K – Lumi (2015)

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You would be forgiven for thinking that Lumi is a record focused on light and its display, but Russian artist Ivan Kamaldinov, or K, instead named his third LP after the word for snow in his mother tongue, appropriate enough given the muffled, minimalistic and quiet expanses that are invoked within the walls of this release. Spanning over an hour’s worth of material in 6 pieces, Lumi hints at influences like Koner, Eno and Biosphere in its scarce constructions.

The only track to really defy the minimalism is the jangling and fragmented opener “One”, expanding warm drone lines and soft vocal currents on stuttering record fuzz and scuzzed synth intrusions, the glittering darkness of night slowly making way for a new day in which the newly illuminated world finds itself bathed in a dusting of this icy and transformative precipitation. A campfire’s lit in “Two” and the Biosphere comparisons become more apt as the music descends into haunting and glitteringly cool movements of thin and light drones supplemented by the slow crackle of the fire, the pristine silence and cool air broken only by the burning wood as we sit in contemplative quietness. This lightness and fascination continues in “Three” also, its prismatic slivers of reflective synth beams and chugging electronica rotate increasingly, like some machine just powering up, eventually smearing into a thick and luxurious drone cruise, fully awake and in control of its faculties in all its shimmering splendour.

The remaining three pieces comprise the bulk of the album within their runtime and definitely have a slightly different and more carefully plotted air to them than the others, their elongate durations affording them time for expansion and evolution and Ivan plays them out beautifully. “Three and a Half” sees its predecessor collapse into abyssal depths of introspection, issuing pulses of tidal drone that slowly grow into frayed and grainy waves of more empowered sound nearer its terminator but never really rising much above the background, its repetitive structures failing to impress their thin emotional imprint on us, washed out by the suffocating stillness. “Four” is even more sparse, the dead air barely retaining any sense of melody in its early moments with only faint, homely creaking and fumblings creeping out of the mix. Slowly, imperceptibly, it rises up into more present and substantial sequences as the haunting synths gain a slight foothold but again, their impression is slight and faint, as though they call from some far distant and untouchable place, a shimmering mirage of sound that never seems to get any closer, some unreachable emotional space being aspired to.

“Five” arrives at last to see us out, to get us away from these unhelpful and boggy introspections that the still weather and dampening slow has burdened us with. While it initially carries some of the remnant darkness and melancholic vibes of its fellows, it quickly makes it known that it means to do away with them, reversing its synth tones to roll back the clock, sending its oscillating electronica out to shake away the fugue and push away these thoughts with light and airy fragile drone movements. It’s the loudest and boldest we hear from the album, struggling its way through the mire it set itself in but ultimately finding peace within itself.

It’s a difficult one to come to terms with; on the one hand it’s beautifully executed and the evolutions are very precise and imperceptible, tracks slowly gaining footholds and gaining the minutest traction across their spans, but the thin, sometimes repetitious atmospheres can leave a little to be desired sometimes, a little conciseness could go a long way even if the length does suit the theme. I don’t know, today I like this a lot and think it’s got an admirable delicacy and minimalism to it, yesterday I thought it was overlong and unemotive; it seems to work best when you just allow it to unfurl on its own and don’t peek too closely at its interior workings, since it leaves a little to be desired.

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