22.05.2019 | Words by: Bram Barentsen
Belarus is one of those countries of which I know almost nothing about. Despite the internet I can still barely imagine how people live their life there, yet it’s the endless forested environment filled with (to me) unknown clubs and different personalities which intrigues me. A scene I would love to learn more about.
Minsk based DJ and producer Elena Sizova is one of the individuals who grew up in this East European landscape and forms part of the Belarus scene. While she only had a mysterious self-produced loop on her SoundCloud called ‘just
’ in May 2016, Elena surprised us with a collaboration with Heinrich Mueller for a Der Zyklus mini-album. The way this project approaches music totally characterizes Sizova’s sound: dark ambient which converts to twisting electro and broiling techno. The outcome of these sounds combined feel very mysterious, which is the same way I tend to feel about the combination of her DJ’ing and weekday job.
On weekdays Elena is an engineering lecturer at the National Technical University of Minsk, which is something, I like to tell myself, you can hear in her sets and mixes. These are filled with meticulous transitions and sci-fi elements while she mixes old and new. The self-formed DJ matches the Digital Tsunami sound perfectly, and uses her technical educational qualities to express herself. Meanwhile Elena regularly plays sets at underground (East) European raves, delivers teasing mixes and curates her own RADIO RITUEL
– a musical collaboration with (Natalie Ann) Blackmoon77.
I was curious how living in Belarus and her job as a lecturer influenced her identity and sound as a DJ or the other way around. Q: You’re born and raised in Minsk, Belarus, a country which, to me, isn’t necessarily known for its electronic music. Can you talk a little about your upbringing and how you found your way into music?
A: I never connect art with a place, I mean music has no borders nor citizenship. Or when you put it into a wider perspective: external and internal influences are different things. Of course, there are countries with more and less comfortable environment for musicians and artistic persons. I wouldn’t say my country is super comfortable for musical development in the electronic scene, but this only makes me stronger. The internal influences are more important to me.Q: How did you start playing and producing from there?
A: When I was a kid, I sang for 6 years and I also tried to visit classes for all instruments we had at school. At the age of sixteen my interest for electronic music started. During that self-identity age I noticed that I have an ear for sound/electronic music. Thank god the universe gifted me with the right people to show me the right path. Q: On weekdays you’re teaching as an engineering lecturer at the National Technical University of Minsk. How does this affect you as a musician? And how does your work and style as a musician influence the way you teach?
A: Well, it’s always nice to have a completely different field to which you can switch your brain to. I love music as much as I love science. I grew up in a family with this combination: my father is a professor in engineering sciences and my uncle was a film director. I think that’s why I’ve got both in me – art and science. Also, not only talent and taste matters to be an electronic music artist or DJ, you also need to be able to deal with all those machines – I think the engineering part of my brain helps me with that. Q: I would like to jump back in time with you. Your first SoundCloud upload is an ambient set you played in the middle of a forest during Tundra Festival 2010. I like to think that the spooky sound from that set is something I still hear in your mixes whether in the form of an electro break whether as industrial techno. Is there something you strive for when making a mix or preparing a set?
A: I’m not striving for that. It’s the music inside speaking. It’s like a handwriting, you can’t resist, you know. Let’s call it ‘personal sound’. It’s what you achieve when you’re honest with yourself.Q: You collaborated with Heinrich Muller for a Der Zyklus mini-album. How did that came about?
A: It’s like two scientists with the same interests meet together to do a research. I love to meet people with an interesting mind and similar philosophy behind sound. Gerald Donald is one of them. Q: What was the idea behind the project?
A: We’ve got some words which describes the idea behind it very well: Its purpose technically is to visually and sonically communicate the renormalon physics principle. Each composition is separate component of the theory representing a particular phenomenon in the realm of quantum uncertainty. The observer is to be immersed conceptually and hopefully will experience discrete states of energy which is integral in atomic behaviour.Q: You also did a track together with FOQL for her project Dumpster Diving Know-How, which just released via CGI Records. It seems like when it comes to producing you like to collaborate, am I right? What makes collaborating with another artist special?
A: I can’t say I only prefer to collaborate. It’s something which happens by chance. Of course, I won’t work with a person with a different philosophy and vision over music. In my opinion Justyna (FOQL) is a true musician and she is very honest with it. I never think up in advance who I want to collaborate with, again, it happens by a coincidence. It’s like, the universe gives you the right partner, for the right situation, at the right time.Q: Which other artists from Belarus should we look out for?
A: I can mention a project by UNCOU and Skyfarma called ‘Spatial Escape/Magical Invocations
’ (which just released on Wémè Records) also Vasily Tforzki and all guys behind the local Foundamental
label. Q: What are things you are excited about for this summer?
I was so looking forward to my USA/Mexico tour this summer, but unfortunately, my visa problems couldn’t get solved. Luckily, I’ve still got Digital Tsunami Camp planned in August where I get the chance to spend time with my friends and great music. Elena Sizova plays this Saturday alongside UVB, who will be doing a live set, and Job Sifre. Tickets are still available here.