STS 013 - Perfect Aesthetics

Russian Electronic Music Label Perfect Aesthetics

Photo Credits — Danik Katsl

Perfect Aesthetics mixtape - gritty melodicism, soft lo-fi appeal and melancholic ambience, including lots of upcoming material, and also an interview.

Perfect Aesthetics (PA) is a small cassette label established by Arthur Kovaløv and circling around a group of likeminded people spread out over the Russian cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Following the paths of Posh Isolation and Janushoved, its signature sound is a combination of melancholy, soft lo-fi appeal, DIY aesthetics and cold synth infusions. The releases do not lack gritty mellow sensibilities, which manifest either in the form of floating ambient or raw synth pop tunes. Having chosen tapes as its primary format, PA operates in true underground fashion with small batches of copies distributed, no many reissues and not much emphasis on aesthetic coherence. The community aspect is also of prime importance here.

Just before their small showcase in Vilnius, PA crew answered a few questions and shed some more light on their activities as well as made a mix from their material. The underground scene in Russia, the appeal of tape as a format and artistic choices are some of the topics touched upon in this interview. The mixtape includes quite a number of upcoming tracks indicating the label’s future turns.

How did the label start and how was its core concept formed?

I started the label back in 2015 as a way to release some solo projects of mine. I’ve been interested in tapes and had run a hardcore label before that time. There was no concept behind PA, but we try to maintain it with the visual images, used as artworks. At the beginning, we did it in an amateur way – just some photos or collages, but lately we`ve been working more attentively with that part of the releases. Thanks to our designer – Vlad Sontos.

As you are based in Russia what is the current situation of alternative music there? Does the political situation influence the underground culture?

The situation with alternative music is pretty good, I believe. There are many interesting projects and labels. As an example – Full Of Nothing, klammklang, amicables. Many European artists play shows here regularly. We don’t try to avoid political statements, but that’s not something we feel like it’s worth doing. There were some resonance things like closing of the club Rabitza in August, but it can’t be considered as a political act, because there were drugs involved. Also to mention - a story with Arma and Outline, whose festivals were closed last spring. It’s unclear what reasons were behind it.

Perfect Aesthetics has strong resemblances to Posh Isolation and Janushoved labels. How do you see these two labels? Do you treat them as primary inspiration, likeminded groups of people etc.?

That’s a good question. I consider us to be partners. We all make and release music, do shows. We share the auditorium. I believe that it is more like a community. Some of our acts play with Posh Isolation projects sometimes, when they visit Russia with shows. The important part of this is to feel that we all belong to healthy and respectful community of artists.

As most of your releases are in tape format, what is the main reason behind choosing this format? Is it because of economical or aesthetic reasons? How do you see tape format in general in nowadays music culture?

Tape is a good format to release the music. It has its own soul, its beauty and history. Both reasons are important. Independence of the format allows us to use it the way we like. It could be different inserts to the tapes, color combinations, any images.

It is not a secret that tape culture is doing great now. It is popular not only in experimental scene, where it's always been around. Many mainstream musicians make tape editions of their albums.

As the label is concentrated on a certain pool of artists how much is the sense of community important to you? Are you all friends in real life, do you do events together? Is there a sense community in Russia’s experimental music circles, especially in big cities, e.g. Moscow, St. Petersburg?

Yeah, most of us are friends and we communicate a lot. First goes friendship and a sense of trust. Shows are nice reasons to gather together. Most PA projects are located in these two cities, for example - Perfect Human, Пожар, Haunted in Moscow, Sobranie 818 and Måla in St. Petersburg. Usually, when some acts play they invite others who are in the city at that time and it’s like a mini showcase. I played shows in Moscow with Haunted and Пожар last Summer, other guys played with Posh Isolation artists last week.

What are the main challenges you face in maintaining a small cassette record label? Have things proven to be more difficult than you expected?

As I said I’d ran another label before, so it wasn’t so difficult to make this new one. Communication is the main challenge, I guess. I have to talk to artists, designers, other people involved with the label. People are constantly sending demos - some of them are not so good at all and it is always a task to tell them this won’t go.

Your releases have a relatively small number of copies available. Do you try to maintain exclusivity this way? Do you consider reissuing some of the sold out releases? Why or why not?

I think this is a normal thing for all tape labels to do small batches. As we can see - Strange Rules or Audio.Visuals.Atmosphere. do like 50-55 copies of each tape. Of course, it is some kind of exclusivity, but also it is enough. We did some reissues before. There were 3 represses of Måla’s first release. Probably, this is the most popular release of the label. Currently, there are no future plans for making another reissues or represses.

What is the story behind label’s name? How would you define the label’s aesthetic approach in a few adjectives?

That’s easy. It is aesthetically perfect.

Do you plan to expand your label or keep it more DIY? Do you consider doing more copies, wider distribution or maybe you think that it would harm label’s identity? Do you find a difficult things to balance between expanding and maintaining an identity?

It would have been great to expand a little, but a 100 copies is a limit for cassette runs, I think. Of course, there are a few albums that I would like to release on vinyl and distribute, because this music should be heard by many more people, but it costs money, and for Russia it costs twice as much.

You are based in Samara city. What kind of place is that and what is the cultural life there? Could you tell us more about it?

That’s not quite right. I’ve moved from Samara some time ago to another city, which is called Neftegorsk (could be translated as Oilcity). It is located not so far from Samara. It is relatively small and cultural life here is local concerts for citizens. Nothing really interesting or special – folk, pop, rock shows. I think that the place looks exactly like a soviet city, when people try to imagine what it looks like. Old 5-stories buildings, small blocks. I’ll move to Moscow in the beginning of December.

All tracks made by P.A. gang:

1. Måla - No Future [Perfect Aesthetics, Upcoming 2017]
2. Burning Pyre - Stone Of Inc [Perfect Aesthetics, Upcoming 2018]
3. Caerulea - Purity and Exile [RB Cartel, 2016]
4. Perfect Human - Amateurs [Perfect Aesthetics, 2016]
5. Undveld - False Mirages [Perfect Aesthetics, 2017]
6. Draeil - Untitled [Perfect Aesthetics, 2017]
7. Lutea - Rose Armor [Perfect Aesthetics, 2017]
8. Styrioth - Ἀποκάλυψις [Perfect Aesthetics, 2016]
9. Venetian Roses - Ocean Lovers Retreat [Perfect Aesthetics, 2016]
10. Alocasia Garden - Roaming Apparition [Perfect Aesthetics, 2017]
11. Måla - No Lovers [Perfect Aesthetics, Upcoming 2017]
12. Пожар - Так должно быть [Perfect Aesthetics, Upcoming 2018]
13. Leonid Tulyakov - 6 [Perfect Aesthetics, Upcoming 2018]
14. Haunted - Walls [Perfect Aesthetics, 2017]
15. Sobranie 8 18 - Ventura [Perfect Aesthetics, 2016]
16. A K - A Dialogue Between Two Lovers [Perfect Aesthetics, 2015]
17. Perfect Aesthetics - Outro (Rivals) [Perfect Aesthetics, 2016]

About Author

Paulius Ilevicius is a Secret Thirteen journalist, editor and occasional DJ focusing on more dreamy and melancholic soundscapes. Born in post-industrial town of Pavevezys, currently he lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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