Svitlana Nianio & Oleksandr Yurchenko Znayesh – Yak? Rozkazhy LP
Svitlana Nainio and Oleksandr Yurchenko are musicians with a long history in the still-mysterious Kiev Underground. Nainio’s first group Cukor Bima Smert [Sugar, The White Death] were active in the late 80s before Nainio’s solo record was released in 1992. Her work centers around deconstructed, minimal treatments of Ukrainian folk music and the palette of Eastern European harmony and rhythm. Oleksandr Yurchenko, a longtime collaborator and a pivotal figure in the Kiev music scene, was instrumental in creating the Novaya Scena, a loose conglomerate of artists who encouraged eachother to excavate both the sounds of the west and Ukrainian tradition. ‘Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhi’ (‘Know How? Tell Me’) is the duo’s most fully realised collaboration, an enchanting, complete world informed by Yurchenko’s instrumentation and playfulness with form and how it frames Nainio’s otherworldly soprano, recalling Liz Fraser steeped in contrapuntal melody and hymnal improvisation …. Originally released in 1996, this is the debut release of Znayesh Yak? Roxkazhi outside of Ukraine and a follow up to Lisova Kolekciya, re-issued by Skire in 2017.
Recorded in an abandoned park in Kiev during a fertile period for artists and musicians following the collapse of the Soviet Union, ‘Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhi’ sees Nianio and Yurchenko combine Casio keyboard, hammered dulcimer, percussion, and Nainio’s unmistakeable soprano vocalisations to create music sympathetic to the specific locations in which they chose to record. Yurchenko’s contribution is perhaps more present on this recording than anything else we have heard from the duo. His percussive dulcimer playing provides the basis on which Nianio can weave delicate keyboard lines while playfully contorting her voice, shifting from a low register reminiscent of Nico to what could be the call of a bird or an animal in distress. Whatever the intent, the effect is haunting and beautiful in equal measure.
Nainio’s unique, unmistakeable vocal rings true here, weaving through the interlocking rhythmic patterns conjured by Yurchenko. There’s prevailing earthiness on the recordings, found in the warm hiss of the lo fi means of recording or the grinding, unspecified sounds that occasionally accompany the melody, like drones created on the fly by hands trying to keep warm in the ice. A prevailing mood of fragility and beauty seeps from these melodies, delicate moments of clarity spun by the two musicians. Znayesh Yak. Rozkazhi? is a dream spun in twilight, a crystalline, private world the listener feels both alien and welcome.