Oil Texture is an ambient/drone music project from Luhansk, Ukraine, founded in 2012. Gianmarco Del Re caught up with the artist behind the monikor to find out more.
To begin with could you introduce yourself and tell us something about your background? When did you start making music and how did you get into ambient?
My name is Vitaly Lebuhorsky and I am an IT specialist from Lugansk (Ukraine). I am passionate about experimental electronic music and 3D design. Now I live in Moscow and I am working on creating my own music label.
When I was young I liked bands like Joy Division, the Cure, Depeche Mode and so on. I really liked the atmosphere created by their music, which later informed my musical perception as such. Atmosphere is everything! As for experimental music — I was led and inspired by the work of such incredible musicians as Taylor Dupree, Celer and William Basinski. The atmosphere that was present in their work — resettled me somewhere far away from all of the music that was around. Familiarity with their musical activity cemented my love for this particular type of electronic music. I will never forget that period of my life when, while commuting to work, I used to listen to nothing but Taylor Dupree and podcasts by Dmitry Vasilyev — “Independent Electronic Music” (IEM Podcast). It was during that time that I developed the idea to start my project in order to express my own perception of this particular atmosphere, as if it sounded in my own vision.
Where does the moniker Oil Texture come from?
The name came to me an hour after I had the idea of creating my own project. It happened when I got out off the train. I walked past the car park and everywhere there were rain puddles with traces of petrol (you know those colored spots that collect where vehicles were parked). From this image, I got the name for my project: Oil Texture.
What is your studio set up and what hardware/software do you use?
First of all — I have my handy recorder with an interchangeable microphone system (Zoom H6). Then, I have MacBook Pro Software with Adobe Audition, Propellerhead Reason, Ableton Live, MaxMSP… It all depends on what I am trying to achieve.
How do you go about constructing specific tracks — do you generally follow a regular working method or are you more prone to experiment with different effects and techniques? Also, do you tend to jot down a lot of sound sketches before specific ideas crystallize, or is it more about working towards a specific mood and aural environment in your case?
To begin with, I tried to develop a specific approach and to determine a regular working method. Initially, everything was pretty simple. The structure of a track looked like this: I recorded a landscape it was the main texture of the track, and all other sounds and effects of this track were made from the same field recording, only with different post processing and were subsequently layered one on top of the other. In other words, the track consisted of one field recording, without the use of additional third-party samples and sounds. But over time, as happens with most musicians, one’s own working method starts to feel limiting, and one needs to experiment constantly. As a result, I have started various side projects and collaborations. It’s great to notice how one develops and grows.
You often incorporate field recordings in your music. Which sounds do you favour and where do you generally source them? Do you prefer to use them for texture or do they carry a narrative purpose to you?
Field recordings are always something fresh and generate ideas. They are not just an element for me, and often become the track itself. It’s all about texture! For instance, I can share the story of one of the tracks: the Lugansk region is very rich in deposits of coal, and, as a result, there are a lot of coal enterprises and mines in the region. The people living there are all in some way connected to it. It can be a relative or a friend working in one of these mines. Those who grow up in Lugansk, like myself, always ask their parents and friends about what it is like in the depths of the Earth. I’ve been told all about how a mine works, but I only have a mental image of it.
Now, sound can brighten and strengthen our idea of a specific place, and by hearing what actually goes on down there my mental image becomes complete (and not just for me). As a result, I decided I had to find a way of recording what goes on inside a coal mine. People who don’t work there are not allowed anywhere near a mine and least of all to go down one of them. With great difficulty, one day, though, I persuaded a friend of mine to take my digital recorder to work with him (even if it was forbidden). His team worked directly on the lower levels! He didn’t know how to use the recorder nor what I specifically wanted him to record, so I just told him: just click the REC button before descending and this will be more than enough. And as a result he got me a recording made at a depth of 926 meters. It was incredible, something similar to the sound of a flooded cave. The sound rising from the depths was similar to the sound of the airplane.
I then made a looped sample and combined it with guitar sounds and processed it using echo and delay. The result is a collage of field recordings and guitar sounds, telling us about a kind of reversed event, when something good and bright becomes cold and dark, when winter comes after spring. This is a kind of allegory about the hard work of people working there, of their mood when they go down.
The EP “Tuner” was made in collaboration with Maskitol Sae using signals from satellite NOAA 19, International Space Station (ISS). It was recorded by Maskitol Sae’s handmade satellite telemetry receiver and edited and mixed by you. How did this particular project come about and what attracted you the most to it?
