3OHA (‘Zona’ in English) is a documentary on early 90’s Soviet culture and the blossoming youth scene which emerged after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Taking a leaf from Western capitalism, the transposition was an uneasy one as it struggled to mesh with Russia’s older order. At odds both politically and culturally, an unbalanced symbiosis emerged. A nation was divided. This is the soundtrack to the film.
Releasing on SA Recordings, the soundtrack to Clayton Vomero’s film features music from Alex Epton and Lucinda Chua. Epton is a classically-trained Jazz musician, having recorded, performed, produced or remixed the likes of Thom Yorke, David Byrne, Oneohtrix Point Never, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, and Kylie Minogue. Lucinda Chua is a singer, cellist, and songwriter. She’s appeared on NTS Radio and worked with Stars of the Lid, Helm, Ben Vince, Nabihah Iqbal, and FKA Twigs. Shot on location in Russia and Ukraine, it reveals a group of ‘outsider lives’, taking accounts from young people in Kiev, Moscow, Vladimir, and St. Petersburg. As well as being a history lesson, the soundtrack features classical elements, post-soviet rave, ethereal, lost-in-time synths, and dynamite IDM. It disconnects from the old (although not completely) and chooses to embrace what was, in the 90’s, an American-made monster, although the youth were taken in by its promises of artistic and sexual liberation.
Along with the fast food and American fries, new opportunities were on the menu: a chance for real change, comparable to London in the 60’s. For many, liberal attitudes and lifestyles were unwelcome threats, coming direct from the East Coast of the USA – the enemy – and some of this tension can be felt within the soundtrack. Vicious beats drop like bombs; laser-synths lock on to their target. Even the more ambient parts are eclipse-dark. But it also echoes back to a time when rave culture was in its prime and every harmony was alive and ultra-awake. The intense energy in the body was a reaction to other convulsions in the country, and the period gave rise to a musical revolution, too. Explosions were inevitable, like chemical reactions in flammable environments.
The soundtrack ruminates on the past, its hauntological efforts shining a pale light upon the film’s montage of ‘recollection, aspiration, assimilation, romance, ennui, and resignation’. Futuristic sounds are also embedded in the past. Phosphorescent notes echo through long stretches of time – passing through decades – turning cold, not carrying the radiator-warmth of rave, but something starker, as if afraid of military response. Fogged-up ambient blends with modern classical and harder electronic elements. The old strings, playing Russia’s proud history of classical music, make contact with an electronic wave. The ‘artifice of modern consumer desire’ is made real and vivid through the neon, starved, and synthetic electronic tones, while on the other side, Tchaikovsky is echoed through ‘Swan Lake’, which becomes warped and dissonant after its original five notes.
The strings melt, slipping like Steven Gerrard, going off-pitch with unbalanced paranoia, mirroring the controlling government. The altered states of rave and liberation battle against the entity of a self-serving, malicious state, its corruption, greed, murder, and suppression. This is at the centre of 3OHA. It’s a melting pot, a hybrid where the young and the skeletal meet, a tight grip wanting to hold on to power and control versus a newfound freedom, and one that can never last. Epton himself says that ‘…the whole score has a blurry, ‘degraded photocopy’ feel to it. I wanted to create a sound environment that was elusive – it slips away when you try to examine it – almost like being in a fog’. The film is also a critique on consumer culture and how that culture can bury itself into memories of historical events.
‘As these events separate from the moment in which they’ve occurred, they become memory, they merge into image, product, and iconography to form simulacra – or empty symbols that no longer contain their original meaning but are now full of emotion’ – Vomero
During the coup in ’91, the Russian government chose to broadcast Swan Lake, the most famous Russian ballet, across every television channel. Instead of using the usual emergency tone, those in that moment of history will forever associate the ballet with the traumatic event of the coup. This is fear, as well as psychological control over the masses, and it’s passed down to the children, once again chaining the youth to an old machine built out of fear and control. Rinse, repeat.