Electroshock Records: Review:  
Alexei Borisov: "Polished Surface of a Table" (Electroshock Records 2004, ELCD 037)

13 tracks. Total time - 51:19.

After 36 CDs released, "Electroshock" had achieved a precisely-defined artistic line.Alexei Borisov's "Polished Surface of a Table", number 037 for the Russian record label, pushes this line further into experimental electronica and it is a nice change. Considerably stronger than his previous solo effort ("Before the Evroremont", released on "Research Digest"), it offers a stimulating dose of ruptured beats, glitchy textures, processed noise and disembodied voices. The voice holds an important place in these constructions, whether singing (the beginning of "Dew") up front, reduced to a background murmur ("Polished Surface of a Table") or treated and embedded within the other layers of sounds. Borisov's sound universe is generally abstract, although it repeatedly refers to the DJ culture. Beats are skipped, sound collages flash before our eyes, snippets of songs are briefly recognizable in the distance (Serge Gainsbourg's "Je Vais et Je Viens" makes an unexpected appearance in "Rotor"). The music is uncompromising and explores many aural extremes of electronica, from pure tones to minimal digital manipulations (glitch) and outbursts of noise, all of these elements interacting with more appealing material. Highlights include the opening "Revlon", one of Borisov's strongest pieces to date, "Blue Vinyl" (reinventing DJ Spooky) and the title track. "Zaraza. Volume I" is the only piece crossing over five minutes and the only disappointment of the CD. It slows down the pace and fails to capture the attention, although its insisting pulse might provide a few listeners with something to cling to. But that track aside, "Polished Surface of a Table" is a very strong album in its field.

Francois Couture ("All-Music Guide")

Alexei Borisov is able to surpass barriers and shape music alien to any conventionalism. This album has a mysterious character, oniric, surreal, where sound collages and audio distortion take an important role. Borisov explores sound in different constructions and aspects. The most radical areas of electroacoustic music and the most abstract ones of "ambient" constitute the stage where the pieces in this CD are developed.

Dominique Chevant ("Amazing Sounds")

Following some weird trend of contemporeana in a certain field of sound art, no information is supplied with the CD. I'm used to this from a few subterranean or wanna-be-subterranean labels in Sweden - but I see "Electroshock" also falls into this trap. I prefer some kind of introductory text or some essay of sorts with the CD. It feels bare and ignorant not to say anything. This may seem like a negative way to begin a review, but don't fear; the CD is very good, very interesting, and unusual, the latter property being the most important to me, since I hear so much new music that fall into a sort of traditional avant-gardism that just makes you really tired. This CD does not make you tired. I chose a few CDs out of Artemiy Artemiev's stack for 2004 to study a bit more and perhaps write a few words about, and this was the most obvious one, catching my attention right off. I will give a few impressions of this music, without defining the tracks. The beginning is soft and gluey and sweeps out like tangible shreds of spider webs, loosely in the electronic wind, bringing on all kinds of associations, but mainly a feeling of pleasure, of auditory pleasure, apparently delivered by a sound artist who knows his art deeper than most. The gluey, whining insect sounds grow denser and deeper and more relentless, crushing a lot in their way, persuading any listener, luring them into enchanted realms of hearing, where they are easily loosing themselves into the lost and found of audibility, fragments of humanisms passing by in soaring voices, while the audio retreats into oral cavities and the spurting, pressing sounds of compressed saliva march off into the inner reaches of anatomy... Later the voices are reduced to masked morphemes in the radio hum, the old radio static from shortwave and medium wave, and bouncing, thudding percussion renders elasticity in a very peculiar and original way. Some of these sounds are actually new to me, the way the come across. These qualities are rare in new music! Storms of Antarctic strength pound and shiver in one of the tracks, deafening, sweeping you away from any sanity that you took for granted before getting lost. The sounds granulate and screech, but inside this hell there are modal forms and shapes, ice-organ music; a stillness in all this crazy motion, an antidote for the forlorn... Spiraling, meandering growls from alien life forms grow like noble fern across moss-laden ice age rocks deep inside the hearing, in a fairytale movement of brisk qualities, colorful and full of shades and murky nuances; the little ones of the forest seen momentarily in the corner of one's eye, before the disappearance is total to wake eye! Wonderful, Alexei Borisov! Bellish backdrops sway like Northern Lights as a close up brown fat beat thuds and thunders, way down in subwoofer realms, a breeze of muffled voices seeping through the tightness like high-pressure air out of minuscule cracks in truck tires; dangerous, choral-like; a ritual of dark forces within... and magnificent! The Russian language clearing up, reaching coherence and intelligibility, bringing us back to an - illusive! - here and now of stark reality! ... Which seamlessly transforms into a beautiful Russian woman singing without manipulations, as clear as the sun across a summery field of grass and cattle - but, as soon as is starts if gets heavily crushed and deformed, finally entering an environment of static and electric sparks, like the last traces of a world you've left behind in an Aniara space ship, forever drifting in the direction of the Lyre... Alexei Borisov shows a glorious ability to vary his electronic manipulations, always bringing something very interesting, always catching your ear and your full attention, and I especially like the way he utilizes voices and shreds of language, remnants of morphemes, shadowy displays of human activity in a forlorn kind of otherness, dreamy, beyond - sometimes passing the thin line to pure sound poetry! Borisov's CD is the most interesting and curiously enjoyable one I've heard in ages!

