Svitlana Nianio and Oleksandr Yurchenko are musicians with a long history in the still-mysterious
Kiev Underground. Nianio’s first group Cukor Bela Smert [Sugar, The White Death] were active
from the late 80’s through to the early 90’s, and following an intense period of touring, collaboration,
experimentation and a string of mixtapes and self-published recordings, Nianio’s first official solo
album ‘Kytytsi’ was released in 1999 by Poland’s Koka Records. Oleksandr Yurchenko, a longtime
collaborator and a pivotal figure in the Kiev music scene, was instrumental in creating the Novaya
Scena, a loose conglomerate of artists who encouraged each other to excavate both the sounds of
the West and Ukrainian tradition. ‘Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhy’ (‘Know How? Tell Me’) is the duo’s most
fully realised collaboration, an enchanting, complete world in which Yurchenko’s instrumentation
and playfulness with form frames Nianio’s otherworldly soprano, recalling Liz Fraser steeped
in contrapuntal melody and hymnal improvisation. Originally made available on a self-released
cassette in 1996 (re-issued in 2017 by Ukraine’s Delta Shock label) where the album was twinned
with ‘Lisova Kolekciya’ (re-issued on LP in 2017 by Skire) this is the debut release of ‘Znayesh Yak?
Rozkazhy’ outside of Ukraine.
Recorded in an abandoned park in Kiev during a fertile period for artists and musicians following
the collapse of the Soviet Union, ‘Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhy’ sees Nianio and Yurchenko combine Casio
keyboard, hammered dulcimer, percussion, and Nianio’s unmistakeable soprano vocalisations to create
music sympathetic to the specific locations in which they chose to record. Yurchenko’s contribution
is perhaps more present on this recording than anything else we have heard from the duo. His
percussive dulcimer playing provides the basis on which Nianio can weave delicate keyboard lines
while playfully contorting her voice, shifting from a low register reminiscent of Nico to what could
be perceived as the call of a bird or an animal in distress. Whatever the intent, the effect is haunting
and beautiful in equal measure.
There’s a prevailing earthiness on the recordings, found in the warm hiss of the lo-fi means of
recording or the grinding, unspecified sounds that occasionally accompany the melody, like drones
created on the fly by hands trying to keep warm in the ice. A prevailing mood of fragility and beauty
seeps from these melodies, delicate moments of clarity spun by the two musicians. ‘Znayesh Yak?
Rozkazhy’ is a dream spun in twilight, a crystalline, private world where the listener feels both alien