The Russian duo Alina Izolenta and Kamil Ea have just released their debut album for Kraviz's трип (Trip) label, as expected its out of this world! PTU’s album is so diverse, skirting over a number of different styles that fuse together due to a fondness for peculiar sounds. I caught up with them to discuss what influences them, their early experiences with music and how they go about playing live.
You can cop the 12" below
What have you both been getting up to recently?
Kamil: We have finished mastering of our new album ‘Am I Who I Am’ and we have been working on new stuff. Our album is out on 17th June on the ‘Trip’ label. The previous EP ‘A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day’ was released in 2017. After that some tracks were recorded for the label’s
When you were growing up, what sort of music was around you / what
were you listening to and what was your first experience with electronic music?
Kamil: I went to a Jazz School and I studied drums. There was a music teacher in my family so it made my classical and jazz music background. At the time I was into the metal scene and I used to like all kinds of music, eventually it was mostly electronic music. There were loads of books and music in my childhood. My dad had a vinyl collection and he was also quite fond of Visotski, a Russian poet. My first synthesizer was Faemi, It was my grandmother who gave it to me. She actually had bought two of them – one for herself and the other one for me because I went to music school. She was a famous poet. A lot of compositors would come to visit her and there were loads of different musical instruments at her place. Later on my friends and I tried to use it again but it was just that it sounded horribly bad anyway. There was nothing we could do about this sine wave which was uneditable at all. Friends of mine played on it in a punk band, it lasted no more than two gigs.
Alina: I grew up in a small Siberian town, Langepas. Langepas means ’squirrel land’ in the Khanty language. Actually there are more than 190 different ethnic groups in Russia. The smallest ethnic group I know is Yugh people, only one person was counted at 2010. Langepas really is a small town which is very far from Moscow. At the time I was a teenager there was no Internet at home and it was a major challenge to find new music. I didnt have a person to look up to either. Someone to learn from and who could have shared stuff with me which I could have listened to and felt my inner growth. I think that I’m expected to name some awesome musicians and that would be it but no! I’ve got something to tell about it. The 90s were a tough time in Russia. It was really mad time. The 1990s were a transition into something new. The people got crazy because of new information and freedom. Sometimes It simply was hard to people to comprehend adequately what was going on. The crime was at its highest. This is why the music surrounded us at those times was about crime as well. It’s called ‘Russian Chanson’. Criminal songs, that are based on the themes of the urban underclass and the criminal underworld. About the people who had lost their way in criminal deeds. Besides it was the miserable songs about life in jail, it was also utterly tasteless. The songs were performed by heavy and old voices. It has nothing to do with groovy hip-hop music telling about ‘a tough life’! At that time all good and interesting music was considered as underground, no matter what genre it was. It means that Chemical Brothers or Nirvana were real underground. In Russia. And the underground scene itself was ever more «underground». Funny, isn’t it? There were quite a lot of intelligent Russian projects. For instance, Species of Fishes (Виды Рыб). When I was about 12-13, everyone used to listen Prodigy. It was mostly the guys who studied very badly as it turned out I’ve no idea why. I remember once a guy asked our old teacher of English to translate ‘Smack my bitch up’ during the class. They all knew what it meant of course. Although the teacher got embarrassed she managed to make it in a very polite way and with much dignity. The girls liked to listen to No Doubt. Through all of this somehow I discovered The Orb and Aphex Twin.
Let’s talk about the beginning of PTU. How did it begin? How did you meet
Kamil: Some friends of ours threw a drum’n’ bass party in Grot Bar in my hometown Kazan, I met Alina there. The club looked like a cave on the inside with the lightened floor. There was a lot of fun there.
Alina: I don’t know why but I remember this as a 2-step garage party. My friends and I loved to meet up together when it was a party so we could experience sort of the arty communication. We loved to play synths and record things. Out of this some projects were born. The same happened to PTU. Our friend Timur gave it the name.
Why do you think you work well as a collaborative duo?
Kamil: Being honest with each other is crucial I think. If one of us has some weak points we can always identify it and talk about it. In order to make it right. It’s also important to tell about the strengths. It helps a lot to create something in the best possible way. If my partner likes it, it means that other people will like it too.
Alina: We have a lot in common but still we are different. That’s why it works so well. Also we’ve got the same goal so we have to be honest to achieve it.
How would you describe your production process?
Kamil: It’s more like a well-balanced puzzle. How musical elements can be represented in a certain sequence when a decision has been made.
What artists, labels, or experiences have influenced your sound?
Kamil: The most vivid impressions from music I got when I was a teenager In the 90s. I reckon British music has had the most impact on me to this day. Bands like FSOL, Faithless, Massive Attack, Underworld, Primal Scream, Leftfield, Orbital, Brian Eno, Boards of Canada, Autechre,
Squarepusher and Aphex Twin.