Ingvar Loco Nordin ("Sonoloco Record Reviews")

Lots of (eight) new releases from "Electroshock Records" at the very beginning of 2004. A full-length album by Alexei Borisov is a nice thing to hear, if you need a redefinition of the experimental music. Alexei is certainly one of the Russian artists that's gaining a bigger worldwide recognition lately, he played live at this year's Club Transmediale in Berlin few weeks ago. Before this album and besides the tracks from various compilations (released by "N&B Research Digest"), I've heard Alexei's live album "Before the Evroremont" released by "N&B Research Digest"/Avanto Festival, and I liked it. I wonder what it means when a track by Alexei Borisov is titled "Blue Vinyl"? Does it mean he took a blue vinyl and conducted a musical massacre on it? Could be. Alexei likes to use voices in his post-electronic, post-techno, post-experimental, post-post music, one of the best post-musics I've heard. This is done truly amazing in the sixth track "Dew", a complete musical slaughter, four minutes of the most amusing (and most gentle) sound-killing I've heard recently as a counter-point of the first 15 seconds at the beginning of the track with the appealing vocal of Angela Manukjan. Kill sound before sound kills you? Kid606, take notes. The techno moment is in "Zaraza. Volume I", a track that could have been done maybe by Motor, and no-one else. Could be because of the national connection. The softly distorted beats make me want to hear "Volume II", if there is. The voices are sometimes used to create only noises with them, like in "My Voices". Alexei Borisov's music is maybe not the kind of music you'll listen all day every day, but it's sure great to know it exists out there, somewhere, in the outer limit. Great work!

BR ("Vital Weekly")

"Polished Surface of a Table" is the latest release of a Russian artist called Alexei Borisov. The thirteen tracks of the CD paint different sound canvas that sometimes tend to destabilize the audience. Digital impulsive and treated noises duet with treated vocals just to create particular moments, sometimes with a melodic structure (like on "L.Y. Match") which function as background to sound experiments and sometimes with pure rhythmical structures which could have almost random rhythms as well as more structurised construction (like on "Zaraza. Volume I" where different noise layers duet until they fade out just to include vocal samples). Concrete music and experimentation seems to be the main subject into Borisov's sound as well as the construction of alienating experimental suites. Like a sort of magmatic digital cut up, Alexei's music sweep away your thoughts creating a blank zone where you can only watch a polished surface of a table...

Maurizio Pustianaz ("Chain D.L.K.")

