. Podat prefers not to distinguish between “dance” and “non-dance” music, instead blurring these concepts together in his work.

 

Lectromagnetique

The mastermind behind Lectromagnetique is Ivan Margolin, who started the project in 2014. Over the last four years, the producer has managed to add an impressive number of releases to his catalogue, including two albums in collaboration with British Bass Agenda Recordings. Margolin is based in Chernobyl, and at the core of Lectromagnetique is the story of life in the human exclusion zone. He plays with atmospheres and tries to immerse his listeners in the state of despair and deep suffering associated with the space by delivering intense electronic rhythms laced with acid.

Text: Maya Baklanova and Tanya Voytko
Image: Chillera and Nikolaineko by Dmytro Prutkin

Want more stories delivered to your inbox? Sign up to our newsletter here:

More from Music

Run the world

Zeré Asylbek called out gender disparity in Kyrgyzstan and she's only getting started

Raise your voice

Meet the Albanian singers carrying on an ancient choral tradition

Sign of life

Does a music festival in a desert offer hope for cultural reform in Uzbekistan?

Bassiani’s come down

The rise and fall of White Noise and Tbilisi's #raveolution

Pitch control

Enter the fearless world of Nina Kraviz, the Siberian DJ who swept the world

Summer of Tsoi

Is Kirill Serebrennikov’s rock biopic as radical as it seems?