With a multitude of releases in just over two years, Berlin-based Russian artist Aleksandra Zakharenko AKA Perila, has been perfecting a peculiar vision of ambient music. Her debut on Smalltown Supersound 'How Much Time It Is Between You And Me?' is emblematic of her impressionistic approach, centred on the use of crackling samples, minuscule field recordings and ghostly synth work reminiscent of musique concrète.
Her atmospheric tracks toy with the notion of relaxation only to lure listeners into a much murkier dimension where the lines between quiet and disquiet are blurred. The magmatic seven minutes of standout 'You Disappear You Find Yourself Again' conjure up a hypnotic exchange between gentle piano touches and brittle live drums which has more to share with the esoteric ramifications of post-punk (think Coil or Lemon Kittens), than any attempt at framing ambient as the genre of “self-care”. Similarly, with its cascading drones and bass arrhythmia, Blanket seems to simultaneously allude to post-rave decompression and the tension of bodies under surveillance.
What’s perhaps most striking about this insistent ambivalence is the suggestion that these conflicting forces, as well as the drive to sublimate them, often originate from the self. According to the press release, a period of reclusion in a rural village in France during the first year of the pandemic prompted reflections on the passage of time, which the album sets out to explore through “an immersive experience into self”. It is perhaps no coincidence that Perila’s vocals act as the guiding force here, the shifting tones and force of her delivery suggesting the fragility in our attempts to make sense of our own states of being.
Her vocals are commanding in the spoken Time Date, disembodied in the many freeform hums buried in soft noise and reverberating synths ('Falling Into Space', 'Memories Of Grass'), celestial in the whispered echoes of 'Vaxxine', a track which, more so than the tried and tested tactics of ASMR, brings to mind MHYSA’s a cappella paeans to softness. In 'Untilted' her echoing laments seem to chase a sense of balance, while the caressing sounds of nature are overtaken by loud electric noise reminiscent of the hazy guitar intermissions in the lost 4AD classic Happiness by Lisa Germano, another record centred on the perils of self-discovery.
Although lacking the explicitness of the sensual narrations of Irer Dent, her 2019 album on Sferic largely based on her podcast series WET (Weird Erotic Tension), the viscous sound of 'How Much Time' never fails to channel a sense of tactility which keeps it at a distance from the overly conceptual. Like some of the most imaginative works in the ambient genre, Perila’s tracks play with texture to carve out soundscapes capable of drifting in and out of consciousness, amorphous vignettes which capture the tension of lucid dreaming as well as the menacing undertones of wishful reasoning.
Words: Giuseppe Zevolli
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