In order to verify the fact that Iury Lech has been a pioneering composer and moviemaker (particularly in the late 70ies and 80ies) in Spain, where he moved with his family from Ukraine, you should listen to some of his relatively old albums (in particular the seminal “Musica para el fin de los cantos”) and check his visual and aural performances. While moving within stylistic territories close to the ones fertilized by Minimalist pioneers such as Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Jon Hassell, he also managed to inject a sort of narrative aspect within his aural artifacts. He recently dropped an awesome digital album titled “Ontonanology” (Amorfik Artifacts / Insolit). Let’s get deeper into this artist and his fascinating art in his own words.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Iury! How are you doing in these weird days for mankind?
Iury Lech: Hello to you. I am somehow observant, expectant with a kind of active nihilism, in a more inspiring and powerful creative state than ever. The next future will open many doors to those who finally will be able to recognize the false from the authentic and stay constant and consistent with the true objective of their lives. The “Covid experience” must give us a lesson on determination on how to change course in all aspects and how to change something inside our minds and inside our societies. That by stopping our sick systems we can change globally and not to go back to repeat the mistakes of our past “normality”, to revturn to our mean, unjust and polluting policies, since the mortality due to our consumer lifestyle is higher than those caused by the coronavirus. This virus experience, with all the tragedy, pain and dullness that it has brought, gives us the opportunity to meditate about what kind of future world we want to live in.
Chain D.L.K.: I guess you’re currently based in Madrid. How are measures related to this emergency affecting your life and your art?
Iury Lech: A year has passed since the start of the confinements and restrictions on mobility. By choice, when I moved from a town near the Mediterranean Sea in Catalunya more than fifteen years ago, I decided that I did it but if it was possible to live on the outskirts of the city of Madrid, isolated from the urban maelstrom and surrounded by nature. For a long time I have not felt like living in overcrowded and polluted cities at all. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, lately has become fashionable for many to leave the cities and move to the countryside, or to the mountains, or to the seaside. Undoubtedly a passing fad that once the infections and the fear of the virus are over, everyone will return to their lives of concrete and asphalt. I make this reflection in light of the question, since to feel creative I need to live in an environment with space, tranquillity and silence. So this forced isolation, rather than harming me or making me feel overwhelmed or unhappy, has allowed me to concentrate even with greater emphasis and be able to dedicate myself to finishing some latent projects, among them such as the album “Ontonanology” and all its visual exhibition for live performance; or carry out the eleventh edition of MADATAC, the new media art festival that I direct and organize each year in Madrid, although this time in a hybrid way, mostly in virtual format and a small physical section, as well undertake new international art and culture projects. With this I do not mean that everything has been easy or that the situation is the most buoyant, since like so many others I have suffered a lot of setbacks as cancellations of concerts, performances, conferences, presentations and activities of all kind, but just point out that despite the complexity of the situation I have tried to make the best of the bad.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s go back to your very first step in arts. I saw your debut album was labelled by Hyades Arts, the awesome (and I’d say the historical, as they marked many interesting releases from the Spanish electronic music scene) imprint by Antonio Diaz and Dr. Hctor Hernandez. You had a strong connection with them, as you released a lot of stuff on that imprint (you were the only artist who released stuff on all three formats – cassette, vinyl, and CD -). How do you remember the years of your debut and all the stages when your art met Hyades orbits?
Iury Lech: At the end of the eighties I lived in Barcelona and there were no labels interested in the style of electronic music that I did, so I listened to a friend who told me that there was a new experimental and avant-garde music label in Madrid and send my tapes to the guys of Hyades Arts, who apparently loved the sound material from “Otra rumorosa superficie” (“Another rumorous surface”), which had been recorded in a New York studio in the early 80s when I used to lived in that city and was the soundtrack of two of my early films: FINAL SIN PAUSAS (FINAL WITHOUT PAUSES_Super 8; 1982) and BOCETOS PARA UN SUEO (SKETCHES FOR A DREAM_16mm; 1983). They published “Otra rumorosa superficie” in a cassette format at the end of the 80s, maybe it was the label last reference on that format. At the beginning of the 90s I present to them “Msica para el fin de los cantos” and they immediately released it on vinyl, although I suggested that they release it on CD because at that time the decline of vinyl had already begun, but for budgetary reasons it was made on vinyl since the production was still cheaper than that of a CD. Quite a paradox if we compare it with the current boom of vinyl over CD. One year later Hyades Arts released on CD “A bit[e] in the common sense”. At mid 90s the label disappeared for various reasons, although I think the main one was due to the utopian and unfeasibility of publishing in Spain and promote from here that kind of rare music, at a time when the rock & roll, pop and dance music scene heavily dominated the market and that internet, or online sales, did not yet exist. Since those years I still maintain a good relationship with two of the four directors of the label, who have each taken very different paths, although a few years ago there was a failed attempt to recover the references of the Hyades Arts label and reissue them.
