abstract ambient electronic composer drone field recordings modular synths review synth

Heinali – Kyiv Eternal Review

A love letter to Kyiv, for those that don't want to forget her and those who haven't met her yet.

What does Heinali sound like?

An instrument and time-bending modular synth composer, this time armed with field recordings of his home town.

The review of Heinali – Kyiv Eternal

The album ‘Kyiv Eternal’ is a deeply personal one. It’s the continuation of the theme of artistry in the face of war that Heinali has been championing since the Russian war against Ukraine began. He has been part of a collective performing live concerts in bomb shelters and attempting to allow creativity to nurture in a wartorn landscape. ‘Kyiv Eternal’ is a love letter to the city, home to Heinali for 37 years. The electronic composer explores his love of the city and its own unique character across 50 minutes of intimate recordings.

photo of Heinali

Each track features field recordings from different parts of Kyiv and they are interspersed with ambient recordings from Heinali’s archives and his trademark modular synths. Usually, those rhythmic bleeps and bloops are front and centre to his work but this time around, they take a back seat. It’s in the piano jangles of ‘Peizazhna aleia’ that glisten and shimmer where the modular synths hide in this album. Instead, much of the album is awash in ethereal, romantic and warm synth pads. On opener ‘Tramvai 14’, as we ride the tram, we can hear the road rumbles and announcements over fizzled post-rock synth hues. On tracks like the celestial ‘Borschchahivka at Night’, the embers of synths are like ghostly echoes of past memories. This track specifically evokes such a haunted beauty, I felt nostalgic for a place I’ve never been to. The glitchy keys of ‘Botanichnyi sad’ mixed with bird song is another early highlight.

Elsewhere, things can feel more industrious. ‘Rare Birds’ is like a machine surge and industrial drone that’s been underscored by a church organ. It sounds harsh to the ear but as it is a complete wall of white noise too, it’s oddly relaxing too. ‘Stantsiia Maiden Nezalezhnosti’ takes a similar approach with added trains. It aims to evoke the hustle and bustle of the central square and does a great job. ‘Shuliavka in Winter’ sounds like crickets and electric wires are speed-dating a drone machine. ‘Silpo’ takes the musical drone into a magical overture. You can hear the city setting up in the background of electric piano, tuned percussion, electric guitar strums and other glissando instrumentation. It sounds lush, royal and regal with just a spoonful of magic.

The final three tracks go together as a mini-suite for me. It opens with the over eight minute long ‘Night Walk’. This evocative piece takes the sounds of Kyiv’s nightlife and overlays a rhythmic synth riff over the top. Slowly, that riff distorts and gets filtered and chewed up into a chalkier and wiry version of itself. Heinali makes it sound like a melodic siren. As the cars and chatter fade into rain on the rooftops, ‘Kyiv Eternal’ expands on that riff into the climax of the album. Its cascades of synths bring optimism, empathy, grit and determination to the surface. The previous track’s riff is now the bassline for the title track and the synth organs ring out triumphantly. There isn’t much in this album that brings direct melodic impact here, but ‘Kyiv Eternal’ hits the mark perfectly. ‘Coda’ rounds out the album on the roadside, as if all the traffic is leaving the old memories of Kyiv behind.

Heinali says “Kyiv Eternal is a farewell to this place in time and space to which none of us will ever be able to return. It is a place that will only exist in our memories.” Hopefully, through this album, its many inhabitants can revisit Kyiv’s pre-war vibes and character and find comfort and warmth there. By focusing on the city and not the events themselves, I was surprised at how inviting this album feels. Despite that, I also feel a loss for something I never knew. A disenfranchised grief of sorts. Every track feels like it leaves a lingering imprint behind as if to say “don’t forget me”. Heinali’s work ensures we won’t.

Recommended track: Borshchahivka at Night

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Heinali - Kyiv Eternal



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