I fondly remember a weekend in 2015 spent dancing in the courtyard of an old factory in downtown Kyiv: in the tiny Otel’ and, the very next day, in my favourite Closer. There wasn’t a forest-facing area yet, nor the record shop or radio station streaming from a 20ft container nearby, but those two days are still special to me. Not because that was the beginning of the Ukrainian underground scene (it existed long before), but because it was the weekend when I fell in love, irrevocably and unconditionally, with the strobe lights, rough-looking dancefloors and beats of electronic music.
So, when I heard of the debut EP by a Ukrainian musician Ivan Skoryna, I felt warm because he’s one of the people who shared that experience with me. We haven’t stayed in touch, but somehow we ended up in the same place even though I’ve been living abroad for the last couple of years. His album is mastered by John Object, one of the most notable and weird Ukrainian musical exports, and it’s as harsh and noisy as I like. The four tracks hit the perfect spot between obscurity and melody, and it’s hard not to want to dance to them.
I remember Skoryna as an intellectual, so I wouldn’t put it past him to make a conceptual album. But he does so in a way that feels natural and not overburdened. The track ‘Love poem’ begins as an altered phone ringtone: ‘It’s so nice to wake up in the morning all alone’, say the lyrics, taken from a poem by Richard Brautigan. The track is painful and lonely, but it also makes me feel like everything is going to be okay because it’s about everyday and about what it’s like sometimes to be alive.
Either as a critique of consumerism or the reflection of one’s inner state, an iPhone on the album cover is cracked and severely damaged, but ‘nobody’s perfect’, says Skoryna. ‘Nobody’ is moody and atmospheric and a little sinister. ‘Damage’ is squeaky and satisfyingly random. On ‘Sirens’, the stylistically recognisable metal screeches perform inhumanly to the background of impactful industrial techno. This track’s textural density and fast tempos produce an emotional response, which reminds me of Ewa Justka and AJA.
The album is released on a young Czech label Gin&Platonic and fits well among the incredibly solid work being produced and finally noticed all over the globe. At the same time, Damage reminds me that sometimes you don’t have to look far. As another famous lyric goes: ‘groove is in the heart’ and more often than not, it’s right under your nose. I’m excited to continue looking for it wherever I am in the world and be sure to remember where it all began for me.