The opening of Kedr Livanskiy’s Your Need twinkles into audibility—a breathless mist, an upbeat shift. Quickly, it’s back down to earth, leveled by warm, warbling vocals. But for a minute, it’s pure pop, effervescent teenage girlhood cut, deliciously, with a little winking excess. Yana Kedrina—the artist behind the nom de plume—is radiant, unfathomably long platinum hair echoing the yellow stripe down the side of Your Need’s album cover. This second album, the Bandcamp copy tells us, is “a celebration of life and rebirth”—a high-energy jaunt, clubby and cavorting with peaks like “Bounce 2” and the focused, grainy build of the penultimate “City Track.”
We’re eating hummus in the back of a Persian grocery store in London when Lawrence tells me he has a surprise. It’s embargoed but Really Exciting; he needs my passport and won’t tell me why until I guess the spot. He holds up a photo of the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre, and my dumb American sensibility drives me to draw a total blank. Nothing pithy comes to mind—the depth of my Russian cultural knowledge is really nil, pathetic, so he humanely cuts me off to answer. Moscow. We’re going to Moscow.
Aside from some half-retained undergrad lectures about early Soviet film montage, Kedr Livanskiy is the beginning and end of my insight into the Russian avant-garde. I stream her debut EP, January Sun, on repeat while I wait for my visa to get approved, wandering around Berlin and relaxing into the titular track’s metered, melancholy flow. I’m kind of down about a bunch of impending change so January Sun and Audrey Wollen’s Sad Girl Theory are propping me up while I twitch around the cramped former Eastern Bloc apartment. I’m overpaying for an AirBnB for a filmmaking residency where I learn that I actually really, really don’t want to be a filmmaker. Livanskiy’s on repeat. The early EP, released in 2016, has a lo-fi grit about it that perfectly suits Berlin’s much-maligned maxim, “Poor but Sexy,” with its reverberant hum.
Landing in Moscow, I’m allayed for a second. Compared to Berlin, everything here is immaculate—pastel confections of buildings sit low on the horizon; a glass of complimentary champagne is stuffed in my hand when I check into Hotel Richter. My room! It has a fucking fresco on the ceiling! But within a day, the smoothness sours into homesick disorientation. In line for the bar one night, I watch a lethargic progression of gallery totes screen-printed with Cyrillic sans-serif. The breakneck dialectic: touchstones undercut by unfamiliarity. Vacillating into and out of elation, Your Need turns out to be perfectly suited to my first trip to Russia. Grounded by slower moments like “LED” and “Why Love,” the album flutters into occasional severity, recalling the coarse, foggy rhythms that magnetized me to January Sun.
Of course, it matters that I don’t speak any Russian. In my total alienation from lyrical meaning, Livanskiy’s songs come to me as pure structure—texture and affect and the granular nuances of each tiny build and fall, fully divorced from signification. I feel kind of icky and preposterous as I fumble towards interpretation, so a personal read here will have to suffice. If January Sun scored a month of depressey self-searching, Your Need, released at the beginning of May, came as the clouds began to hesitantly clear, all while retaining a sense of the meticulous depth that made Kedrina’s early work so haunting.
Lawrence shows his movie one night at a cinema club that was founded by Sergei Eisenstein. Lights up after and it’s really well-received by a crowd comprised entirely of plausible Gosha models. An angelic blonde with pigtail braids is the first to find him in the front row, before most have risen from their seats. “It was so great! I loved it!” He thanks her warmly. She rushes out. I elbow him, giggling. “That,” I hazard through a dumb starstruck grin, “was Kedr Livanskiy.”
Later I fall into some party at Strelka, the architecture-school-cum-cultural-hub that’s hosting a NTS showcase sponsored by the British Embassy. Beatrice Dillon—another favorite from the Cult of Domesticity playlist, dedicated to Women in House, where Kedr takes up residence in my Spotify library—takes the stage. Dancing mechanically, I catch a glimpse of platinum in my peripheral. I ask my newish buddy, probably an appropriate source of journalistic guidance because he has a monthly Vice column, whether it would be bullshitty to approach her. It’s loud so I don’t really know how he answers.
I try to put it out of my mind. I keep grooving. Eventually, my dedication to hardcore reporting outweighs my sense of personal self-preservation, so I shuffle towards her and yell over the music.
—“Hey, I love your new album!”
Graciously, she smiles. Magnetic.
—“I’m writing a review for this online fashion magazine—want to talk to me about Your Need?”
Yelling now, I’m so hyper-conscious of my shrill American valley-girl affectation, I want to unzip my skin and leave my body on the dancefloor. Mortified, I still persist, pressing on in service of Journalism.
—“I’m writing about Your Need! Is there anything you want my readers to know?”
She’s stilted, no recognition.
—“Uhh….. maybe later.”
Is that a scoop? Whatever. I still give this album five stars.
courtesy KEDR LIVANSKIY
words ADINA GLICKSTEIN
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