Kate NV’s для FOR, released this June on the New York label RVNG, represents a departure from the Russian musician’s past collagist, abstract pop compositions. This new record finds her refining textures and creating more straightforward, all-consuming environments with her music; fluid MIDI chirps, manipulated vocal snippets, and playful xylophone unfold over the course of ten lively yet deliberate tracks. The result is a suite that portrays both the natural and the quotidian with charm and grace. “Recorded at home,” a statement regarding the album reads, “NV says it was as if the music was not written by herself, but her chair.”
Taking inspiration from the visual artist Viktor Pivovarov and his series of works Projects for a Lonely Person, NV recently teamed up with director Sasha Kulak for a short film, drawing on Pivovarov’s approach of conceptually recontextualizing objects. Set to a selection of tracks from для FOR, the video shows someone going through his daily motions — waking up, reading a book, stretching, eating an apple — calmly and with effortless elegance. A pixel-stretching datamosh effect gives the video a serenely surreal quality, as energy appears to radiate out from household objects, and multiple images of the same figure all ripple into each other. Kulak and NV exquisitely explore themes such as the boundaries (or lack thereof) between people and their inanimate surroundings, and the body as a site of analysis for the various ways time passes.
Over Skype from her home in Moscow, NV told me about the intimacy of artistic creation, why it’s important to be unafraid of silence, and how presents and the present are inextricably linked.
How did you decide to work with Sasha Kulak?
It's funny, I came to New York to spend a month during the summer two years ago. The apartment where my boyfriend lived, Sasha and her boyfriend decided to rent it during that month too. I had no idea that she's a very well-known independent director — it all started as a friendship because we lived together all of the sudden, then she told me she was making videos. We just hung out every day and in the end and talked about what we would like to see as a video for abstract music, without even [intending] that it was going to be my track. Then we came back to Moscow and I sent her the first five tracks that I made for RVNG and was like, “Hey, do you wanna make a video for it?”
We were discussing the way we love very routine, familiar things, but in a surreal way. So we were thinking about kind of an alternative reality, like an LSD trip. You cannot believe your eyes, you still feel yourself standing on the ground and everything has changed. But at the same time, nothing [has happened]. So we decided to make a video about the regular day of the regular person and at the same time add something very surreal to the picture of it. Sasha discovered this datamosh effect with stretching separate things.
Also, [we are] big fans of Viktor Pivovarov, the Moscow Conceptualist artist. In his piece Projects for a Lonely Person, he has pictures of his table with all the objects he uses every day. There is a poster of clouds with different sunsets or sunrises that he watches every day through his window. He even has a schedule of different dreams that he has on different days. So we decided to kind of recreate the story. Being lonely doesn't mean that your life is going to be miserable. The character that we have in our movie, he's not sad, he's just very calm and in harmony with himself.
Who is the actor in the film?
Sasha, [she’s known] him for ages, they've been studying together. He's a cameraman. He usually films movies and other stuff. But he looks amazing. When we were thinking about the character, that was the guy who came to our minds immediately. Shura [Sasha] actually filmed him in one of her [previous] works. He got really excited. He's very tall, he's super attractive, and he's super weird. He's the sweetest, coolest guy, and he moves [such that] all of these moves, they look kind of soft.
When people discuss the routine of daily life, it can often seem monotonous and depressing, but this video and your music make it seem joyous and lighthearted. How were you thinking about that in the process of creating the record?
I can definitely relate to this person from the video, because making music for me is the most intimate process. I cannot make music once there is someone in the room. The moment of creation is super intimate, so I have to be alone. The way I made all the tracks, I was just sitting alone in my room in Moscow with an open window. For me, the process was so natural. I had a feeling that [I’d] been collecting information inside of myself and getting inspired by some random things, and the hardest part for me was to sit down and start something. That was the longest part of making the album, but when I sat on my chair, it all just happened.
I have a connection with this music but in a very different and weird way. There was a moment once, when [I was with] my friend, I went to take a shower and when I came back, I heard music playing and I was like, “Wow, what is this? I really like it.” And he was like, “Are you kidding? This is your music.” It sounds so selfish, but at that moment I really didn't recognize the track and I was like, “Wow, I have no connection with my own tracks as a composer.” They immediately became for everyone. That never happened to me before.
What's your personal relationship to objects like?
Every object has a purpose. I surround myself with lots of tiny objects: pencils, synthesizers, Sailor Moon figures, lots of plants, pictures. They kind of appear accidentally. At the same time, I do not really want to depend on objects. Some things like bells or bottles, I bring from the street and feel like I can use them. At the same time, I won't have regret saying bye to the objects. It's the same with presents. The main purpose of a present is to bring you joy in the moment, but then it's just a memory that goes deep inside your mind and soul, and you can say bye to the object. It doesn't mean that thing to you anymore, because you already got the impression. This is what the present is: to bring you joy, even if it's only for 30 seconds. Objects are just objects. They inspire you at some moment, and then they can just not inspire you anymore, and it's okay.
There are lots of depictions of time in the film: the clock, the pixel stretching, the slow movements. What were you aiming to get across there?
I'm thinking about time all the time. Sometimes time is stretching, sometimes the day can be really fast and short. Right now, I travel a lot, and sometimes [after] two weeks, I have a feeling that it's like half a year passed [but] I spent only two weeks away from my hometown. And then I come back and realize that time is stretching here, when I'm calm in my room. This movie shows you how time can be stretched and slowed down; at the same time, it can be very intense. In music, time is very important as well. In pop music, the attention of the audience is very short. They give you only a few seconds, so you have to be very confident about your pop track. You have to bump the audience immediately with all the hooks and the sounds so they won't switch the song. In contemporary classical music, time is very important because music is nothing more than a sound in time. Lots of people are really scared of silence. For me, silence is the way you act with the time that surrounds you. This is what John Cage [did] with his 4’33”. I'm still trying to discover where I am in time and in sounds. I'm learning how to survive in silence, how to move in silence, how to make music, how to wait and how not to wait.