Editor's Rating

The Russian composer's third for FatCat's boutique 130701 imprint shifts from orchestral post-classical to improvisation, glitch, and even systems-generated elements; it's beautiful, but dinner party music this is not

8.5

FATCAT’S boutique 130701 imprint is neck and neck with Erased Tapes as the stable of the sometimes rarified, always immensely listenable world of modern- and post-classical; especially the piano-based end of the colour wheel, the arena from which Dmitry Evfragov springs, and at which imprint he releases among the esteemed company of Max Richter, Johann Johannsson, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka. 

His third for the label, Surrender, which is released this Friday, July 31st, sets out its stall very much within the standard trammelling of post-classical, before sleekly shifting it out and into more experimental climes.

Openers “Splinter” and “Sparkle” lift from insistent piano arpeggios into more expansive string octet textures, courtesy Moscow’s Opensound Orchestra; both have a darker bass undertow. “Splinter” seems to lift its percussive pattern from modern breaks; “Sparkle” has an almost mechanical staccato underpinning, yet at the same time, an effortless glide. “Whirl” is a nugget of impressionistic, Satiesque dusk. Cool. So far, so extremely pretty. 

It’s on the triptych “Context”/“Anthropocene”/”Stymie” that Dmitry’s vision really begins to flower. The first of the three is all dark, atonal glitch, which could easily find a release on ~Scape or a home on a Future Sound of London album. 

“Anthropocene” marries a Stars of the Lid-style drone shimmer to the most primal of bass-clef growling and fracturing, before sequencer chatter and distant chimes temper the rawness just a little and it all decays into piano profundity; “Stymie” is bleak and Far Eastern, deploying one of the world’s oldest instruments, a guzheng – a type of zither. The fracture and freedom is quite Talk Talk, until the advance into the mix of what may or not be speech: in fact, a computer going through phases resembling a child’s speech development, deploying the circuitry of a neural network: sounds, letters, words, sentences. It’s fascinating; it’s eerie. 

Dmitry Evgrafov, photographed by Vika Bogorodoskaya 

He says of this trio of tracks that they are “a musical vision of the realization that, perhaps, human development has come too far and lost itself … have we reached the point where we don’t know anymore what to do with the momentum and all the tools and instruments that the human brain created?” 

Phew. “Humble in the Heart” sheds a little light, retreating to calmer waters. “A Rural Song” does indeed have the feel of a lachrymose folk melody. “N.510” plays out down at the left-hand side of the keys, and has a slightly prepared texture. 

“Endless” is another experimental peak on the album.  The central motif, freakishly, is a generative, self-playing patch (Dmitry is head of sound design at Endel, an app making personalised ambient soundscapes that generate responsive music in real time, which has signed a 20-album deal with Warner’s). A calm filigree of ronroco – an Andean lute, provides a gentle, plucked web over bell glissando. There’s no hint of supposed sterility in the algorithm, which wraps and weaves like bindweed around the acoustic instrumentation.

The title of the set, Surrender, encapsulates Dmitry’s approach to the creation of these 12 tracks: “I surrendered to letting people into the sacred space of my musical processes; I surrendered to allowing them to help me; I surrendered to the fact that musically I cannot bite off more than I can chew, and that instead of trying to wrench the masterpiece out of me, it is better to just let the music flow through me and accept that it’s okay if it’s not as perfect as I wanted it to be.”

There’s a saying in the jazz world that an accomplished player can play both inside and outside the pocket; that is, he or she is as comfortable with the normal demands of melody and structure as they are exploring somewhere new, somewhere riskier. Dmitry Evgrafov has this. And at 27 years of age, we can expect so much more sonic creativity to flow from him. 

Surrender will be released by 130701 on July 31st on digital and vinyl formats; at the time of writing, the vinyl shipping date is dependent on coronavirus restrictions. To pre-order, visit http://130701.com/release/surrender/