Saturated with tape compression, Oleksiy Sakevych of Endless Melancholy uses the reel-to-reel master as an instrument, synthesising the textures of hiss with the ambient compositions to give the songs mass. The pieces contain an atmosphere, nodding to the emptiness of the world The Vacation eludes to, with different tonal shifts as the subjects of the songs experience different levels of loneliness.
The Vacation delivers a cohesion of arrangement and production that continues to evolve with every listen.
Merigold Independent: The process of combining digital with analogue and vintage is an art that The Vacation has well achieved. Was it difficult trying to strike the right balance?
Oleksiy Sakevych: I guess, at some point every electronic musician comes to the point where they want to involve analogue technologies to their productions. Some consider it a matter of taste, some think it’s following trends, but for me it’s a sign of musical maturity. I am now in the process of transition from completely digital to analogue workflow but this album is still a result of a mixture of techniques. It is easy to find balance when you know what you want from the sound, and I definitely knew what I wanted the final result to sound like.
MI: Some interesting analogue techniques were used in the recording and mastering of the album. What are some processes you tried?
OS: Well, first of all a friend of mine owns a truly great vintage Nagra stereo reel-to-reel recorder, so we processed the album through it at the pre-mastering stage. Tape already makes the sound lovely. But this still wasn’t enough. At the final stage of production, I sent the album for mastering to Stephan Mathieu, in my opinion, one of the best specialists in experimental and exploratory sound out there. He offers mastering services at his very own Schwebung Studio, where there is a lot of great analog gear. I think he’s a wizard, because what he has done to the album is amazing. I am totally happy with the result! You can actually hear the difference in this small comparative video I made. It contains samples of the opening track right after processing through tape, and the actual mastered audio by Stephan.
MI: How would you say you feel this album differs from your former work? Musically or emotionally.
OS: Yes, this album is rather different from all my previous works, even though I claim it to be a follow up of my previous album, ‘Her Name In A Language Of Stars’. First of all, this is the first conceptual album I ever made. All songs are united around a short Bradbury’s story ‘The Vacation’. Secondly, I dedicated much more attention to the micro-details in sound than I used to do with my previous works. All the noises and tape hiss are result of the careful work with the bitcrusher plugin and tape processing, and I think they contribute to the general soundscape a lot.
MI: What is the ambient music scene like in Kiev? Is a supportive group of like-minded people or do you feel it may need some more work to flourish? How are live gigs there?
OS: I don’t play live too often; with Endless Melancholy I mostly focus on studio work. But when I get invited to a gig that I consider worth it – I accept the invitation. There are quite a few venues in Kiev that organize events involving ambient artists regularly. Also, I’m glad to admit that there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in other cities too. For example, in Odessa there are regular concerts in Lutheran St. Paul’s Cathedral. The atmosphere of the church is amazing, and it gives a special feeling to the music played in it. In the city of Dnipro recently the first modular gig in Ukraine was held. So yes, the ambient music scene is quite alive here, however, it’s still not music for the masses, so there usually are up to a hundred of people attending the shows. But I think, it’s like that everywhere.
MI: How do you write? Does the music form naturally or does inspiration only visit every-so-often?
OS: It’s a completely random and stochastic process. I do not have any standard workflow whatsoever. Ideas come and go, sometimes I draft them and make full tracks, sometimes they just remain drafts forever.
MI: Do you work mostly in DAW’s from the beginning or do you compose songs on analogue instruments before moving over to a computer?
OS: My first instrument was guitar, so my first efforts in composing music were revolving around that instrument. However, when I got interested in another sound, I shifted to DAW’s, simply because it is a huge field for experiments and sound explorations. As said before, after quite a few years of working with electronic instruments, I now am shifting to analogue again.
MI: What inspires you to write the most? Are there events that have occurred in your life that seem to continue to come to mind as you write or perform?
OS: I can get inspired by anything in my life, and you can never predict what will be next. Feelings, emotions, thoughts, memories; they get reflected in my music. Sometimes it’s a story, as with ‘The Vacation’.
MI: The Vacation was based off of a Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same name. What in the story struck you, what did you take from it that truly resonated with you on a deeper level?
OS: At first I didn’t plan this release to be a concept album. I had half of it already recorded when I accidentally stumbled upon that short story. I was truly impressed with how precisely it fits the mood of the music. So I continued recording music trying to match it to the story. This is a story about a family of three (a man, a woman, and a little boy, their son), who had wakened one morning and the world was empty. All other people were simply gone. The story is very short, but it perfectly captures the emotions of this family, ranging from the excitement (of being able to enjoy the whole world on their own) to desperation (of realizing their loneliness). Basically, the whole album is my effort to capture these moods of these people. Again, the story really impressed and inspired me. All track titles are actually lines from the story. I encourage everyone to read it when listening to the album.
MI: The album art, by Lita Akhmetova, is lovely. How did you work together to translate the story and sounds into a visual form? Did you both work as a team or were you more open to interpretation and let her create what she personally experienced from the music and short story?
OS: I’ve known Lita for quite a while, and she already did lots of artwork for me. For example, she did artwork for my band’s releases (I also play in a post-rock quartet Sleeping Bear), she designed Endless Melancholy T-Shirts, etc. It’s no secret that I love her work and totally trust her taste, so I had no doubt asking her to do the artwork for this album. I explained the concept to her and sent one photo that was quite close to what I wanted to see as a final result. As always, she did everything incredibly, and I totally enjoy the album art.
MI: What are some challenges you faced in production or otherwise while working on this album?
OS: There were none. The album was crafted over two months – that’s actually the fastest recorded album I ever had. All went smooth, because I felt strong inspiration throughout the whole process. And that’s the best thing about this album.