X.Y.R. - Labyrinth

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  • X.Y.R. stands for Xram Yedinennogo Razmuwlenuja, a name taken from Nikolai Gogol's 19th-century novel Dead Souls. It roughly translates as "Temple Of Solitary Thought," which is a fitting name for Vladimir Karpov's ambient project. The Russian artist's music—whether it feels uplifting, calming or unsettling—usually seems lonely. It might have something to do with his choice of equipment, which includes old Soviet-era synthesizers. The solitary nature of Karpov's music comes to bleak and depressing life on his latest album, Labyrinth. Labyrinth sounds as though it's been made with hardware on its last legs. Synth leads are often foggy or overdriven. From the moment you put on Labyrinth, it sounds worn—crackles surface on the beautiful "Arcana," which calls back to '70s synth records from the likes of Tangerine Dream or Popol Vuh. Karpov's music has mirage-like qualities. His synth melodies warble like bent guitar notes, while the melodies hang in the muggy air. On the creeping basslines and melting synth lines of "Vicious Circle," one of the album's highlights, gentle repetition distorts like a heat-hazed landscape. One of Labyrinth's unusual touches comes from the vocalist Tosya Chaikina, who sighs and sings wordlessly over two tracks. Her fleeting vocals add mystery and sadness to Karpov's music. They're gone as suddenly as they came, leaving only desiccated synth sounds that feel even more desolate than before. Karpov likes to draw things out. Even his rhythmic tracks seem still. Take the 11-minute closer, "Febribus"—despite its discrete drum beat, the percussion serves only to make it feel even more zoned-out as it builds, in its weary way, towards a sort-of climax. Many of Karpov's past releases, including his last tape for Not Not Fun, are typical of most new age music: peaceful, relaxing and a little mysterious. On Labyrinth, there's something sinister lurking underneath. The album seems meditative, but it finds sorrow instead of calm in repetition—the equivalent of fixating on a single negative thought rather than clearing your mind. While electronic music continues to explore music that instils feelings of calm, spirituality and self-improvement, Labyrinth shows the beauty of solitary sadness.
  • Tracklist
      01. Arcana 02. False Angel Lullaby 03. Vicious Circle 04. Labyrinth Of Reflections 05. Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors 06. Febribus