Sunday, March 7, 2010

Review: Olympic Smoker: Dark Humor and a Stubborn ’60s Romanticism - Far From Moscow

Looking for initial information concerning the Kazan musician and DJ known as Olympic Smoker is a task that will probably throw up а few false leads, especially when it comes to images. Most often an online search will produce pictures of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who – not long after winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics – was photographed smoking an illegal substance. The individual pictured here, therefore, is not the man we need.

Instead, as already hinted, we turn to the Russian city of Kazan, founded in the tenth century and now home to more than a million people. Here, in the last year of the Soviet Union, a boy was born by the name of Emil’ Shakirov. At the age of 14 he would start experimenting in various realms of electronic and dance music. Now, at the advanced age of almost twenty, he lists his preferred styles as minimal, techno, tech-house and “experimental.” These same experiments began to be published a couple of years ago, initially through the Shoki Recordings offshoot of netlabel Deep-X, located in Ekaterinburg.

His other basic home, should we wish to follow Shakirov’s future trajectory, is Bypass, another web project – this time based in Beijing, of all places. Working hard to erase the significance of political geography, Bypass was founded in 2008, and has already produced more than 50 releases, spanning ambient works, chiptunes, more vague “experimental” compositions, idm, trip-hop and field recordings. Irrespective of one’s native language, Bypass is happy to see contributions from “all artists who work seriously in the name of free music and sonic creativity.”