In The Labyrinth: Dyatly

Ole Lukkoye – Dyatly

The first time I heard Ole Lukkoye was in 1997 or 98, when I discovered their song “Children” as part of the space rock/psych compilation called Floralia, volume 2, released by an obscure Italian indie label ON/OFF. Although this album was littered with highly imaginative and original tracks from artists all over the world, “Children” stood out as something most extraordinary and did actually have quite an impact on my own music with In the Labyrinth for many years to come. This same song also appeared a few years ago on TRAIL RECORDS’ sampler Space Travel 2007-2014, albeit bearing the title “Deti,” which means “children” in Russian.

And now TRAIL RECORDS has followed up their magnificent Ole Lukkoye compilation Petroglyphs (released by TRAIL in 2010) with this latest simply breathtaking effort – the album Dyatly, (both albums issued in a beautifully designed digipack with an almost timeless graphic quality). Since 1993, Ole Lukkoye has released numerous CD albums, both live and studio recordings. As well, they are known to have toured quite extensively in various European countries, mainly in Germany and Norway, but also, of course, in Russia.

Boris Bardash is inarguably the predominant force behind Ole Lukkoye. Boris knows exactly how to balance on the fine edge between native ritual traditions – such as shamanism – and more contemporary musical forms, where the rock element enhanced by modern studio technique, is the main driving force. But there is also an Oriental vein in it, somewhere with a tendency towards the Middle-East and, occasionally, an even traditional or classical Russian influence; which isn’t so strange considering the group is from Saint Petersburg, Russia.

After having done some research on Ole Lukkoye, it’s clear to me that Boris as well as some of the other members’ interest in archeology in and around Central Asia has affected their music; though the result is far from archeological, as far as the final result goes – since these songs nearly always tend to explode into the wild rhythmic drumming which would beat the daylight out of most rave parties, even in Goa!

Obviously, the lyrics used in these songs are both in Russian but also sometimes in a made-up language of supposedly Siberian or central Asian origin. On top of it, there is some throat singing, executed immaculately in the best Tuvan traditions.

Compared with earlier productions, I get the impression that Ole Lukkoye wanted to venture even further away from any obvious rock elements by reaching deeper into the spiritual world and by evoking trance-like atmospheres. They rarely depart from the rhythmic structure or the key of a song, preferring to build up arrangements based on combinations of both acoustic and electronic instruments instead. As with both Toomze, Petroglyphs, and the song “Deti,” the raw trance-like rhythm predominates the soundscape. However, with Dyatly, the female singer Ness Yanushkovskaya has been given a more prominent role than before, which greatly enhances that Siberian flavor – an essential part of Ole Lukkoye’s expression. I also love Frol’s way of handling his instruments by adding to the songs’ treatment with his bassoon and keyboards. The percussion, which among others, include darabouka and the ever so essential African djembe and drums (on one or two tracks) are treated by Yuri Lukyanehik. Then there is also Alexander Vahivski on dav (or daf, as I usually call this frame drum), jambi, ngoa and other exotic instruments. Last, but not least, there is a vocal loop by Tatyana Kalmykova on the closing track.

Obviously, Boris has changed his line-up quite considerably over the years; yet he impeccably retained the essence of Ole Lukkoye’s sound, while his own voice – or his way of singing – has deepened even further. So, congratulations to Boris for keeping it together and for coming up with this cohesive and homogeneous album that manages to depart from all given music categories and escape light years away from what is regarded as “mainstream rock!” However, “thumbs up” is also due to the entire band for managing to retain their ‘live’ sound so well and for not overdoing it in the studio. This also applies to the great engineering work of Denis Smirnov in Novosibirsk, Yevgeny Turuta in Saint Petersburg, and Boris himself (for being partly responsible for the mix-down). And let us not forget to salute George Dugan, who gave the album its final touch by performing his mastering wizardry!

Now onto a brief reflection of each song on the album! The first song, “Kommuna Ra,” is perhaps the track that weaved itself the fastest into my mind, with its fine mystical melody so typical of Bardash’s writing. In the same way as with all other songs on the album (except for the closing track) this track clocks in at over 14 minutes long. It begins with an agonized plaintive howl of a wolf out in the wilderness, after which a raw bass drum with darabouka picks up on a 6 to 8 signature, accompanied by vocals from both Boris and Ness. It moves with sparsely played fizzling synthesizers along with Frol’s enigmatic, twisting and rolling fill-ins on bassoon. There is an occasional Russian accordion in it too, with a few sparkling notes of a distorted electric guitar, everything overlayered with multiple tap echoes for a more spacious sound. The passage towards the end is especially convincing, when it reaches a climax without ever becoming bombastic; whereupon it all closes in quite an unexpected way.

The second song is the title track of the album, under the name of “Dyatly,” which means “woodpeckers” in Russian. It runs at a slightly faster pace than the first song, while the basic rhythm appears to build on a more traditional Arabian pattern than its predecessor. The vocals delivered by both singers sound haunting and ominous, with a touch of witch craft or dark sorcery. The arrangement is unusually sparse on this one – a driving bass line along with the drums and what sounds like a hang, especially towards the end of the song. Wind instruments are presented in short echoing blasts, a bit of guitar here and there and strange fluttering synthesizers, playfully mimicking woodpeckers scurrying around among the tree crowns of the Siberian Taiga, the way I hear it.

Track No 3 is the formidably well-crafted “Bela Dama,” which is among my favorite songs of the album, with its combination of diverse percussive instruments and drums and an eerie sound of what appears to be a processed Persian santoor. The magical voice of Ness is presented both in its natural form and via numerous processed variations. The part I find most captivating is at the beginning of the song where, amidst the soft splashing of waves, Ness’ voice is accompanied by that same exotic string instrument (santoor?) and something of a cow horn played in the most haunting way by the master of woodwinds, Frol.

Track No 4, called “Just the Wind,” takes over seamlessly from No 3, starting with some far out handling of keyboards and heavily distorted voices of varying kinds, all conjuring up the feel of black magic and dark brooding times that lay ahead. Lyric wise, this song apparently picks up from Pushkin’s poem “The Prisoner,” along with the enigmatic chanting of Ness. The rhythm of this track is so trance-like, and the production so airy and wide, that one could almost get a sensation of flying through space while looking down upon an industrial wasteland, reminiscent of Andrey Tarkovsky’s “Stalker,” leaving listeners in a paranormal state of mind with no boundaries or limitations. Perhaps this is the one track that slightly draws my attention to Industrial Ambient, with its huge metallic echo on the drums. Apart from that – it is (as everything made by Ole Lukkoye) completely unique!

“Veni, Vidi, Vici” is the closing track of the album, and as such, serves to simmer things down and leave the wild drumming behind. As with “Bela Dama” and “Just the Wind” there is no break between the tracks, so the dream just flows on, creating an ethereal and otherworldly expression, so characteristic of Ole Lukkoye. On this last track, Tatyana Kalmykova’s voice has been added as a loop upon which Boris supplies his own vocals. Along with it there are sounds of running water coupled with strange reverted keyboards and other effects that give off an unsettling atmosphere, which supports the slightly dissonant plaintive notes delivered by Tatyana as she relentlessly casts her spell upon the audience.

Lastly, I would like to say that it would be nice if this band were to come and perform in Sweden someday. I would love to attend their show, as I am a sincere fan and a big admirer of their music! Five stars to this amazing new – and yet so ancient-sounding – album!

Peter Lindahl, 12/May, 2015