Alina: It’s been always difficult to answer this question. Loads of different musicians and bands come to my mind. I think you can be influenced by music you dont like as well. Most often it becomes kind of spam in your head which you never get rid of. But eventually you see in which direction you shouldn’t go and which one is fine. Recently, I’ve been thinking that I always give a different answers to this question. As if it had something to do with dissociative identity disorder, like different people answer this. Well what was I into then? Rock, Punk, Pop, Metal, some weird electronic music, broken beat, dry techno beat? I just couldn’t help visiting all those ‘worlds’. But I preferred electronic music anyway. I went to music school when I was 6 and studied violin. So as it turns out I listened to Bach and played Ave Maria, his Air is the hit of childhood which sounds simple and is able to carry the child's mind to fluffy cloudy world. In the 90s I was a kid so I couldn’t even think about going to a rave or something.
How do you keep the inspiration and productivity flowing? If you ever hit a
creative block, how do you pull yourself out?
Kamil: We perform most frequently in Moscow. It happens once or twice a month. There is a special audience coming to our shows. The main motivation is to show something new, make something better and brighter, it allows you to keep yourself in good shape. It’s OK to make 4-5 tracks monthly. It may be daily work during four weeks or it may take only four days: one track every day. So it’s always different. Sometimes you have to push yourself to make something. In this case I use some techniques which work very well for me. One of them is to start making music in the morning right after I’ve had a coffee and breakfast. And there you get some result of
your work by noon. The other thing which works for me is to watch other producers’ videos or to listen to some stuff on soundcloud. I feel like creating something new after 5-10 minutes. I think the most important thing is to start. There’s this saying ‘You never know what you can do till you try’. I think we have gained useful skill to make the right decisions if the project has stalled. If something is blocking work you do, try to change the algorithm of actions; to see from the other perspective. And also to be able to give it up.
Alina: Sometimes people deal with different difficult situations. Sometimes it’s lack of confidence, sometimes a person just does not know what he or she wants. In fact, once starting to work all issues will no longer matter. Eventually there will be only you, sound and the process of making music. Sometimes people are not motivated enough and they postpone things to do in
future. It might seem to be simple - if you don’t want to do it, then don’t do it. But the thing is that some people feel anxious and have this feeling of another wasted day. The trick is that the longer you delay the more anxious you become. And the more anxious you become the stronger the wish to delay it. I advise you to remember what I’ve said above, that you just need
to start doing something and unwanted thoughts will leave your head. It’s really useful to do so every day, even just little by little. When some time have passed you have less reasons to think you waste your time because you are still in the process of creating.
Alina: I also agree with Kamil that other people’s creativity is inspiring. Otherwise, what is it all for? Why then we are always asked what music has an impact on us the most? It all leads to getting inspired and experienced. You must never be afraid of anything.
What’s Favourite piece of gear?
Kamil: Octatrack. 8-track sampler. At first it may seem difficult for a beginner, but if you devote some time to it, working with it turns into an exciting game.
Alina: I love all of our gear.
Talk me through your live set up, I know you use the Elektron Octatrack
and analog four, what other pieces of kit make your backbone of it? How
has your setup changed over the years?
Kamil: At this point in our studio, in addition to what you named, there is Access Virus C, Waldorf Blofeld, Novation KS Rack. There is also an AKG D 3800 S microphone and a ’Soundcraft’ multichannel mixer. As well as a large library of samples of the tools that we once had in use.
Alina: There is also an MPC 5000, which I bought for myself, but I still use Octatrack. Despite this, I’m not going to sell it yet, because it has a lot of interesting possibilities. Let’s see what happens next.
How do you work during your live sets? Do you prepare and try to plan, or
is it mainly improvisational?
Kamil: We just launch certain sounds at the right moment in the right sequence, launch certain batches and synthesizer patches through the midi chain. As if a DJ had sixteen cd pockets and he would play very short tracks non-stop. We prepare our performances, and we know what to
expect from each other. But emergency situations still happen.
Alina: I reckon in our music you can hear that this is music with a clear understanding of how it is supposed to be. Of course, I really am interested in various methods of creating music. But it is even more important for me to make it the way I like it. So that I don’t get bored to listen to it, in the end, it turns out that various complex versions of performance matter to me only when they are able to meet my interests. In other cases, I feel that I am not playing music, but showing various engineering capabilities of devices. That some people happen to buy a lot of instruments, they discuss it a lot, they know all about them, but they do not make music. This is good in its own way, but it’s not my thing really.
Do you have any other creative passions?
Kamil: Yes, it’s literature. I think each of us two will eventually write a book or two. Personally, I would like to write a book about music, but I think I definitely have not enough material yet.
Alina: Everything that can be interesting. Art I think. Scientific discoveries relate to a creativity as well. You have to think in an unusual way. But some people think that math is boring. If I were gifted this way It would never be boring for me.
Have you got anything interesting you would like to share with us?
Upcoming releases, collaborations, or anything outside of the music
Kamil: On June 17 our new album will be released on the trip label, this is a story about a futuristic world left by people.