Dubna / WAS Distribution
Moscow-based artist Vtgnike's music has been described as Russian juke, and his album for Nicolas Jaar's Other People label does bear a distinct regional character. Dubna is named after a town north of Moscow, and its artwork shows Bruegel's Hunters In The Snow superimposed with Soviet tower blocks. Vtgnike's music, meanwhile, is constructed from samples of Russian pop, R&B and easy listening, all underpinned by frantic footwork beats.
And yet this explorer of the Slavic soul sounds familiar. Like Jaar and the other artists he supports (Acid Pauli, Valentin Stip), Vtgnike's music is possessed of a delicate melancholy, predicated on the juxtaposition of real instruments, dusty samples and glitchy electronica. Fans emphasise his Eastern European otherness, but Vtgnike can easily be explained in voguish Western reference points. Short and hallucinatory, his tracks are as ephemeral as early Mount Kimbie, fragmentary like Zomby, bathed, like Actress, in a dubbed-out, soft-focus corrosion.
Like those artists, Vtgnike's work is elusive, but has flashes of beauty and creative wit. From the atmospheric witch-house smear of "Stimulate" to the pretty dysfunction of "Untitled," Dubna crackles with ideas, but they are rarely developed into anything meaty. The lo-fi rhythmic mania of "Panarama Bar Shitt" (a tangential dance floor track), or the lovely, acoustic guitar-led "Zarubezh" feel like tentative sketches. "Campaign Refix," which twists itself inside out from a warm, whirring loop into a slow soul jam, is the most structurally satisfying track here. In such moments, certainly, Vtgnike sounds like a global player.