(Comrade Aleks has brought us another very interesting interview, this time with Artyom Krikhtenko, the main man behind the fascinating Ukrainian band Odradek Room, whose newest album was released not long ago through a division of Solitude Productions.)
Odradek Room (from Mariupol, Ukraine) is one of those rare bands with their own vision and ways of unleashing their creative stream. Named after Franz Kafka’s imaginary creature, they have held on to an abstract emotional doom-death pattern with progressive feeling (and avant-garde edge) for about twelve years. They paint vast canvases of despair and grief in gloomy and violent colours, but this elegant and sometimes complex mix has its play of light and shadow.
Odradek Room’s third full-length album Painted Mind was released about seven weeks ago, and together with the band’s mastermind Artyom Krikhtenko (vocals, guitars, keyboards), we try to explore Odradek’s nature for you.
Hi, Artyom! How are you? How is the strict lockdown in Mariupol going?
Hi. Like everywhere else, I guess. It’s hard.
I believe that life has been hard in your city due to the well-known circumstances of fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces. How is it now? Have you had any problems because of the turbulent neighborhood?
I was lucky to be in an area of the city that didn’t come under fire. The last couple of years have been relatively quiet. These are sad events that need to be discussed, but I would prefer not to.
How did this situation affect your approach to music? Do you feel it’s the right time for such pieces as Painted Mind?
I don’t think it made any difference. Our music has always been inward-looking, not environmental. Inner emigration, as Misha Alperin put it in an interview. I have always tried to explore consciousness, psychology, the mind palace, so to speak. I think this is much more important because the inner creates the outer. So I’d like our music to be beyond time, not the music of “today.”
Your new album, Painted Mind, has just been released, and you supported it with a series of videos for each song. Did this idea grow when you were working on the songs or was it something you figured out at the very last moment?
For me, Painted Mind is not an album, but an album-film, which will find its full-fledged appearance only with the release of the last video. Almost at the very beginning of working on the album, I decided to draw music videos and then worked on the music by relying on certain “beats” of the story. Somewhere the music was primary, somewhere the planned image influenced the music.
Who’s the author of these videos? How did you work out this concept?
I am the author of both the music and the videos. This story actually goes back to the very first album. I’ve never been able to get over The Wall by Pink Floyd. The way the picture changed the perception of the album itself. Before I watched the film, the music wasn’t fully revealed to me. The film repeatedly strengthened it, gave the context in which it sounded louder. I’ve been dreaming of doing something like this since the first album. Having never found the “company,” I decided that I’d do it myself. More so, I have always been fond of painting; my lyrics often feature metaphors referring to painting. Plus, I’m a big fan of auteur cinema. I love movies/animation as much as I love music. That’s how I ended up where I am now 🙂
Yes, I remember that one of your first songs bears the name ‘A Painting (Digging into the Canvas with Oil)’, and now you come to a whole Painted Mind. It reminds me of the Czech band Quercus, their mastermind Lukáš Kudrna is also a painter… Does the release’s inlay complement the album’s concept with artworks?
Thanks for the tip about Quercus. I will definitely read about it. *laughing* as you know, I read your reviews even in my youth, so I suspect that this must be something interesting ☺ The release is made in the form of a 6-panel digipak without a booklet. It is what it is.
Odradek Room – The Room
May you name some of the artists and movie directors who influenced you while working on Painted Mind?
We’re being influenced all our lives, and I can’t really say what influenced this album. In recent years, I’ve been mostly listening to Misha Alperin, Devin Townsend, Silver Mt. Zion, Neurosis, King Crimson, Agnes Obel, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Lorn. I probably won’t surprise anyone by naming such directors as David Lynch, Paolo Sorrentino, Andrei Tarkovsky, Alejandro Inarritu, Jim Jarmusch, maybe Sam Esmail. And from the more mainstream ones are Fincher and Villeneuve.
I didn’t find any information about a physical release of Painted Mind, though Solitude Productions posted your promo videos on their Facebook profile. Did you release the album on your own this time? Did you search for a label?
The physical release was on February 25. Sadly, information about this is difficult to find. So, … there is a label.
What kind of goals did you set for yourself after the release of your second album A Man of Silt? Did you search for improvements in some of the musical forms you worked with during recording?
I focused more on the dramaturgy. Making things complex in structure and with an abundance of artistic means no longer seemed like an achievement. Let’s just say that now I think of music much more as a “story,” “film,” and not as a composition, a set of riffs, or something like that. We are still experimenting and will continue to experiment with form, styles, etc. But this is happening much more consciously, and dramaturgy is at the forefront. All other tools are subordinate to it. So it was before, but now the experience and concentration on it allow us to look at the music from a slightly different angle.
But could you give a few hints for our readers who haven’t heard Odradek Room before – what can they expect from Painted Mind? What’s the genre basis of its songs?
We sound at the intersection of Doom-death and post-metal but every album, including this one, has various artistic means from other styles. It forms a unique face, which together make it necessary to put the prefix progressive.