Maskitol Sae is a very good friend of mine. He is an IT specialist and radio engineer from Kharkov. Since childhood he’s always loved to listen to the radio, but not just your average radio. When he heard the first recording of Sputnik-1, he was so inspired that he decided to actively listen to and receive satellite signals. One day, he gave me radio recordings, made on his makeshift base station for receiving satellite signals. I really liked the idea that the sound source was not located on Earth, and that it was in its orbit. But there’s one other interesting detail. He has a receiver with a built-in Geiger counter. And in the first half of the track “ISS” we can hear a crackle, generated by radioactive particles formed by the disintegration of Thorium. Every single clicking sound is a particle of radiation trapped in the sensor.
I really enjoyed working with this material so we decided to embark on this experimental musical project. Yes, we have only released 3 tracks, a record of near-earth weather satellites and the International Space Station, but the Tuner is a very specific and evolving project. As a radio engineer, Maskitol Sae has also access to the Ukrainian T-shaped radio Telescope (official abbreviation UTR-2) belonging to the Institute of Radio Astronomy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. This is the world’s largest low-frequency radio telescope at decametre wavelengths. Recordings that we plan to use in our further work include solar flares, radiation of pulsars and lightning on Jupiter, as well as a lot of other interesting material!
You’ve released two albums with Dronny Darko as Cryogenic Weekend. Both albums, “Polar Sleep” and “Embracing Arctic Waters”, seem to fall into the isolationist ambient tradition with the latter one being particularly foreboding and menacing in tone. As far as I understand, you have never physically met, which nowadays seems to happen more often than not with collaborative projects. How does your own collaboration unfold?
We are both from the Ukraine and when working on this project, I was still based there, but we never met. It was a pretty simple process but at the same time it was also a very interesting and exciting experience. We just sent each other files via email and processed them in turns after selecting the ones we were happy with. This applied to every track.
The aim of the project is to explore absorbing drone ambient music combined with dark and cold noise textures. Yes, the basic concept of the project is the cold.
You’re also part of R+N+D, “a liquid art-cluster and lab for sound-design, media-synthesis and experimental culturology that unites Ukrainian media-artists, DJs, photographers, promoters and cultural managers”. Could you give me an idea of the work that carries out?
An example of my work within R+N+D is the installation “Tempornaments”, an interdisciplinary project devoted to new approaches in the investigation, preservation and reinterpretation of the immaterial ‘acoustic heritage’ of European industrial societies using the language of media-art. It was developed by the art-cluster R+N+D in conjunction with Lugansk’s regional Museum of Local Lore during the art-residency “Depressurization of museum Universum” in 2013.
In the context of the project, some prerecorded material with sounds of different working watches and clocks from the collection was transformed and reconstructed by Anton Lapov, Spayo Ventax and myself. That work resulted in three electroacoustic pieces — sound pictures presenting images of Time. VJ Breakpoint also made a visual contribution interconnected with the sound “triptych”. All these individual approaches were fused into a collective art-work realised in three variations — an audiovisual performance, an art museum installation, and a media installation, taking place at different stages in the Lugansk regional Museum of Local Lore and the Institute of Problems of Contemporary Art, Kiev.
The computer as a basis for our information society could be seen as descendant of the mechanical watch. Today, the inner clock speed of its processor is a pulse rate of the world. Dealing with the nature of temporality through sound manipulations, digital sound-art and computer music could be considered as the specific quintessence of the cultural phenomenon of mechanical Time.
Museum institutions have to take appropriate measures aimed at preserving and interpreting our acoustic heritage in new ways, by recreating and modelling sound environments of different historical periods via modern exhibition designs, digital technologies and media-art practice. The acceleration of the world’s change rate in the second half of the twentieth century has led to the loss of whole sound worlds which were labelled as ‘out-of-date’.
How do you prepare for a live performance and how does your live set up differ from your studio set up?
I have only played twice live and, both times, the live events were organized by our art cluster in a local art café. The first time it was done as a live compilation of all my developments concerning the theme of isolation and cold. The performance was held in the dark with a stunning video projection made by a good friend of mine who’s also a member of our cluster — VJ Breakpoint. The second time I had a video of a train traveling on the Bergensbanen railway as a back projection.
You are from Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine, do you feel artist and musicians have a role to play in the debate around the conflict?
There are no united sides in the conflict and there are several positions on these issues, but the saddest thing is that this happens between some musicians too. Of course, we all tried to get involved, in some way, but our impact is limited. Also, I believe that creativity, and music, in particular, should be apolitical. Policy is a set of laws and agreements, which are unfortunately occasionally violated. And creativity is something higher and more valuable. Any conflict comes to an end. I hope that everything will be resolved soon enough and that everything will be okay.