The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Johny Lamb , July 26th, 2021 07:58

Johny Lamb finds deft beauty in an album of ambient driftworks by Yekaterinburg's Metra.Vestlud

∞ is, as far as I can tell, the fifth album by Russian electronic artist Metra.Vestlud (Artem Dultsev), released on the new(ish) Kofla Tapes label, and is a record that seems to be primarily inspired by the experience of becoming a father. Which is, as sentimental as it is, a quite lovely thing to work with. But, in the realm of PR, this narrative has got in the way a bit. The press release waxes on this theme as though a preternatural serendipity brings things together between artist and label in a hitherto improbable fashion that is both irksome and tells us nothing whatsoever about the music.

On a different day, I might have left this alone, but I’m glad I didn’t.

There’s a lot to enjoy here. I do have one more small complaint though, the project is claimed to be a “protest against the standard principles of sound recording and musical theory”, yet this is tempered tuning, recognisable modes and scales, fairly standard harmonic textures, recognisable intervals, and even pretty basic cadences. Pierre Schaeffer he most certainly is not (at least not on this record). Dultsev doesn’t need to claim this kind of experimentalism here, as what he has done is of a standard that stands up on its own terms.

What we actually have is a shimmering and warm collection of ambient drone-based pieces that form the bedrock of his emotional state. It’s an intuitive process where he works primarily with major keys and allows pretty melodic gestures to work within a brightly woven tapestry of textured backdrops. ‘Heterochromic Flowers’ does this really well, I think, where the melodic contour walks downwards between the fifth and third, giving a feeling not unlike watching the closing of a flower.

If there is a resistance to standard compositional or theoretical methods, then it is probably rhythmic. While at face value, tempos seem fairly uncomplicated within musical phrases, what surrounds is not tethered to the grid and the work unfolds at multiple paces for a rich and organic experience. And it is at the interstices of these sounds that the album is at its best because it actually allows in moments of near dissonance and even atonality. I for one, would love to hear these elements of his output privileged over the melodies and more purposefully explored. I like these parts of his music the most, the unsynchronised delays in ‘Spring Walks in the Bird Park’ or the changing speed of tremolo sounds in ‘Birth Awareness Swirls in the Air’. Dultsev displays a really deft touch here and it is these elements of the music that start to build a rich and beautiful world that seems to belong to the natural world in some way.

This is an appropriately sentimental album, given his preoccupation with impending fatherhood, which for some may feel a little saccharine. But if you do invest some time here, and don’t mind the odd detour into the New Age end of the scale, you’ll find it an ultimately rewarding collection from an artist with a great deal of potential.