IOMix012 // Hoavi

Take a trip to the frontier of leftfield techno futurism with the Peak Oil and Balmat artist as your spirit guide.

Labels like Peak Oil and Balmat are not necessarily the most prolific or long-standing platforms in experimental electronic music, but when they present a new name you tend to take notice. Such is the trust built from sharp curation and framing of the music, and so Hoavi’s appearance on both labels in 2021 quickly established Kirill Vasin as an artist to immediately pay attention to. While Peak Oil and Balmat navigate very different sonic territory, Vasin’s sound ably adapted to the diverse surroundings with distinct records that suggested a prolific talent shaping out his own universe seemingly immune to broader trends. Invariant offered a prismatic approach to techno and jungle fortified with dense signal processing and rapid, angular sequencing, while Music For Six Rooms‘ dub-informed textural and melodic blooms favoured space and patience without ever defaulting to purist ambience. 2022’s Posle Vsego on equally trustworthy Quiet Time Tapes possibly erred towards the latter sensibility, but musically it feels like another entirely singular record.

As if proving the point that we shouldn’t second guess what Hoavi will bring to any release, the recent mini-LP Phases arrived on Gost Zvuk earlier this year as an exercise in metallic rhythm explorations, in keeping with the St. Petersburg-via-Moscow label’s emphasis on grainy, modernist techno abstraction. It’s a natural fit for Vasin – an idiosyncratic misfit sharing a particular sonic vision on a label which harbours similarly prolific, oddball, versatile producers like Flaty, S A D and Nocow. There’s a thread of outsider sonics from Russia which has been evolving for a long time now, also represented on labels like Udacha and ANWO, and Hoavi embodies everything exciting and innovative about the music on offer.

The geopolitical context of music from Russia is impossible to ignore, and in the early days of the invasion of Ukraine a brave but understandably understated compilation set out the position of many of these artists, Hoavi included. In a broader sense, the music itself exists outside of time and place, and tends to deal in less direct messaging as opposed to pure sound exploration, but the vague qualities which group these artists together instinctively render the imperfections of a broken world. Compared to the sheen of experimental music from elsewhere, there’s an acute sense of industrial decay and oily residue clinging to the pointilist systems which spool out from their chosen tools. There’s space for beauty and romance, but it’s always underpinned by the grim realities of existence within the bounds of nefarious power dynamics.

In the wake of the release of Phases we reached out to Vasin to record a mix for us, which serves as a fascinating insight into unreleased works from a crop of artists in his orbit. It’s a richly varied session which maintains a commitment to intrigue and unique expression, whether in passages of taut percussive reductions, tender melodic phrases or tape-wrecked jams from parts unknown. In other words, no less unpredictable than we would expect at this stage. Hit play on the gunfingers for our new WIP IO audio player for an hour of far-flung tinkering on the cutting edge, and read on for a little insight into the making of the mix and the wider outlook for Hoavi and the St. Petersburg scene he resides in.

Thanks so much for recording this mix for us – can you tell us a bit about it?

Thanks for the invitation to record a mix for you. I just asked my friends for their music. All the tracks in this mix are unreleased works. Most of the tracks were not signed and I got confused at some point whose track I was using. I’ll just list those musicians whose tracks I used in the mix. It’s even more interesting that way. The mix includes my tracks, as well as tracks from Shine Grooves, Nocow, Neeroq, dj Designer aka Enginitionific, Cotton Coal, Shutta, Moevse, Psor, Gorizont Sobytiy.

Seeing as you’re based in St. Petersburg, it seems natural for you to be releasing on Gost Zvuk – how important is that label to the scene in St. Petersburg and beyond? Who else should we be checking out from around there?

Gost Zvuk is a landmark domestic label. Originally it’s a Moscow label, but at the moment it’s a decentralized community. Yes, Gost Zvuk plays a very important role in the cultural aspect.

The local music scene in St. Petersburg has always been very fertile for talented musicians in various genres. More and more new names are appearing – it makes me very happy! There are a lot of labels and artists I could list – it would take a long time, believe me. I’ll name a few labels and a few artists that come to mind.

Labels: ANWO, Hanagasumi Records, Udacha, Emup label, Kartaskvazhin.

Artists: Fama 87, qwqwqwqwa, Rbe, Gamayun, Mekbuda band, Kurvenschreiber. 

How has your sound developed into the styles you explore now?

By means of dialectical negation, when the old is not simply discarded and destroyed, but is preserved in a new quality.

The biggest influence on me as a kid was the English electronic scene of the 90s and 2000s. Speed garage, 2-step, jungle and D&B. I don’t have the goal of making people dance or meditate. It’s probably a little different for me. First I build a release concept in my head. Then I start the lab work – testing theory through practice.

Early on you were running a label called Shells Rattle – do you have any plans to revive that or was it for a particular moment in time?

Yeah, it was a spontaneous urge. Then the label changed to a guest radio show of the same name on Dublab radio. Then I lost the desire and time to develop it all. Maybe someday I’ll come back to it. While it was running I was producing lathe-cut records helped by DJ Outoff, at that time living in St. Petersburg.

You’re always sharing videos of particular processes and production experiments – do you have set, preferred ways of making music or does it change all the time?

Like I said earlier, it all starts with a concept and then I’ll test it out in practice. My process of writing music is always fluid, but there are some things that are constant over the years. At the moment I’m slowly preparing a new release for Peak Oil.