“Dmitry Evgrafov returns with his fourth career album and third for FatCat’s 130701 imprint (Max Richter, Johann Johannsson, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka). His most accomplished work to date, ‘Surrender’ is a broad and dramatic record that expands the Moscow-based artist’s palette and reaches beyond the usual post-classical range. Revealing an ambitious scope across the twelve-track span, it is bold in conception and beautifully recorded. With Dmitry playing piano, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, bass guitar and synths and including sessions with an eight-piece string orchestra, a drummer and contributions from several instrumentalist peers, ‘Surrender’ was mixed and mastered by Martyn Heyne at Lichte Studio in Berlin.”
The next release on 130701 is the latest from Russian artist Dmitry Evgrafov, “Surrender”. From it’s inception in 2001 up until the hiatus from 2012-15 the label was responsible for the likes of Dustin O’Halloran, Johann Johannsson, Max Richter, Hauschka and Sylvain Chauveau becoming established artists. After a failed partnership and some time to dust themselves off and lick their wounds, the label set about re-establishing themselves as a force within a scene in which they have a large responsibility in shining a light on. However, they had lost all their artists in that time, so 2015 was in fact a new year zero for them and they set about creating a new roster of artists and fostering the next wave of talent. Names like Resina, Ian William Craig, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, Shida Shahabi and more recently Clarice Jensen came to be new core roster. One artist that has been with the label since this re-boot is Dmitry Evgrafov who opened his 130701 career with 2015’s “Collage” and has followed this on with the “Quiet Observation” EP (2017) and the “Comprehension Of Light” album (2017, plus the Digital “Znanie” single) for the label.
On “Surrender” Dmitry is joined on the album by Ruslan Gadzhimuradov (drums/percussion), Memotone (guzheng on ‘Stymie’), Aukai (ronroco on ‘Endless’) and Heinali (piano on ‘Anthropocene’). Several tracks utilise the richness of an eight-piece string section (four violins, two violas and two cellos) from Moscow’s Opensound Orchestra, who were recorded by Mikhail Ogonkov at Bashnya Studio in St. Petersburg, with drums recorded by Anton Malinen at Moscow’s Cinelab. Almost all of the other material was recorded at home, and the album was co-produced by Dmitry’s wife Vika Bogorodskaya. From what I can gather the process of composing the album and it’s recording involved pushing boundaries and experimenting in sound techniques. After all Evgrafov has a degree in Sound Design and is co-founder of the mobile app company Endel which creates “personalised ambient soundscapes that generate responsive music in real time.” Not to mention that he also has a history in film scores for productions like “Skinless”, “Little Bird” and “Shadow Boxers”.
Getting a handle on the music of “Surrender” is not a straight forward and simple sort of thing. If you approach the album simply as a Modern or Post Classical one you will be missing the big picture. Indeed the album feels like several releases within one. There are pieces that easily fit that Modern Classical bill like “Whirl” or “Humble in The Heart”, but then there are not totally pure. For this album Evgrafov opens up his music and the possibilities of just where it may lead to. As he says “I surrendered to letting people into the sacred space of my musical processes; I surrendered to allowing them to help me; I surrendered to the fact that musically I cannot bite off more than I can chew, and that instead of trying to wrench the masterpiece out of me, it is better to just let the music flow through me and accept that it’s okay if it’s not as perfect as I wanted it to be. I surrendered to new approaches and ways of music creation.” On “Context” he ventures into pure electronic moods with the closest comparison that I can come up with being Amon Tobin and his use of unconventional sounds in the electronica sphere.
The opening duo of “Splinter” and “Sparkle” draw in the listener with propulsive full band like pieces that verge on Folk and Jazz at some points. The two pieces stand alone in comparison to the rest of the pieces on the album, but you get the feeling that as they are a self contained duo, they fulfil as much of what Evgrafov is mentioning in the quote above to the rest of the album. One of many possibilities. Following the glitchiness of “Context”, Evgrafov explores more ambient orientated terrain on “Anthropocene” and “Stymie”, still maintaining an unsettling edge on “Anthropocene” and one that is more experimental on “Stymie”, although the use of guzheng (a Chinese zither) adds a small amount of beauty to the piece. The music takes flight once more with the previously mentioned “Humble In The Heart” which is as close to the opening pieces, while still being far away enough sonically to inhabit it’s own sphere. What it does show though is that when the intensity increases so to does the interest in the music. It would be quite easy for it it to be more traditional in it’s sound, but the fractured soundscapes that flow over and around it, paired with the more propulsive percussive elements really makes the piece shine.
Of the final five pieces four of them could well form an EP, such is the similar nature to them. “A Rural Song”, “N.510”, “Sirene Air” and “Far and Close” tap into the more minimal and ambient filled sound. Evgrafov flips on his more propulsive pieces and strips them back to the bare bones allowing space to creep into the pieces. The emotion of the pieces are quite different to those that preceded them. Gone are the exuberant and expressive nature, replaced with one which is more internalised, fragile and personal. The changes with which these pieces have and indeed as the album as a whole feels like it’s divided into sections or themes, comes back to as Evgrafov states that “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”. As much as he has surrendered to the possibility of people coming into his space of creativity, the artist wants the listener to be open to the various directions that the music way twist and turn on the journey. After all, travelling down the same worn out path that you were expecting will not challenge you as a listener and the reward of the album would not be as great. “Surrender” is more than just an album title, it’s almost an instruction to the listener. What also needs to be instructed is time. Take the time to listen deeply and absorb the music
“Surrender” is available from July 31st on LP and Digital and can be pre-ordered now.