Chain D.L.K.: Otra Rumorosa Superficie (1989) was later reprinted by Alex Bradley’s Utopia. How did you get in touch with Utopia? How did you feel while listening to your debut 30 years after its birth?
Iury Lech: Alex got in touch with me to release “Musica para el fin de los cantos”, which was a discontinued and unfindable album that was sold on the internet for more than 300 euros, but I had just licensed it with Cocktail d’Amore, so I propose him to release an even lesser known work of mine, whose limited edition on cassette did not do justice or reflect the quality of sound recorded in a professional studio. As the reissue of “Msica para el fin de los cantos” and the publication of the album of remixes and reinterpretations, “Reinterpretaciones” was very recent, at that time it was difficult for me to assimilate and enjoy it in all its magnitude, but during the pandemic I was able to get closer to this wonderful and unexpected “resuscitation” and feel pleased seeing that a work that barely had any repercussion at the time of its appearance, today is a music appreciated by a wide audience.
Chain D.L.K.: Sometimes electronic music composers consider sound as a physical and emotional entity itself as a source of inspiration… is it the same for you or do you have any sources for inspiration other than the sound itself and the intent to explore sound itself?
Iury Lech: Inspiration appears when you least expect something from it and in the most unexpected places, so I always try to keep the channels of the subconscious open and create while maintaining the precepts of surrealist automatic writing, in this case, a technic applied to the sound scores. I also somehow try to establish a physical and emotional relationship with the instruments, devices, equipments and technology that allows us to make music. But I think that inspiration is found in any kind of sediment that must first be compost, and being open to all kinds of sources, readings, views, listenings and experiences out of the ordinary. Sound is an electromagnetic force that, emancipated from its definitions of time, texture, harmony, tone, or rhythm, reveals an unknown spectrum of the universe, and as a sound alchemist one has to spend many hours experimenting, molding and bending sonic matter to unravel the mysteries of aural combinations and be able to discover new patterns, in order to end up building sound palimpsests, that can transmit and exercise in the listener not only an inner mobilization but the premises of a magical-religious experience. I can emphasize that all the creative processes that I face I approach them with the same objective, from a personal need, not from the requirement of a contract or clause, in order to promote something unique, unrepeatable, that leaves some kind of imprint on the person who receives the work that one has elaborated.
Chain D.L.K.: How did your equipment and working tools change over the years? Do you remember any specific issue or limitation that new technology contributed to sort?
Iury Lech: Coming from playing in my early education classical instruments such as the piano, guitar or drums, the discovery of the enormous range of synthetic sounds, the possibility of manipulating them and the appearance of computers and their applications as a powerful and infinite source of creation and of creative support, with their certain autonomy that is beyond our control, allowed me to detach myself from the tyranny of the recording studios as well as from the forced collaborations with other musicians, who either did not understand or did not value the musical search in which one was immersed. This emancipation brought me the chance to focus and concentrate on developing the kind of unclassifiable sound structures that I wanted to develop in order to tear down my own concepts and schemes and manage to surprise me with the unexpected discoveries that digital technology has given me since the beginning. That was a very rare time for electronic new music that did not want to fall into the temptation of Electroacoustic or Contemporary Music in some way, a music that wanted to go further, in a compromised, complex language, with its own code, and away from academic tendencies. I do not consider myself a virtuous person nor do I consider myself a student of anyone. Simply, a person who has tried to find his own way.
Chain D.L.K.: As an experienced artist, would you say that contemporary listeners understand your music better than the ones of the decades of your activity or not?
Iury Lech: In reality, I have never stopped to trace back if the audience understands what I do or not, because in each period, and to a lesser or greater degree, I have always found listeners who have appreciated what I have done, although since I am not an artist that repeats himself with each new work and always tries to offer to the public something totally different, a stand that perhaps confuses those who hope to find a common thread, some very clear references that allow to classify an artist and establish with him this kind of possessive relationship that we continuously see on the purely trash commercial culture, due to a bound by the premises of the marketing dictates, lack of talent, or to the opportunism of continuing to extract dividends from a hackneyed formula. Perhaps that absence of visible references in my works, on the other hand totally sought, makes me a kind of outsider unknown to many. What is true is that before there was an audience with a much broader musical culture and that today people have limited themselves musically, not to mention other areas of life, in part because education has been left in the hands of the media and social networks, where it’s usually sounding mostly as a kind of “kleenex” music, disposable products previously digested and easy to consume, with a very basic artistic component, and only created for mere entertainment, something that our society easily confused with art. Then, going from reggaeton and its derivatives to Steve Reich or Ravel, is a very difficult leap to take if one has not previously become literate, musically speaking, in order to enjoy and understand all styles of music. Although the democratization of access to information has also allowed many artists and creators to be discovered today, previously overshadowed by the preponderance of a system that only prioritized a few big sales figures.
