Five new helictites: Valiska is back
Calgary-based multi-instrumentalist, radio DJ and photographer Krzysztof Sujata aka Valiska is back with another quintet of gemstones which he subsequently gathers on an EP called Healer. Released in August 2016 on the artist's own label Bow Bottom Records which is currently reserved as an on-and-off platform for his material, Healer can be inquired and streamed at Valiska's Bandcamp page. Fuelled by the rubicund timbre of the Moog Sub 37 synthesizer, each composition prominently places this very instrument in its barycenter; it is being isolated, transformed, multiplied, altered and shock-frosted as the EP progresses, but magnanimous warmth and raptured tone sequences are equally audible and as strong a force. In addition, Healer is not a solo affair at all: at least four other musicians are involved in the process. Valiska lists Crystal Sujata, Sean Warkentine and Whitney Ota as his partners in crime (and sunshine), with the appearance of saxophonist/composer and AmbientExotica regular Phil Gardelis aka Zenjungle rounding off the roster. This review (my eighth Valiska review overall) serves both as an introduction to Sujata's aesthetics and a closer look at three constituents which are equally endemic amid this EP and prominent pericarps of Valiska's back catalog, at least to my ears; so here, then, goes everything.
Human Architecture Amidst Nature-Driven Warmth
Valiska's music follows an architectural structure driven by organic landscapes: 2012's sophisticated micrometry of 24 minutes called A Day As A Blade Of Grass as well as 2013's full-length album Shifts come to mind. At the same time, the ocassionally subdued but often primary feature of Sujata's compositions is based on the rectilineal counterpoints of human prowess: 2013's alkaloidal chem wonder Structure and 2014's introspective La Tourette, for instance, are short but very strong milestones. Throughout Healer, you can spot these organic waves and artificial tendencies incessantly, but with an interesting twist. In the center of attention, you'll find the analog low poly aesthetics of the Moog Sub 37 synthesizer. The presumption of Healer being an EP drawn by precision and iridescent shards isn't false per se; that is unless the layers of the main instrument multiply and mesh with female vocals. The opener Of Water next-to-literally radiates thermal haze and benthic fumes right with the very first majestic chord which will be analyzed further below, while the third track Suspension showcases an amalgamation of sound, sustain and silence in a setting that brings Valiska closer to the New Age movement as ever before. The helicoidal flute-evoking Moog pearls emanate time and again in front of a valley-like diorama where their ultramafic afterglow oozes into the positively crepuscular distance. Purposefully apocryphal — like all human endeavors — yet drowning in the wideness of nature: Healer reciprocates.
Valiska's music drowns in contemplation and focused observation, celebrating the innermost analysis as the primary focal point. The listening subject absorbs — and later adheres to — the structural movement, the reciprocation between sinewed flumes and harsher interim stages. The whole EP, meanwhile, does indeed feature that dualism time and again, but fittingly enough evokes its title by emphasizing the connotative qualities of its title. Of Water showcases the healing powers with pride, letting the listener feel right at home due to its benign shelter-like Moog mica which simmer like a sanctuary's airflow. Quite desiccated an aquatic-aeriform streamlet, the golden sounds mesh with female wordless vocals and the piercing iridescence of parallax sub themes. These constituents lessen the otherwise adiabatic standstill and turn it into an ebb-and-flow construction of the matutinal kind. The fourth track Through The Air, while decidedly more rotatory around its barocenter, injects similarly thermal coils amidst its glacial panorama, thus turning the remote locales into warmer zones or, more poetically, diaphanous cocoons which lose their petrifying state by becoming sun-lit abodes.
The Cautious Buzz
Buzzes, prongs and spikes filled with energy: these are the electrifying forces of the other side of Valiska's coin. Their occurrence is not unlike the purposefully violent outbursts you except from mid-90's IDM, but here, in these tranquil landscapes filled with serene aureoles, the caustic cracks and overdriven vicissitudes are mere shadows from the past. Nevertheless: they are the potentially antagonistic counterpoints which ennoble the work, functioning as cataracts and cascades which intertwine with the calm. Even the most beatific section is eventually greeted with nuclear power and ground loops. Several chemical liquids, compounds and mixtures come to mind in order to describe the vitriolic veils, be it camphene, quercetin or just acid in general. Remaining firmly on the Ambient path, these prolonged particles and elasticized lozenges are never violent, but can be considered forceful regardless. The mellow closer Along Deer's Ridge, for instance, transmutes from a nomological valley of the mind into a bedazzling blitz made of firecrackers, asbestus blebs and hydrazine bursts. The elysian drones, though, remain. Solitude, on the other hand, augments its periglacial palace with even frostier glaze, short pitches of oversaturated verve and granular coatings. The reverb mellows out the incision, but you can sense and feel it, the omnipresence of that cautious buzz.
Valiska's Potion: Stratiform Superstructures
If you allow silence to be as tangible and real an ingredient in music as the much more noticeable airwaves and oscillating tones, then the densitometry of Valiska's Healer is ablaze with salubrious layers made possible by the gyration between analog warmth, the frostier interim states and purified nothingness. The healing aspects of the music cannot be underestimated, especially not in the warmest, most harmonious of times as in Of Water. But even the colder environments of vast vistas such as Suspension or the infinitesimally harsher, a tad more adventurous Along Deer's Ridge provide mellow injections; due to their New Age-invoking qualities melody- and texture-wise, these two mentioned tracks might as well be the real sources of heat and wisdom. It so happens that the Calgary-based artist delivers another rhizomatic EP, with each tendril serving as the channel for that potion, the aforementioned stratiform superstructure. In one paragraph, I likened this aural mixture to toxic liquids, true enough, but Valiska's process of titration ameliorates their quality with contrapuntal instances of opalescent beauty. Healer sees Valiska as a builder first and foremost; the occasional debris and decay is but a hint of the very deconstruction he is (also) known for, so the EP is the most-balanced artifact to my ears. The clandestine sinister vibes of La Tourette are farther away than ever, but as an antidote after that meticulous observation, Healer is worth your attention.
Further listening and reading:
- Healer is available at Valiska's Bandcamp page.
- The artist on Twitter: @TheValiska.
- All things Valiska on AmbientExotica: this way.
Ambient Review 468: Valiska – Healer (2016). Originally published on Aug. 18, 2016 at AmbientExotica.com.