kedr livanskiy – january sun

– featured image courtesy of liza zubkova –

staying on top of every new release is hard.  staying on top of every new release is even harder when your blog uses language that suggests multiple people are cogs in the machine, but really you’re just flailing helplessly by yourself, trying not to drown in a heavily-saturated inbox.  “fashionably late” is a remedy, an intermittent feature designed to showcase particularly special albums or eps that evaded us (there i go again) during their structured press cycle.  first up is the intimate, surprisingly cozy effort from russian producer kedr livanskiy.  have at it.

press play on kedr livanskiy’s debut ep, january sun, and a rich bass synthesizer immediately filters through both stereo channels before gradually becoming muffled, as if someone placed a thick pillow over its output source.  perhaps it’s due to the title or perhaps it’s livanskiy’s backstory, with its harsh, desolate imagery of russian winter threaded through the narrative, but the opening seconds of “razrushitelniy krug (destruction cycle)” initially registered as austere and unforgiving, foreshadowing a hypothetical soundscape that would reflect the environment it was sculpted in.  the rest of the song – and january sun, for that matter – couldn’t be more contrary to that notion.

using a relatively simple palette of muted drum programming, mournful synth pads, throbbing bass lines, and reverb-soaked, obscured vocals, livanskiy creates a six-song cycle of underground dance music that thoroughly explores facets of every 1990’s act she admits being indebted to: the haze of mazzy star; the introspection of boards of canada; the volatility of aphex twin.  the end result certainly isn’t bright, but it does feel familiar, a surefire source of comfort for when temperatures inevitably plunge once again.

kedr livanskiy january sun cover

january sun is probably best-enjoyed in one sitting;  although the ep isn’t through-composed, the jarring chord changes on its title track don’t feel nearly as ominous when they’re not immediately followed by the unchecked kinetic energy that comes tumbling out of “otvechai za slova (keep your word),” while “winds of may” and “sgoraet (burning down)” work in tandem to precipitate the latter’s explosive coda.

the phrase “kedr livanskiy” translates from the russian to lebanese cedar, a type of tree repeatedly referenced in the bible that can also be traced back even further in written history to ancient sumerian culture and religion.  while it’s completely possible that the moniker is at least somewhat informed by livanskiy’s given name, yana kedrina, it’s much more fanciful to imagine her work as analogous to this storied, revered artifact.  and maybe it is; january sun is largely predicated on music influential at the beginning of livanskiy’s life, and there are noticeable elements with origins that predate her birth.  these staying forces have endured an admittedly brief but sensory-overloaded lifetime to inform a nostalgic collection of woozy house music that at times feels more like an intimate retrospective than the ambitious, transformative debut that it truly is.

maybe it’s overly ambitious to stack the historical significance of livanskiy’s moniker against the significance of the timbres that molded her core ideology.  maybe it’s paradoxical to consume an ep so indebted to desolate frozen tundras in the dead heat of summer.  it is clear, however, that there’s no single correct lens through which to view a body of work that emits this type of immediacy.  january sun feels like music rewardingly scribbled down as therapy, an explanation of self.  the catharsis yana kedrina undoubtedly felt while crafting these songs resonates deeply in their final form; its strength and pertinence will only grow as leaves become crisp and the winds begin to bite yet again.