Chikiss New Season

[Not Not Fun; 2017]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: ambient, synth, spacey
Others: Galina Ozeran, Arm Author, Антон Гурьевский

In a 2015 interview TMT did with Galina Ozeran, she spoke of making music that was “a reflection of all the changes, what’s happened in my life for the last year, though not so much in the text, rather in the atmosphere of the music.” While writers and labels often highlight an artist’s personal life for you to understand and relate to the music, Chikiss uses the experience of losing her voice as “a deep subtext” to New Season. With or without knowledge of her episode, the “atmosphere of music” envelops the listener in a fog of melancholy and loneliness, with solitary keyboard riffs, processed vocals, and sparse electric percussion exposing a rich, emotional listen.

From the opening quakes of “Postup’u Vesni,” New Season sounds like a dispatch from an unmarked celestial corner. Chikiss occupies a world that’s powered only by her sounds, as each solitary synth line gives flickering hints of light amidst narcotic stretches of darkness, with one such moment of clarity being early highlight “Desire.” The metronome-like rhythm gives way to Chikiss’s vocals humming the melody and searching for words until everything’s layered to the point of beautiful incomprehensibility. Elsewhere, on the eight-minute low-key freakout “World of Specters,” a looped synth foundation keeps jolting key stabs and glacial percussive snaps from crumbling apart. On “Specters,” and much of the first half of New Season, Chikiss’s vocals act not as a lead instrument, but as a warped texture among many. It’s an unsettling yet fascinating place to be. You never quite know where it’s going or whether the whole thing will fall apart.

After the the sparse, plinkering piano near the end of “Heaven Is Within Us,” which reveals a human core within its icy, distant exterior, we arrive at the one-two punch of “Tri Dnya” and “Baby, Bye” (a reworked version that originally appeared on She Knows). These tracks stand as the focal point of New Season, tethering the loose synth explorations that came before it from flying off into the ether. “Tri Dnya” (loosely translated as “Three Days”) is a brief yet powerful ballad, sung in Chikiss’s native Russian and accompanied by electronic organ, that moves you to the core, if only for a fleeting moment. With the fog of previous tracks lifting, this is the clearest we hear her voice, and without knowing what the words mean, our visceral response to this raw, swirling track is highlighted. “Baby, Bye,” meanwhile, complements “Tri Dnya” with robotic, lullaby-like vocals, as the lyric “Baby, I love you” gently eases the listener back into the dark synth world that makes New Season such a compelling listen.

With the closing snippet “Echo of Rave,” New Season ends where it began: distant pulses of rhythm, gorgeous whispered vocals, and the feeling that you’re alone again in an uncanny space.

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