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Kate NV - Room for the Moon Music Album Reviews

Alongside a cast of musicians who help bring her kaleidoscopic world to life, the Russian avant-pop artist emerges with a visionary record that offers an escape from gloom.

The Russian experimental pop performer Kate NV has her feet in two worlds. In one, the artist born Ekaterina Shilonosova sings and plays guitar in the fiery post-punk band ΓШ (Glintshake). In the other, she works with the Moscow Scratch Orchestra, an ensemble inspired by the improvisational pieces of the English composer Cornelius Cardew. In her work as Kate NV, she commits fully to the unpredictability and openness that unites them both.
NV’s sophomore record, 2018’s для FOR, was a whimsical, ambient portrait of her native Moscow made mostly on a synthesizer. But the stiffness of sitting or bending over a Buchla soon took a toll on her body; it was time to return to a more flexible method of making music. The result, Room for the Moon, is a return to the joyful grooves of her 2016 debut, Binasu. If NV’s striking voice was largely absent from для FOR, here it springs forth like an acrobat who has been waiting on the bench for her time to shine. Alongside a cast of musicians who help bring her kaleidoscopic world to life, NV emerges with a visionary avant-pop record that offers an escape from gloom.

But even while Room for the Moon bursts with exuberance, NV has explained that the record was finished during “the loneliest period” of her life. With that in mind, it’s easy to see these 10 songs as a sanctuary NV willed into being, a fantasy world where that solitude could be replaced with a cornucopia of melodies. The air of escapism is palpable in the album’s wriggling synth flourishes and chirping flutes like hummingbirds. For one track on для FOR, NV set a poem by the abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky to song. While the Russian expressionist is not so explicitly invoked this time around, Room for the Moon gestures towards the synesthetic splashes of color that define Kandinsky’s work. NV’s music feels akin to being sucked into one of his paintings, where there’s no linear thinking, only liberation.

NV has said that Room for the Moon’s influences include Russian children’s movies and television shows and she has described her album as a fairy tale, saying “Each song is like a character who, to one degree or another, is presented in me and shapes me as a person.” For the most part, these studies are loose and upbeat. The blips and bleeps that begin opener “Not Not Not” are soon joined by a mix of bass, saxophone, and synth. “Ça Commence Par” is carried by a symphony of woodwinds, marimba, and faraway giggles that eventually give way to a riddle which NV presents like a Mad Hatter for club kids: “We buy it to eat/But we never eat it/Starts with a ‘p.’”

But beneath these sparkling tracks lie anxious ruminations. The message coursing through “Not Not Not” is considerably less chipper than its squawking horns: “You’ve got no time/Soon!/You’re getting old.” “Sayonara,” which turns wistful repetitions of its titular phrase into a hook, is mired in indecision. On “Marafon 15” NV layers an assortment of eerie synth effects atop a dogged bass line, creating a sensation of creeping uncertainty. “Your hand will grasp and let go of the precious moment/What will happen to it/It will return,” NV blithely murmurs in Russian. The lullaby “If Anyone’s Sleepy” explores the slipperiness of time in a similarly elegiac register.

But ultimately, Room for the Moon emanates a gentle sense of hope. Late album highlight “Plans” is an ’80s dance party featuring a bleating sax solo pulled from Found Sound Nation’s “broken orchestra” sample pack. “Somewhere on the planet there are plans where everything is clear, where we are given words,” NV promises in Russian. Even if that cloudless place is impossible to grab ahold of right now, Room for the Moon offers respite until we find it.
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