Review: Vroda – Senses

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Ukrainian imprint Thousand Kisses Place delivers warm ambience and intricate rhythms with debut release from newcomer Vroda.

While it may have long faded from a news cycle in desperate need of a Ritalin prescription, Ukraine is a nation that has been in geo-political turmoil for a number of years. Forced between the rock of Russian expansionist ambitions and the hard place of a complacent European Union, the Donbass region of the country has been the theatre for a deeply divisive civil war that has raged since early 2014, and although EU led talks in December of 2019 had shown some promise in de-escalating the conflict, the Coronavirus pandemic has once again plunged the region into chaos.

Such a bleak picture, can hardly be summed up in a few paragraphs. With the conflict splitting society along racial, territorial and discriminatory lines, it has created deep psychological scars in the nation’s psyche that may take generations to heal, and have left many with a sense of being voiceless in the face of such deep divisions.

If we look to history, it’s often in this gap where we find the most vital and engaging pieces of art and it’s where we find Ukrainian debutant Vroda, with his first release on the Kiev based imprint Thousand Kisses Place, entitled “Senses”. By the artist’s own admission “[In Ukraine] using music and its power as a layer of art solely for entertainment purposes is a luxury on the edge of permitted. ” and the E.P. displays a lofty conceptual thread that touches on themes of modernity and conflict with a pressing sense of urgency, offering three cuts of deep atmospherics and Aphex-style digital fuckery, alongside two remixes from fellow Ukrainian R.Roo and UK based, Corporeal Face.

Opener “Panic Attack” is the release’s strongest offering, creating a taught juxtaposition between the warm, organic palette of the percussion and the detailed digital manipulation that picks and pulls at the fabric of the piece while a melancholic synth arrangement floats indifferently above. “Floods” touches on similar ground, detailing a driving kick and snare pattern with earthy samples and deeply layered atmospherics.

“Novi Sanzhary” is where Vroda’s conceptual leanings are most obvious, bearing the name of a town in central Ukraine where repatriated Ukrainians, evacuated from China at the beginning of the pandemic, were met with angry protesters that pelted their vehicles with stones, injuring 10 people. This is offered as a central idea, containing a microcosm of the current political climate in Ukraine. The track itself is a rolling, sub-heavy workout that builds into a savage loop of malfunctioning synthesizers, before flowing back into the lush atmospherics that permeate the release.

This track provides the basis for both the R.Roo and Corporeal Face remixes, with the former taking the material in an experimental direction that deftly chops and screws up breaks and weirdo electronics. Corporeal Face brings a welcome UK influence to proceedings, spinning early Hardcore and Jungle Techno into the mix and coming out with the most dance floor appropriate of the project.

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