Kedr Livanskiy: Ariadna

She's the doyen of depressing, Russian dance-pop, but can she sustain the hype?

- Kedr Livanskiy is the performance name of Moscow electronic musician Yana Kedrina. The DIY beatsmaker has turned heads, quickly, with her homeschooled blend of cold, techno beats, melancholy Russian language vocals and reverb like a fog over the Moskva river.

The combo of beats and vocals that tiptoed down the line between pretty electropop and pretty unforgiving dance churned up comparisons to the likes of other DIY dance doyens: you know, Laurel Halo or Grimes. Like Grimes, Kedr is engaged in a process of self-improvement, taking those more or less broken echoes of pop divas and making them a little bit more real. Grimes is a fair bit further along in that process, but, on her first full-length, Ariadna, you can hear Kedr has been polishing up just what it is she does.

One of the great things about the way left-field alternative artists engage with technology, is that they can take synthesisers and software that they don’t really know how to use and, because of that, although they may be trying to recreate the sounds of their pop idols, they fail, but in failing create something weird and new and wonderful.

On the flipside, it’s a pet bugbear for me, when those same artists get a bit better at what they do -teach themselves to properly use their technology, get a bit of money and hook up with people who can provide the studio smarts that were previously unavailable to them- they’re able, much more accurately to mimic the sounds they were trying to make in the first place and in doing that, become bland and generic.

If you’ve heard any of Livanskiy’s work you won’t be surprised to learn that she’s been largely inspired by ambient techno, a-la Aphex Twin, at least on the electronics side of things. Her pop sensibilities are derived from listening to Russian knock-offs of a very broad range of Western bands: from The Cure to Joy Division and on back to Bowie. The problem with Ariadna is not that she now sounds too much like her influences, but that she’s toned down her personal excesses: the weird little ambient tangents, the hesitant, experimental beats and the strangely lo-fi production, they're all gone.

What’s left is cold, mysterious and icily stylish techno over which she sings in Russian. If you’ve heard one track you’ve heard nearly all of them. Your mileage may increase considerably if you speak Russian, I suppose. Livanskiy has been good enough to print the lyrics in both Cyrillic and English on her bandcamp, so there’s that - but, especially with her deadpan delivery, it hasn’t helped enough.

There are a couple of diversions, like Love & Cigarettes, which dumps the techno in favour of trap, but trap is so tired in itself it feels like a hollow gesture. There is one highly unexpected move and that’s the number ACDC. I have no idea why it would be called that, but what I can say of it is features English singer-songwriter, poet and otherwise cultish chap Martin Newell doing a reading of another English poet, in particular my favourite romantic fantasy nerd William Blake and his famous work, The Tyger. It seems a bit too obvious, really and Newell’s delivery is not inspiring. Livanskiy’s beats are, however, off the wall. She pounds out a ‘90’s rave anthem and then ups the ante further, launching into a UK garage beat. This is stuff that, generally, I love. Part of what I love about it, though, is how implicitly cheesy it is! After all the uniformly tasteful, Russian, techno wallpaper … this doesn’t feel right at all, it’s like they were trying to empty the club at six in the morning.

It really doesn’t help that the version of the record I have comes bundled with Kedr's previous January Sun EP as a bonus. The two compare quite unfavourably. A track or two at a time, Ariadna looks like Kedr has mastered her craft. As a full-length it’s what I said, a wallpaper sampler. Embrace those experimental urges Kedr Livanskiy, you’re better than this.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Ariadna
Artist: Kedr Livanskiy
Record Label: (2MR / Remote Control)