To say that this is literally an explosion of sound is to drastically simplify what sounds like a dramatically complex process. I also can't say that this, to me, is musical in the traditional sense of the definition - each track buzzes and fizzes with a cacaphonic selection of treated and sampled sounds. Shards of high frequency aural energy jar the psyche as they bludgeon the brain into quivering submission. In other words this ain't no easy listening album! It comes as a relief when track five "After the Prime Time" discards with the schizophrenia and turns ambient, with spoken and singing voices. Alas, this oasis of calm is once again fractured by the next tracks' scratchy sounds. I'm not sure that I could listen to any of the thirteen tracks of this album again for pleasure, it is most probably a once in a lifetime experience.

John Peters ("The Borderland")

Moscow based musician Alexei Borisov has had a varied career, playing in bands covering music ranging from New Wave, to Ska, to Techno-Industrial and Electronic-Ethnic. He also DJ's in clubs and on radio and works as a journalist. Avant-garde Electronics and Sound-Art is how I would describe his new solo album on "Electroshock Records" label, "Polished Surface of a Table". Borisov explores a wide range of sounds and covers a lot of territory throughout the album. The tracks typically range from 2-5 minutes, being quick studies rather than lengthy excursions. The album opens with "Revlon", consisting of fast paced, off-kilter blasts of electronics and voice samples. It all comes rushing at you like a meteor shower, and many of the pieces are strangely musical, like little snippets of melody slammed through a paper shredder. Equally musical is the title track, which combines a lazy electro-dance beat with howling tonal pulsations, voice samples and a general sense of alien presence. One of my favorites of the set. Many of the tracks focus on assembling sound-art collages of patterns and textures, fields recordings and voices, and my favorites tended to be the ones that communicated a feeling a being lost in the limbo area of the shortwave radio dial, with all the attendant noise patterns. Other highlights include the aptly titled "Dense Drift", which is the electronic equivalent of an earthquake. "Blue Vinyl" is a whimsical piece that brought to mind a screaming riot of alien transmissions. "After the Prime Time" features multiple layers of voices backed by spacey atmospherics and dancey electro beats. The voices continue as the track transitions smoothly into "Dew", which begins with pleasant female vocals which are quickly ripped apart and reassembled like some electronic Frankenstein. And at nearly 10 minutes, "Zaraza (Volume I)" is by far the longest track of the set. Borisov develops an oddball rhythmic pattern that will challenge any listeners equilibrium, folding in voice samples and textured, rhythm infused static pulses and beats. Very interesting. Borisov has lots of good ideas, though he was wise to keep the tracks relatively short as most of the themes don't seem to develop enough to justify anything longer than a few minutes. The tracks that combine multiple contrasting elements were the most interesting as Borisov does a good job of managing varied sounds and effects and bringing them together in creative ways.

Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")

