Arthur Mine is a Kyiv-based pianist who recently released his debut EP, entitled Homespun Nocturnes. Upon listening to it, I was struck by how perfectly he managed to summarize the often mistaken atmosphere of Kyiv. While chaos may rule the state and its relationship with Russia, there remains a beautiful ambiance to Ukraine’s capital. Mine’s work fits perfectly into walking down Artema or drinking a beer by yourself in Obolon. It is both pensive and playful.
Mine kindly put together a mix for us based upon his EP, with found sounds from Kyiv that add to the wonder of the overall sound. We spoke to him about his native city and what inspired his music.
In so many ways, the impression that the majority of Westerners gather about Kyiv is that it is pure chaos, with the war, a poorly performing economy, and endemic corruption problems. Yet, the city has a certain beautiful ambiance that is accented so well in your mix. Can you speak about what particular areas in Kyiv inspired this mix?
You know, maybe it will be honest to say that all my music is inspired by Kiev, somehow whether I want it or not. It is always hard for me to point out the exact thing that triggers the inspirational process. Usually, it is just me and the piano along with some ambient sounds from outside. Maybe just the sound of birds, like that I used to hear in my childhood (you can hear them in the mix).
The studio where I recorded Homespun Nocturnes is very “Kiev-ish” because it is situated in the old Soviet era School of Arts for Children. The windows in it overlook the courtyard and you can hear children play there, and in the evenings the voices of drunk people partying or whatever. First I was annoyed at these voices getting trapped on my recordings, but then decided to let it be as it is! Answering your question, I would say that long and breezy summer evenings in Kiev are quiet inspiring.
Kyiv is constantly mentioned as one of the most exciting emerging cultural hubs in Europe. Artists like Onuka and ee are receiving more and more international attention. While their sound might be imbued in alternative music, you’re more Valentyn Sylvestrov. Are there any other Ukrainian artists that helped shape your work?
Yes, I will agree that Kiev has become more interesting culturally than it was for example in late 90s. But I must admit that growth does not apply to all musical styles. We are in a heyday of electronic club music and also the overall quality of pop music is approaching world-class standards.
Unfortunately, we are losing some great achievements that we acquired in both the classical and pop fields. By that I mean some authentic knowledge that we gained during the Soviet period. It was just forbidden, so the whole music production process had to start from scratch. We had a great amount of jazz musicians, classical musicians, and qualified sound engineers etc. After Perestroika though, music was left out just like many other cultural fields by the government. Needless to say all those people had to move to other countries where they could grow professionally. Now we’re just starting to recover. It takes time.
Yes, Silvestrov is definitely the one who inspired me among Ukrainian artists, Myroslav Skoryk as well. Unfortunately I can’t tell who else. All the other composers that I like are not from Ukraine.
I did love the found sounds in the mix, particularly the metro. What is it about the metro that attracted you?
It is hard to imagine Kiev without the metro, and it has its original sound. The metro is a parallel universe of the city, or its guts if you wish. When it is hot in summer you can go down in the subway and cool down there.
Your tape Homespun Nocturnes is absolutely beautiful. Are you working on any new projects?
Thank you! Yes, I’m working on my second piano album. I can’t tell what it will sound like till the bitter end because I love to improvise. But I want it to be longer and I want to implement more synths and electronic percussion there. Also, I’d like to collaborate with some other musicians. After all this summer has to bear some fruit!