Available on: Firecracker LP
Mikhaylo Vityk might reasonably be considered among the most prolific producers in contemporary house music. Since 2010 he has released dozens of singles and EPs as Vakula and under a string of other aliases, for labels including Dekmantel, Firecracker, Shevchenko and his own Leleka imprint. Vityk hails from The Ukraine, and a certain nationalist pride is shot through his music: from his chief pseudonym (taken from a character in a Gogol novel, who Vityk describes as a “national hero of Ukraine”), through to his track titles, which contain repeated references to Ukrainian/Russian suprematist artist Kasimir Malevich, and to his hometown, from which this album takes its name.
Stylistically, however, the producer tends to look further afield. His early releases, in particular, explored a Detroit house template – the sort of soulful, multi-layered sample collage approach that Moodymann has made his own. But Vityk’s take on the form has always been particularly trippy, a surreal trip through warped terrain, danceable and discombobulating in equal measure. And while he has broadened his palette in recent years, these same basic characteristics – oblique structures, dense arrangements, buried melodies – remain. Vityk has two albums to his name already, both released last year under different aliases. The eponymous Vedomir favoured cosmic-leaning house, while 13th District (as V) reflected Vityk’s increasing use of live instruments in place of samples, flirting with a low-slung, jazz-fusion-inflected sound that was only tangentially connected to the dancefloor.
This album, a collection of tracks made between 2009 and 2012, roams the territory between those two poles, and much else besides. Disparate styles and intensities bump up against one other, from the breathless synth abstraction of ‘Hope Soon To Be There’ to the doodle-heavy fusion of ‘Jazz Mutants’. ‘Exp Techno’, with its clear-eyed chords, could almost be a Vedomir offcut; in ‘For Juju & Jordash’ – part new age synth etude, part broken-beat romp – Vityk seems to be testing new ground. The variety here can make for a rather fragmentary listen, an impression not helped by the inclusion of several brief ambient interludes (though these are often excellently vivid in their own right – cf. the nightmarish ‘No T-Shirts’).
Fortunately, Vityk is ready with a familiar binding agent: namely house music, often of the understated, cliche-free sort. The dank ‘In My Head’ coyly reveals its sensual side as it progresses, before veering back into the discordant bleep-scapes of its opening – a deferral of pleasure that is typically Vakula. Its successor ‘Was’ is equally good, its chords piercing the mix like blinding rays of sunlight. And the title track is Vityk at his dubbiest, replete with hints of field recording and puckish smears of delay.
Like much of Vityk’s output, You’ve Never Been To Konotop, in its length and variety, feels diaristic in construction. As with any diary it has its self-indulgent moments, and several times Vityk lets a good idea run on too long – the worst offender being ‘Sleepy Vision’, a V-like slow-burner that’s gorgeously verdant at the opening, but descends into aimlessness over its nine minute duration. Such moments can make this record an intimidating listen; certainly, his two previous full-lengths are more focussed, more digestible. But as a map of the broad stylistic terrain to which Vityk has staked a claim, You’ve Never Been To Konotop is always intriguing, and often excellent, too.