Aleksei Nikitin, better known as Nocow, understands this feeling all too well. And you need not have any knowledge about his background to work this out – the St. Petersburg-based producer sums up this state of mind categorically in his latest full-length on Gost Zvuk Records.
Stylistically complex albums can be difficult to pull off. Ledyanoy Album – roughly translated as ‘Album Made Of Ice’ – spans house, techno, experimental, ambient and everything in between, but it continues to ask why this can’t be the case, when one pervading mood so cleverly invites us to look upon the album as a whole.
That mood is melancholic; it’s at times narcotic, but most crucially, Nocow consistently hits one sweet spot across the album: an overarching sense of longing that melds these tracks together tightly. ‘Satew‘, one of the standout tracks, is case and point – its subtly forlorn bells provide a gloriously simple, melodic groove that could quite easily hook in a more discerning dancefloor. The whole thing feels smothered, and at arms length, yet at just over three minutes, you could double the track time without altering its potency.
Certain tracks here have similar purpose. ‘Alunogen’s‘ hi-tech jazz chords and dubbed-out atmospherics lean towards a Detroit techno aesthetic, but cut with Von Oswald-style science. And with a higher- than-expected BPM, the effectiveness only increases. Meanwhile, ‘Uskorenie’s‘ luminous pads provide a slightly more optimistic, utopian feel, and ‘Ryab‘ – a minute long electro-futurist interlude – is the sonic equivalent of sitting at a spacecraft control desk.
When they’re not in experimental mode, Gost releases tend to lean firmly on rhythmic elements as a main driving force. This release marks a clear break from that pattern – melody here, governs this record from start to finish. For all its kinetic energy, the emotional content is extremely high; think Moomin on Smallville Records, but with no consideration for genre boundaries whatsoever.
This template is not without its cheesier moments – ‘Tayut Ogni‘ feels a touch kitschy, yet in Nocow’s world this is very much permitted – a world where we let our emotions completely loose. The lack of emotional restraint allows for a dub-techno track like Inspector to be injected with an early Aphex Twin-style intelligence, and for it to work perfectly.
A tribute to winter can be clearly felt throughout, though there are periods that hint at the thawing of these sub-zero temperatures into spring. ‘Na Sever‘ provides this feeling very deftly: an uplifting sunshine of chord sequences, while ‘Tania Planet‘ maintains a frosty edge amongst a warm breeze of new-age pan-pipes. It’s the depth of feeling across these more downtempo moments that demonstrate just how much the Russian producer’s sound has developed since his previous release on the label. There’s a reason he was entrusted with Gost’s first ever record, and this outing further underlines that.