I live in Minnesota. I suffer through Minnesota winters, which are long, dark, and often feature sub-zero temperatures. That said, and while consciously avoiding the stigma of cultural relativity, I can hardly begin to imagine the intensity of the same cold season in Russia. "Polished Surface of a Table" sounds like this, a lonely winter in a dreary basement, men weary and bright-eyed from the cold. The record, a near-continuous electroacoustic soundscape, is the work of Alexei Borisov with production assistance from Russia-based "Electroshock Records" founder and acclaimed avant-garde composer Artemiy Artemiev. As most electroacoustic recordings are, "Table" is a conceptual work. On one level, it is a revolving camera focusing on common room objects, zooming from birds-eye view to dense magnification, converting sight to sound through the subjective filter of Borisov's imagination. On other levels, it is an exploration of the sounds of lives passing by the room, anxious voices heard through open windows, hurried footsteps on cracked concrete sidewalks. Borisov thrives off improvisation on a microcosmic scale, spending lavish amounts of time exploring timbre and pitch, constructing sound on sound. He works well contrasting thick, multi-layered sections with spacious interludes, using dynamics not as a function of volume swell, but rather of the sound saturation achieved by stacking parts on top of one another. Sounds pitched at the top of the sound spectrum ring against deep, sweeping drones provide additional contrast. Many of the thirteen compositions invoke morphed sounds modified into rhythmic structures, carefully-constructed repetition that brings a sense of unity to the record. Borisov is also in strong command of electronic music composition staples, using panning, resonance, filter cut-offs, loops and others to create a sense of theme and variations on multiple sound sources. There is a cold, often mechanical feel here, invoking images of ritualistic-driven industry. Nothing seems to be done without intention, adding to the unrushed, calculated feel. "Polished Surface of a Table" opens with "Revlon", a composition littered with oscillating, resonant squelches and warbled voices, resembling a blustery cityscape, with distant melodies echoing from basement barrooms in the brief hours before sunrise. It meanders through the noise-driven chaos of "Old and Metallic", and the detuned, sing-song, wavering "Dense Drift" and "Blue Vinyl", before resting on a percussive loop and multiple modified voices bouncing across channels in "After the Prime Time". There are images of a neglected radio left on all night, community programming replaced by static at sign off time and no one around to silence the white noise. Borisov betrays his ear for haunting melody with the prepared voice and swimming strings on "Dew", a halfway mark for the record, as it progresses into the second half with a gradually increasing frenetic sense. Like other recordings on the "Electroshock Records" label, Borisov's "Polished Surface of a Table" is a well-constructed, carefully-prepared offering that speaks volumes to the quality of the label's catalogue. Though Borisov's compositions may not yet seem fully realized, they bear great potential. Add to this the fact that Artemiev's name is stamped next to 'producer' on many of the releases, and it's easy to make the claim that this progressively-minded label can easily turn more than a few heads in the years to come.

Brian Voerding ("Wind & Wire")

This Russian label yet again features music of a challenging nature that fits loosely into the electronic camp. The staccato effects on the opening track "Revlon" are very bold and hence could engender a headache if you listen to this at a loud volume. Actually there is form within the chaos, but its not all that apparent and I ended up actually liking the instrumental. This is only the first of what could be a total of thirteen difficult listening experiences. The interference on "Old and Metallic" gives way to underwater sounds that defy normality. If you were expecting melodies and rhythms with perhaps an occasional beat then these have been excluded in favor of sounds, some of which are quite abrasive to the human mind. At the beginning of "Blue Vinyl", questions will be posed as to whether your playing equipment is functioning correctly as the way the sounds are assembled is somewhat alien. The following piece "After the Prime Time" is almost ordinary in comparison with what appears to contain mellowed sound that approaches a rhythm and male voices. A major surprise is the pure female voice singing a couple of lines on "Dew", but it degenerates abruptly into interference patterns that are somewhat chaotic. The high frequencies will be perfectly produced on your hi-fi and will not only cause you to turn the volume down again for your sake but also the dogs! Hints of rhythms are laced through and especially at the start of "I.Y.Match", but of course high pitched whines shatter any half-hearted attempt of tranquillity. The low frequencies have their turn on "Zaraza" in which a beat is present and its a little similar to some of the minimalist material done by Ritchie Hawtins aka Plastikman and that's why its a very good track. If you thought that you'd heard the last of long high pitched notes, then "Rotor" will certainly either clear the wax out of your ears or send you rushing for the remote to urgently reduce the volume. Don't turn up the music too loud or it will frighten your neighbours and cause you to shit yourself!

Brooky ("Modern Dance")

"Polished Surface of a Table" is the most recent release by Alexei Borisov. Unlike other electroacoustic colleagues, he brings together shorter pieces, quick studies rather than lengthy explorations. His sound leans more to experimental electronics and industrial without loosing the ambient and electroacoustic touch. Also voices can be found among the instrumental tracks. They range from singing, speaking to background murmur. They can also be treated and mixed within the other layers of sounds. If you are looking for something else, something abstract and unusual you might find Alexei Borisov a good excursion. We also have to note that the song "Old and Metallic" is a live version.

Peter-Jan Van Damme ("Darker Than The Bat")


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