However, it is not about the complexity of the form and rhythms but rather the dramaturgy, in the service of which the expressive means are used. Some tracks may sound like funeral doom, some like post-black, and in one track, for example, I refer to ECM-Jazz. So listeners can expect a deep sensory experience and, hopefully, an emotional rollercoaster from our music because, from track to track, we change a lot while maintaining the integrity of the overall picture.
Also, it is not only an album but also a film. An animated video will be released for each track, and together they will make a full-fledged drawn film with a solid plot and, in my opinion, quite an interesting idea. Whether it’s true is up to you.
How much time did it take to create the Painted Mind concept? How did you find the right sound for this album?
I worked on the album for about two years. The rest is recording and mixing.
The sound of this album was born in agony. We’ve mixed it for about a year. We started all over again 3 times. It was originally mixed by my friend Sergey Kurakin (who mixed A Man of Silt), but I couldn’t explain what I wanted, so I decided to do the mixing and mastering myself. Since there was a clear discrepancy between my skill level and the desired result, the whole thing was delayed and many times redone from scratch. Although the album is still far from perfect in terms of mixing, I like how it sounds from an artistic point of view.
Odradek Room – Clarity
Did you record everything at home or in a professional studio?
Everything is as usual. We record ourselves at our rehearsal location. I find it difficult to imagine the recording process of Odradek Room in the studio, with its time constraints, etc. I think working in a hurry is not suitable for us. It limits creative control and time for making certain artistic decisions.
The album is pretty short – only 31 minutes. Did you doubt whether that was enough to fit all of your ideas into one piece?
There are two factors here. First of all, I wanted to draw animation on all the tracks. Frame-by-frame animation is very troublesome and time-consuming. If I had been drawing an hour-long album, I don’t know when it would’ve been released at all ☺️
Second of all, I began to like short albums more. Maybe I’m getting old, but it’s hard for me to listen to albums longer than an hour. I’m getting tired. I think that the next releases will also be in the range of 20-40 minutes. Besides, the album is more “sharp” when it’s shorter.
Odradek Room had its first big anniversary back in 2020. I remember your appearance on Doom-Art.ru Compilation (2009). Now that seems like a different epoch many years ago. How much of that old band lives now in Odradek Room?
Me and permanent bassist Sergey Kuznetsov 🙂 His melodic and atypical style of playing the bass guitar, the use of feedback on the bass, and several other moments – it’s really cool. I’m glad that he tolerates my tyranny for all these years :)))
Do you see still Odradek Room as “Kafkian doom metal”? Does your connection with the doom scene mean something for you nowadays?
I don’t remember calling the Odradeks that. The prefix Kafkian is cute and flattering. Even though this album has almost more of the doom aesthetic than any of our other albums, I don’t rely on this style. I don’t consider myself a guitarist, vocalist, doom-metal artist, or anything like that. I consider myself a composer and arranger. For me, the style of music is not important; there is even a certain feeling that I have stopped paying attention to it at all. Yes, I see stylistic elements, but it is much more interesting how the drama works, how the music is ideologically filled, what the music is trying to say. But the style is not important at all; probably no “scene” interests me, but I am very interested in any good music.
Odradek Room – Breaching the Soil
I remember those nine bands who took part in that compilation, and I think only Evoke Thy Lords and Odradek Room have managed to get some recognition in other countries. What do you think is the problem with Russian / Ukrainian doom? There are interesting bands for sure, but most of them disappear very quickly.
Recognition is a relative thing. At this point, I’m more concerned about why people give up music.
I will turn to another phrase of Misha Alperin. The power of intent. How much people want to make music. Some people are interested in standing on stage, “being a rocker,” something like that. Such people quickly lose interest in music if there’s no recognition involved. Some don’t have enough passion for music. Some don’t have many ideas. And some people breathe with music and want to explore and try new things. I’ve never understood people who say: “we’re putting together a band to play music in the spirit of Katatonia’s first album.” I have a question. WHY? It exists already. Such bands do not live long because they quickly realize that there’s no meaning to it. So, there is no difference where the band comes from – the problems are the same everywhere. Don’t take this as a comment about those bands; I’m just talking about why some bands disappear quickly.
A recognition … It seems to me that a lot depends on the matter of chance … To get on the radar of the right people, to create an effective and thoughtful promo … I don’t have the right to argue here at all since I don’t see a special recognition of my band.
I see Odradek Room are going to play live alongside a few more bands in May. Is it an optimistic view or is everything already set? When was the last time you played live?
We’re planning on the album presentation in Kyiv. Preliminary in the fall. The last concert was in 2018, also in Kyiv.
Artyom, thank you for the interview. I wish you all the best with Painted Mind‘s further promotion. How would you like to sum up the experience that Odradek Room grants to Painted Mind listeners?
Thank you very much. An unusual emotional experience. Self-immersion.