On Kedr Livanskiy's debut full-length album, we're offered a tour of another world—one that finds inspiration in Russian landscapes, sweeping mythologies, and analog synthesizers. The title of the endeavor nods to a Greek myth you might be familiar with: Ariadna (or Ariadne), who saved the hero Theseus from the Minotaur’s labyrinth with a spool of thread. It's a fitting tale and a perfect heroine for an album full of featherweight vocals that seem to pull us through a haze of throbbing breakbeats.
Kedr Livanskiy (whose real name is Yana Kedrina) is skilled at creating a certain nostalgic mood. She uses synthesizers like Roland’s Juno-106 and SH-101 to piece together a minimalist '80s tilt for the whole of the nine-track Ariadna. In the mid-album highlight, "ACDC," she even calls upon the voice of English musician and poet Martin Newell—perhaps best known for his '80s-era outfit Cleaners from Venus—to read out William Blake's "The Tyger." Newell’s voice echoes atop a light, skittering synth at first, speaking as though into a serene sort of abyss; it's not long, though, before the beat picks up, bursting into a chugging tempo as Newell deliberately asks, among ripples of reverb, “What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?”
"Mermaid" similarly relies on poetry but is much softer, with Livanskiy singing in her native Russian (as she does throughout the rest of the album). Synthesizers seem to mimic gentle gusts of wind whistling through the air or the deep bellows of the ocean floor as Livanskiy’s even croon drifts across stanzas written by 19th century Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov. The poem describes a mermaid’s journey with the tides: “On a silver wave of foam … The mermaid sang, and her song / Flew up the steep coasts.”
The instrumental "Sad One" is an artful track that moves slowly and with intention, painting a certain melancholy in broad, stretched strokes across a gray canvas. And on the other end of the spectrum, "Your Name" features a thumping beat that seems to pulse in your chest, with a twitchier percussion intermittently braided in between. The lyrics here tell a story of devastation with a shoegazey cadence, the far-off croon giving the imagery all the more weight: “The city of stone / Burned to the ground / Garages lined / With shattered glass.” It’s a song that feels simultaneously ominous and unaffected, leaning more towards IDM than EDM by far.
Overall, Ariadna is a varied palette of electronic subgenres, incorporated so well that they all seem to take on the same hues (the desaturated album art feels perfect for the monochromatic feel of the music). Kedr Livanskiy cherry-picks elements of techno, dub, and experimental electronica, among other styles, to build an otherworldly landscape. Fitting age-old folk tales and legendary Romanticism over well-curated, sparse beats, it's at once modern and timeless—not to mention a great listen.