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Music

Kate NV Presents Urban Moscow As Marked by Silence and Hushed Humanity on 'для FOR'

Photo: Jenia Filatova / Courtesy of RVNG Intl.

Kate NV paints with weighty droplets, globs of synthesizer notes that evoke vintage Sesame Street segments and dilapidated music boxes even as their minimalism gives them a purely modern quality.

для FOR
Kate NV

RVNG Intl.

22 June 18

When Moscow-based artist Kate NV last released an album - 2016's Binasu - it was a tribute to retro Japanese pop, pulling golden-age-of-Tokyo-inspired beats and synths into the 21st century: indulgent, laid-back future funk for modern escapists.

New project для FOR shows us a different side of NV. She strips away the gloss and calculated exuberance, and in its place offers music to consider. NV paints with weighty droplets, globs of synthesizer notes that evoke vintage Sesame Street segments and dilapidated music boxes even as their minimalism gives them a purely modern quality. It makes for an uncanny feel to the album's ten tracks, a stripped-down version of Boards of Canada-style constructed nostalgia: для FOR is meant to remind you of something, but not necessarily anything you actually experienced.

The Japanese influences that informed Binasu still linger on для FOR, but not in the same billowing layers. Instead, they are subtle, intertwined with the observations NV's music makes of her own city, boiled down into sonic elements both basic and artificial, floating in empty orbit, but painstakingly ordered to maximize the impact of every single note. So composed, the music sounds almost alien, colored with a sense of detachment. If urban Tokyo inspired NV to fill Binasu with a sense of life and light, she presents urban Moscow as marked by silence, humanity hushed against a backdrop of sparing mechanical noise.

Negative space ends up being the primary charm of для FOR. Teetering on the border of eerie and sweet, the album somehow comes together, a cohesive tribute to grayer environs not often captured in music. It helps that closing track "кто WHO" wraps up the entire album with an ethereal resonance and a hint of birdsong, the clouds clearing at last. Even the subdued beginning of the album, though, has heart to it, and, upon a close listen, masterful textural complexity made almost inaudible - purposefully so. NV's philosophy on для FOR seems to be that people will listen more closely if you speak softly enough.

As opening track "YXO EAR" begins, gentle foreground notes conceal a whole world of even quieter backing effects. More urgent tracks follow: "двA TWO" and "дуб OAK" lend woodsy xylophone sounds to the mix, and though they raise the stakes with driving melodies and denser textures, they ultimately maintain a lower volume. "как HOW" returns the album to a reflective place with soothing drones rolling at the pace of deep breaths. The climax builds steadily and still seems to come out of nowhere, all the sounds peaking and then collapsing in a percussive pile. NV's vocals on "вас YOU" offer an intimacy and a new element to tweak and distort among the synths. The next four tracks are largely new twists on the same styles until "кто WHO" closes the work.

It takes a close and discerning listen to pull apart the ways in which для FOR shows Kate NV's genius, but the time spent to do so is worthwhile. Round and smooth, each song has a simple aural sensuality that makes even a surface-level assessment pleasing, but understanding the variety inherent in the patterns NV allows for an even more satisfying experience passing through the sphere she has created, looking through her very specific lens on life in Moscow.

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