Art-Context 2023. Best. Music

Art-Context 2023. Best. Music

From aesthetic art-rock to stadium metal. Five albums of the year

As the year comes to an end, it's tradition to sum up its musical highlights. It's very challenging to choose just five of the brightest releases, but we've managed to do it. Here you'll find magical art-rock, powerful metal from Homiel, a genuine Belarusian supergroup, a poignant poetic album based on the verses of Ales Ryazanov, and a colorful pop music from a talented singer. Belarusian music for every taste!

Syndrom samazvanca

«Vostraŭ skarhaŭ» 

This album was released at the very beginning of 2023 - as if intentionally making it difficult to notice amidst January's hustle and bustle. But it's hard to overlook something like this, as Syndrom samazvanca has crafted a true masterpiece - an aesthetic collection of clever, intricate songs inspired by the most interesting achievements of world music and packaged in a Belarusian context.
The main highlight of the "Vostraŭ skarhaŭ" album seems to lie here. Musically, it draws on the foreign tradition, and among the references one can recall cult krautrock groups like Can, art-punk Television, and progressive rock King Crimson. But there's no mindless imitation - Syndrom samazvanca creates very authentic material: it's not a mix of these tags but goes far beyond their stylistic boundaries and exists independently. In terms of lyrics, thanks to the talent of the group's poet and vocalist Vlad Liyankevich, "Vostraŭ skarhaŭ" exclusively works with the Belarusian context. As a tradition, Syndrom samazvanca's work includes quotes from Algirdas Baharevich (one of the songs is partially written in his famous artificial language "balbuta"), there are references (even on the cover) to the work of primitivist artist Alena Kish. There's a lot more!

"Vostraŭ skarhaŭ" combines Belarusian and global contexts, operating simultaneously in two dimensions while maintaining a very high standard of material quality. Yes, it's not popular music, and it's quite challenging for the mass listener to grasp. But it should be evaluated not by the number of catchy choruses and successful hooks, but by the meanings and depth of material elaboration. It's a very high-quality work and an undisputed leader among Belarusian albums of 2023.
 

Torf

«Романтика не в моде» 

Nominally, the band Torf is the successor of another Homiel collective - TT-34. But only nominally, as the musical component of the two groups is clearly different, so comparisons would not be entirely relevant. The only thing is that the tradition of Homiel metal has deeply rooted itself, and "Romantika ne v mode" has a special track about it. This record is unique in its own way. The group works with extreme music on a pop level - and does it brilliantly. In a country with a developed show business, the Torf album would surely be on the national charts. It has all the ingredients of a successful release: very high-quality sound, memorable melodies, explosive choruses, concise and well-formulated lyrics, and superb visuals. It's challenging to work with such material in the absence of a coherent system of coordinates, but the very fact of the existence of this record, created, so to speak, under volunteer conditions, is heartening.

"Romantika ne v mode" is an interesting mix of nu-metal structures and modern sound, aggressive vocals, and transparent lyrical choruses - as if an enraged bear found itself in a philharmonic hall - with bright and reference-packed lyrics. This material truly operates on a pop level, but it's not as simple as it seems. It's interesting to dig into, to find the sources and discover the magical world of art. Paradoxically, "Romantika ne v mode" is actually an aesthetic work that transcends genre. In this regard, the band Torf represents an absolutely new level for its members. Powerful, talented, and very vibrant program from Homiel musicians.

Polyn

202022 

In Belarusian tradition, there have been examples of supergroups, but not many. Therefore, the emergence of the trio Polyn can be considered a unique phenomenon in its own way. Such a format is always interesting: each musician with an interesting background and a formed creative handwriting contributes a part of themselves to the new project, and the result can be very unexpected. In the case of the Polyn group, this works because Ilya Cherepko from "Petli pristrastiya" and "Kassiopeya" is one of the most recognizable vocalists in Belarus, while Sergey Kravchenko and Alexey Vanchuk from Port Mone are a very interesting and authentic duo. It's also interesting that Kravchenko is responsible for the lyrics in the project, not Cherepko.

"202022" is a concise but deep record in which many genres are so tightly interwoven that you simply stop noticing. It's dark and melancholic music, reminiscent of Radiohead's late works (one of the videos even quotes the British band's video for the song "No Surprises") - ambient, various types of electronic music, and post-punk are mixed into a very dense and pragmatic cocktail where everything is in its place.
Despite its very modest timing, the recording is very dense, and the songs in it are so deep that they seem boundless. The anthem of drunken solitude "Ledokol," the painful and hopeless "V tumanе," "Starost'," which beats on consciousness with its staccato as if it were a merciless second hand. It's very easy to dissolve in this recording and very difficult to get it out of your head afterward. It will pulsate there with existential questions to which almost no one has answers.

Zmicier Vaitsiushkevich 

«AKNO» 
 

This recording was released so quietly that almost no one knows about it. The musician simply left a link to the streaming on his Facebook page. Silently. Without comments. And this should be understood as part of the creative concept: listen to the music, it will speak for itself.
"Akno" is a project built on the verses of the poet Ales Ryazanov, who passed away in 2021. In Vaitsiushkevich's work, conceptual albums based on a monopoetic foundation occupy an important place: from Rafal Voiachek to Mayakovsky, from Borodulin to Neklyaev. And here is "Akno," a dedication to Ryazanov in the format of melodeclamation. Vaitsiushkevich fantastically works with poetry. With his voice, he can convey the subtlest and barely noticeable nuances, make the listener hear what is impossible to hear in the letters. This is a great talent - to live someone else's lines like this and then give them to people. Melodeclamation is a technique that works best in the "Akno" program. Zmiter Vaitsiushkevich reads piercingly and emotionally, tenderly and selflessly, while WZ-Orkiestra wonderfully complements this poetic audio spectacle. The arrangements in the album are rich but do not interfere with the performer. On the contrary, they delicately play with the voice and help create the desired mood, underline very subtle nuances, and make "Akno" a journey into the magical world of Ales Ryazanov's poetry.

Palina

«Ни берега, ни дна» 

Palina (Polina Poloneichik) has undergone a fantastic transformation from the near-bard tradition to a fashionable and contemporary electronic trend. The singer has changed significantly - both in appearance and creatively. Only the textual component remains fixed at the level of teenage fiction necessary for pop music.

Gradually, the singer has changed her toolkit and approach to writing music. She independently mastered all the necessary tools and thus gained creative independence: she is responsible for the process at all levels, and in this case, the approach works excellently.

"Ni berega, ni dna" is a very diverse work, which includes acoustic love lyrics, lively tracks based on the bass line, and minimalist electronic pieces. However, all the eclecticism of the recording naturally fits into the overall concept, as Palina brilliantly works as a vocalist and creates an accurate vibe with informative yet diverse intonations.

The only unnatural aspect of this album is perhaps its bilingualism, revealing a pragmatic model of track listing formation. Palina is fluent in the Belarusian language but hesitates to return to a fully Belarusian-language program and compromises with the mass audience. This is a difficult choice for the author, encapsulated in a sauce of contexts and a state where one risks losing their true taste.

It is worth noting the final composition "Chuzhaya zhizn" - a bright trip-hop masterpiece with which Palina paves a new path in her creativity. It's very interesting to see where it will lead the singer.
 

 

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