Mistress of the labyrinth, bride of Dionysus, goddess of mazes, paths, snakes, fertility, passion and wine, the legend of Ariadne is built on the twin pillars of ecstasy and uncertainty. Kedr Livanskiy, the musical alias of Moscow-based singer and producer Yana Kedrina, treads a similar path: her debut ‘Ariadna’ carries a thread that runs from the Romantic poets of the 1790s to the nascent electronic scene of 1990s Russia. Much like the Greek heroine, Kedrina’s ability to incorporate these strands into her music doesn’t prevent her from occasionally losing the way.
The title track itself is a perfect distillation of her work up to this point, hitting the sweet spot between electronic and pop music that she identified, in an interview last year, as the core of her “‘90s fetish”. The fact that all the instrumentation sounds kind of cheap and processed, from the analog synths to the Ableton beats, is part of the charm that allows Kedrina’s heavenly voice to stand out even further. That nothing else on the record comes close to matching it, however, leaves the record feeling something like an ‘Ariadna’ EP, rather than the debut album it’s being marketed as.
‘Sunrise Stop’ and ‘Your Name’ are entirely pleasant if unremarkable developments, each continuing the template of stripped-bare beats and delay-heavy vocals. Any concern that the record may be playing it a little too safe, though, is answered in dramatic fashion by ‘ACDC ft. Martin Newell’, a spoken word track that does indeed feature the English poet and musician reading William Blake’s ‘The Tyger’. It’s all quite lovely right up until the 1.20 mark, at which point a blaring trance klaxon arrives, Newell’s words now looped into isolation; all of a sudden it’s more like actually being in Tiger Tiger, trapped in the middle of a Livin’ Joy extended remix that no-one’s quite sure if they’re enjoying or not.
Unexpectedly, the signs that Yana Kedrina has a musical future worth remaining excited about come in the album’s quieter moments, previously hinted at on 2016’s ‘January Sun’ EP. ‘Mermaid’ is a welcome break from the processed beats, Kedrina’s vocals now almost hymnal in the mix. But it’s ‘Sad One’ that shows off a new side of the Russian, one that eschews the EBM melodrama for something approaching an ambient track, elegant in its minimalism. Like ‘Mermaid’ it seems to be over almost as soon as it’s arrived, clearly a designated set piece on an album of bangers. There are a number of paths that Kedr Livanskiy can follow now, as labyrinthine as Ariadne’s. Whichever is chosen, she deserves to see the light of day.
Words: Matthew Neale
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