Text by CLOT Magazine
The next mixtape arrives from V-Stók, aka Valentin Doychinov, an electronic musician, guitarist, producer and film score composer. With an interest in nature, mathematics and music, he finds inspiration in diverse influences ranging from the fringes of experimental club music, noise, and ambient to instrumental genres such as jazz fusion and post-rock.
V-Stók has released several EPs and albums for several experimental labels, and he has just published a new LP, Liminal (Position Disposition, 2022), where he combines his recent jazz fusion influences with the noise, ambient and broken electronics sound he developed during the last LPs.
Incepted during pandemics, the album title Liminal refers to a state of ‘occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold’ and very trivially, the spark of inspiration came from a Facebook group called ‘Liminal Spaces’, which I came across at some point over the lockdown period. In this group people generally post pictures of cities and buildings when they are devoid of people. These both convey a certain emotion that combines a sense of loneliness, isolation and otherworldliness which I also felt during this year. Still, I didn’t know how to express.
The artist also shares that the way the tracks were made resulted from a very improvisational approach both with the synth and other production gear he was using; the tracks were recorded live and improvisations were layered on top of each other. I also experimented with techniques for creating very broken and unpredictable beats.
Valentin’s daytime profession as a wind energy project engineer allows him to contribute to another cause that is massively important to him – the decarbonisation and transition to clean energy sources for society.
For our mix, he’s prepared a selection of tracks from albums he has been enjoying lately; mostly made of atmospheric tracks that have a certain ambience that communicates well with his approaches to production.
What was the creative process like for producing your last album, liminal: What were you technically and conceptually (if so) exploring with it? and also how related to the pandemics isolation you went through during the production
My creative process was very much focused on recording very long improvisations with my various bits of gear and selecting the parts that I thought made sense as tracks and overdubbing them, creating arrangements out of them. Conceptually I have been playing around a lot with ideas about randomness and stretching of time – it is something that continues to fascinate me.
This field of experimental electronic music is a very fertile field of intermeshing scientific ideas and artistic metaphors. So there are, for example, beats in the album that results from a fairly straightforward beat being subjected to various clock modulations, which end up completely disjointing the original beat into something very alien.
Additionally, I deliberately experimented with making experimental electronic music peppered with jazz influences. There are very interesting intersection points when you take some really wild and unpredictable electronic patch and try to improvise in a sort of fusion jazz paradigm where everything is possible in a way without worrying too much about things being right or wrong harmonically as long as the rhythmic phrasing is more or less convincing.
What are your main inspirations for your productions these days? Has it changed after the pandemic?
I get inspired a lot by nature, mathematics and, of course, by listening to music and reading about music. It’s all about finding the poetry in these fields and how they communicate with each other. Also, in my listening habits, I have drifted primarily into jazz, folk and classical music. For such reasons, Liminal turned out to be much more melodic and ‘musical’. I also came back to my guitar playing more properly. It tends to be very improvisation driven.
The album touches on different aspects of liminality and how this is experienced; what would be the main reflection about it after producing liminal? Did it make you also reflect on the physical and digital boundaries?
There are many aspects of liminality, I guess, when it comes to this music. On one hand, I think it is very transitory genre-wise and is not committing to any particular genre strain. And as alluded to in the previous question, I did this on purpose – like, for example, in the track ‘A pocket within a Pocket,’ I started with this scary noise beat. I thought, ‘Uhm that sounds cool, but it’s a bit dimensional so I decided it would be funny to play some funky wah-wah guitars on top, almost like some Fun Lovin Criminals vibe that I used to listen to ages ago. So this track became this liminal animal of incongruency that I thought was really fun.
Also, regarding the mood, I did much of the work in the first lockdowns when the Covid situation unfolded. We were reading on the news daily how the cases and casualties were increasing, and that affected me, as anyone else very, very much.
There is indeed a bit of narrative around the blurring of borders between digital and physical life. It is a topic that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about. Our lives, especially in Western urban environments, are already lived at least 50/50 in digital worlds, and it looks like this will only increase. Like many people in my generation, I am very suspicious of various implications, such as big tech trying to plug their ad-serving platforms directly into our brains. So, for the time being, I think I have a wait-and-see attitude towards virtual reality etc.
Where would you like to take your V-Stók project into?
I have just moved to Genoa in Italy, which has occupied me for the last few months. I now have a good place set up to record. I have some new material that I am working on and aiming to complete another release, probably towards the end of the year.
What is your relationship with novel technologies nowadays, and how do you use them for your practice? And how do you cope with technology (screen/digital) overload?
I use a lot of gear, but I wouldn’t call any of it really ‘novel’ as it’s gear that’s existed for at least 10 years. The same goes for the software I use – it is mostly Ableton and many other plugins such as compressors and so on. Nothing that I would consider cutting-edge. It is on my to-do list to get a bit more into multi-channel recording and composition. I started exploring this a bit when I was part of the Amas crew in London, which interests me.
On the visual side, I have been learning about tools such as TouchDesigner and Houdini and have used those for my videos and cover art for the CDs.
Regarding screen overload, yes, it can be a bit of an issue. It is a long topic. My strategy is to actively manage my feed so it’s fairly boring and not drawing me into rabbit holes. I used to follow a lot of very hard left pages and wasted a fair amount of time on those with no specific benefit to me or to the world around me, so I got rid of all of them.