«Lo-Fi, High Hopes: Gornostay, My Private Hospital, and Joga» — Far From Moscow

Lo-Fi, High Hopes: Gornostay, My Private Hospital, and Joga

The noun «gornostay» translates into English as «ermine» or «stoat,» immediately conjuring a couple of images. One is regal, the other not. That same opposition appears in the band`s makeup and sound, since this overtly lo-fi project contains some major figures. The lineup includes Il`ia Lagutenko of Mumiy Troll, nationally renowned producer Pavlo Shevchuk, and Americans of some standing (Norm Block and Simon Gogerly). They are joined — for audio-visual projects — by kindred spirits like actor Petr Fedorov and music critic Artemiy Troitskiy.

To that impressive team sheet we can also add Mars Needs Lovers (now based in St. Petersburg) and Aleksandr Gagarin of Yekaterinburg`s Sansara, arguably the prime inheritors of Mumiy Troll`s ground-breaking sound. These figures of stage, screen, and the printed page — from projects big and small — have published a debut album together. Entitled «Air of Freedom» (Vozdukh Svobody), it can be downloaded from the voluntary pay service ThankYou.Ru.

That process of downloading, in fact, will be conducted very much in the spirit of Gornostay: a virtual audience of admirers will emerge, unconnected by geography, just as the album was built by means of file sharing and long-distance editing, rather than through physical collaboration in one studio.

Mr. Lagutenko recently deepened our understanding of the group`s raison d`etre with some locally specific information. Himself raised in the eastern port of Vladivostok, he explained that «gornostay» is also the nickname of a Pacific beach, just outside his hometown, which is a «potential Malibu» in terms of its natural location… and yet it has been used as a municipal garbage dump. Continuing that same disorderly marriage of opposites, he says that Gornostay should not be seen as a «producer`s [glossy] project,» but instead as something akin to the ramshackle output of «friends gathered in a kitchen» for a few drinks and a heart-to-heart chat.

A further interview with Afisha revealed more background. Lagutenko explained the status of Gornostay in a very romantic fashion. If, he suggested, work with his long-standing ensemble Mumiy Troll can be seen in terms of day-to-day employment, then Gornostay is somewhat more open and unpredictable in its trajectory. «It`s like going to the airport and simply flying somewhere — with a long-distance ticket won by chance in a lottery.»

In related, though slightly different terms, Lagutenko has also said the band`s modus operandi recalls «some light and easy construction, made on the basis of brief thoughts and sketches.» The recent fashion for lo-fi indie pop in several Russian cities likewise convinced him of spontaneity`s relevance and stylistic validity today.

As an endlessly «additive» project, open to the inclusion of almost random elements, Lagutenko views Gornostay less as a band than as «a way of spending time. It`s not a collection of individuals, even, but a form of movement — around which songs arise.» This wanton avoidance of plans or ostentatious production is further justified through parallels with the «amateurish» rock of Russia`s 1980s, which was «made in amazing[ly poor] surroundings, yet turned out to be incredible in both sound and spirit…»