Egor Klochikhin, aka Foresteppe, has been quite busy as of lately, having released the endearing collaborative album with the family combo 231 on Spina Rec, and Split #3 with Nikita Bondarev https://foresteppe.bandcamp.com/album/split-3, as well as the single Tooman on Kate Carr’s Flaming Pines series Tiny Portraits. All within the space of four months. Not content, he’s set up his own label, Shalash, a pure labour of love.
The inaugural release is the single 23 minute long track Seven Sleepers by You C, aka Bela Unclecat, a Siberian artist residing in Japan and Germany, and Foresteppe himself. Those familiar with the work of both artists will know that they favour a playful and nostalgic sound cloaked in a lo-fi patina of analog tape processing.
You C’s use of toy instruments is reminiscent of Lullatone, with its deliberately uncomplicated and seemingly naïve melodies coupled with childlike simplicity. With Seven Sleepers she lets loose with freewheeling gusto. The album artwork, by Bela Uncle Cat herself, gives the game away with a felt collage of seven mice playing the seven instruments heard on the album: piano, ukelele, zither, percussion, calimba, accordion and metallophone. Foresteppe, on the other hand, provides the trembling tape loops and the unobtrusive field recordings gathered from the Siberian landscape that collate the material by adding texture and giving it a warm and intimate feel.
As the liner notes explain, Seven Sleepers is a lullaby “inspired by a story about a group of Christian youths who hid inside a cave outside the city of Ephesus around 250 AD, to escape persecution. There they fell into a miraculous sleep for almost two hundred years.”
More hypnotic and dreamlike sounds are provided by the second release on Shalash. Titled after the song Small Hours by British singer-songwriter John Martyn from his album One World (1977), it comes courtesy of Kirill Mazhai. Muffled field recordings filter through echoey ambient loops and reverb filled drones to render a liminal state with oneiric tenderness.
Even in its infant days, what makes Shalash stand out as a label is the care given to its physical releases that come as both home dubbed recycled cassettes and reel to reel tapes. As demonstrated in the above film, shot on the occasion of Foresteppe’s 2015 album Diafilms on Klammklang, Egor Klochikhin’s love for vintage formats ensures that these are lovingly handcrafted and collectable titles.