New East Digital Archive

Listen to our playlist of music produced in quarantine to get you through (another) lockdown

Listen to our playlist of music produced in quarantine to get you through (another) lockdown

Covid-19 has caused big problems. But it’s also sparked great music.

7 January 2021
Text: Alisa Mullen
Top Photo: Max Ambio

When Covid-19 hit Ukraine, the government shuttered clubs and bars in a bid to stop its spread. What officials didn’t do, however, was provide financial support for an industry facing crisis. Faced with the threat of closure, some of the country’s best-loved music establishments got creative, forging event formats to bypass restrictions across the summer. Clubs such a Closer began to organise weekday events on behalf of its restaurant, Savage Food, with a soundtrack of experimental electronica, hip-hop, and ambient. Day parties began to spiral as a concept, starting around 16:00 and ended at 22:00 due to curfews.

Others embraced illegal raves. Using encrypted apps such a Telegram, promoters sent messages to pre-registered ravers with location details. If police arrived, some organisers would “come to an agreement” with officers, force party-goers to hide, or simply wouldn’t open their doors.

Read more How DJ-pioneers are creating space for electronic music in Transnistria

But Covid’s second wave also triggered a growing list of restrictions, with closer monitoring and rule-breaking events shut down with additional fines. It is a similar story across Eastern Europe, with many DJs have been left without work and without state support. Many have been forced to find new work. Others look for other outlets for their passion. DJ Ilya Frolov — aka DJ Omlet — plays sets in downtown Kyiv every weekend, giving out food to passers-by for free. “It’s not my new profession or a means of earning money, but it’s a way for me to continue my work and while keeping on the right side of the law,” he says. “It’s probably better than doing events for me right now.”

This upheaval hasn’t just impacted the industry, but also the music getting made. In October 2020 Philipp Gorbachev released his EP Nichego Ne Ponyal, which he presented as an ode to lockdown. He produced the EP in his apartment while the video and artwork were symbolically filmed using FaceTime by photographer Nick Gavrylov.

The ambient and otherworldly The Water Bubble Floating In Space by Vera Logdanidi was written within one evening: the first day of lockdown in Ukraine: “Everyone locked themselves at home; no one went to work,” Logdanidi told The Calvert Journal. “Burglars took advantage of that situation to try and rob our studio. Miraculously, someone scared them away [before they could steal anything], but all the studio equipment had to be urgently transported to my tiny apartment. I was literally stepping over synthesizers, with 12-inch monitors blocking out almost all the light from the window. In this chaotic atmosphere, a track was born.”

In our new compilation, we’re celebrating the tracks made in quarantine period by Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian producers while unable to perform. Filled with experimental sounds, it ranges from anxious ambient and deep atmospheric breakbeat, to bright minimal house and industrial techno.

Sunchase’s track “Night Drive” is about late evening car rides in an empty city, while David Mayborod’s “Vroda” is a political plea dedicated to pro-democracy protests in Belarus. Radiant Futur told us that this track was written in one of the June’s 2020 evenings. There was a mixed feeling of uncertainty and summer sentiment, and yet it felt like the world had become so fragile overnight. “What could I contrast here — to stay on the most positive wavelength. So I decided to convey this mood and recorded this track”.

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