X.Y.R - Aquarealms [Not No Fun - 2022]
What is it about the parallels between the sound of water and the voltage-controlled synthesizer? They seem made for one another: liquid, crystalline, and prone to shimmer. In painting, you have to conjure light through contrast and sleight of hand, but with the synthesizer, at least as Vladimir Karpov (aka X.Y.R.) uses it, light comes readymade.
The opening track to X.Y.R.’s latest release, Aquarealms, could have served as the soundtrack to the mesmerizing opening shot of fellow countryman Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972) – reeds passively swaying beneath a diaphanous blue water. The effect of this scene is akin to the mood that Karpov conjures: gentle, warm, and uncanny, without ever turning over into kitsch.
The abstract ambience of Aquarealm takes us on a journey underwater, sine waves substituting for actual waves amidst the graceful embrace of a deep sea. It’s incredibly easy to zone out to, letting the brilliantly orchestrated synth washes take over, with the occasional dispersal of pulses and clicks. Aquarealm’s fifth track, “oxygen waltz,” is the most rhythmically charged, enticing us to groove through the depths of Karpov’s fictional sea.
This is for fans of soft, ambient synth drifts, not unlike Keith Fullerton Whitman’s magisterial Playthroughs (2002). But make sure to take a deep breath before you dive into the aqua realm. Water is in us, around us, and surely full of strange worlds we do not know. Colin Lang