Chain D.L.K.: “Musica para el fin de los cantos” has been considered one of the forerunning and maybe underrated albums of yours. Listening to it is the best response, but how would you explain such feedback or how listeners or reviewers explained it? Any word about that excellent release, its reissue, and the remix album, which followed?
Iury Lech: “Musica para el fin de los cantos” made its way “silently” over the years, without fanfare, which was even a surprise to me. I do not know if this second and long life of the album was due to the revival of vinyl or other factors that escape me, since once this album was published, somehow I let it be to continue creating new albums with another musical approach, and it was not until a few years ago that I found out about the magnitude it had gained among specialized critics and the followers it had generated, when Cocktail d’Amore contacted me to ask me about its reissue. What I am clear about is that each new project I embark on I try to endow it with complexity and timelessness, without looking at styles or influences. It may be for this the reason that they are preserved over time and that my other works have not yet reached the time to be discovered in the same way, because of that component between indefinable and visionary that I mentioned, a question that I leave to be addressed by specialized critics and the public’s criteria.
Chain D.L.K.: I was almost asking if you knew Kvitnu people (can we consider them as country fellows of yours), due to the resemblance of many of their outputs to some releases of yours, when I noticed Zavoloka signed a remix of “Musica para el film de los cantos – Reinterpretaciones”… how do you meet them? Did your path cross with any of the artists in Kvitnu roster? Any other Ukrainian composer you would recommend?
Iury Lech: It’s funny that you mention it since a few months ago I offered Kvitnu to publish “Ontonanology” but they rejected my offer, maybe because recently I hear they announced to discontinue with their label project. Actually I don’t know the people of Kvitnu personally and I only got in touch with Zavoloka when I was proposed to make an album of remixes of “Musica para el fin de los cantos”, which I titled “Reinterpretaciones” since more than remixes they are reinterpretations of the original tracks. Since I started looking for different artists who could fit in and who would like to participate in the project, I thought of her that as a Ukrainian artist she would feel very close and linked to a composition like “Ukraina”, and that’s how it was, and she accepted. In the line of minimalist ambient I can mention the Ukrainian composer and pianist Lumobyr Melnyk and his inspired contributions to continuous music.
Chain D.L.K.: Your style is not easy to be filed under some known categories. The title of your recent album “Ontonanology” could be a possible way? Can you introduce it?
Iury Lech: About my style I think I have already elaborated a bit throughout the previous questions, but I can add that I have always felt compelled to step aside and avoid the easy path, the obvious, the banal, the recognizable and ultimately monotonous, moving on an open style and an abstract way of conceiving experimentalism. As for the title “Ontonanology”, which for me is an axial part of my work from which I begin to reel off the rest of the content, it refers to the microscopic oscillations of being and the manipulation of sound on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale, to conduct a cinematic voyage into the music for thought.
Chain D.L.K.: As a visual artist, can you explain the relationship between cover artwork and the aural content of the release?
Iury Lech: In the case of “Ontonanology” I wanted to capture a tangle of neural networks that in turn could contain images of a secret cosmogony, as a metaphor for duality.
Chain D.L.K.: The title track “Ontonanalogy” is my favourite, but I’d like to ask you why I see (et banalit… French for ‘and banality’) as a specification of the title?
Iury Lech: In this specific title the aforementioned can be applied with a critical component, since if for everything and everyone there is a double opposite, faced with the hermetic poetry of nature, opposed is the [evil] banality of many of the acts committed by human beings in the name of nature.
Chain D.L.K.: “Wuxian” is another of my fav. It brought my mind to Tuxedomoon’s Love Train. Any relation?
Iury Lech: Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t know about that Tuxedomoon track. Wxin means in Chinese unlimited and somehow refers to a kind of shift or voyage towards infinity.
Chain D.L.K.: Regarding weird titles (and possibly their relation to the aural content), any explanatory comment on “Licca Carpatiana” and “Precambric Strain”?
Iury Lech: “Licca Carpatiana”, whose approximate translation would be “stone of the Carpathian mountains”, is a kind of search remembrance of my ancestors who lived in that region. As for “Precambric Strain”, it is a sound reminiscence of remote and unknown times, a historical moment in which the geological stress could have had qualities similar to that of our anthropocene era, only that the tectonic plates are replaced with sonic layers.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress (both on aural and visual arts… or who knows? maybe literal!)?
Iury Lech: Well, I can give you the scoop that I am preparing tracks for a new album, a work in progress that has the provisional title of “Magnetarium” and its respective visuals, waiting to finally present “Ontonanology” in a live AV performance that I had to cancel in November due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic and which was rescheduled for April 9 or 10. I am also shooting a video-art feature film and ending an experimental novel, the fourth part of Wolef’s tetralogy, ascribed to the genre of rhetorical intrigue.