The lament of Neida – An interview with Nuage

Neida is the anthropomorphic essence of the sea imagined in the female form. Her wavy bosom expands with her luscious siren call, plucking at metallic chords that attempt to anchor the breathy synthesisers and sampled flotsam that drift over rickety percussive currents beneath them. Neida entrances her victim, luring the unfortunate soul to its final seabed grave through 8 magnificent tracks. The story develops Dimitri Kuzmin’s sound as Nuage further on his latest solo release, which shares the name of the ocean goddess. The story of Neida and the drowning man is a work of fiction however, brought to life through the music of Nuage who first struck upon the idea from the solitude of his St Petersburg apartment while lost in a world of the fantastical north. “It’s actually a tale with its roots in Scandinavian folklore. It’s the story of nature, magic, people, myths, legends, travel, cold, forests, mountains and the North Sea. Neida is the female essence of the sea, but she is deceptive, attracting people like a siren, mesmerising, calling them into the cold break on the shore. One cannot resist nature. Nature is within us – cold and dark or light and airy.” Inspired by the stories he read about the northern folklore, Dimitri set out to create an album with these themes in mind and Neida was brought to life. “I was in my room in the heart of St Petersburg, and I decided that the album will sound like that – cold, magical, northern.” The songs that came to life in the wake of this inspiration tells the story of a man, who can’t resist the lure of nature and drowns in the onslaught waves with Neida, left only “surprised” at the fragility of human life. “The first track, Erased, came out very different from my previous tracks, it was darker and more emotional, resembling a forest, trees, almost folkish. I went to Finland for a couple of weeks and listened to the track during the trip. When I received a reply from the label (project mooncircle), I knew which track would be make it on the release immediately and established the sound of Neida.“

Dimitri sculpts the sound from a foundation of House, infected by his roots from Drum and Bass. Often focussing on two-step beats, Nuage drives the EP forward with lush pads, soft airy vocals and a low end that tenderly churns away at the rhythm section. Dimitri turned to House when DnB lost its innovative appeal. “I played a house set recently in Cross Club, Prague. Some guy came up to me and said: ‘I can hear the drum n bass roots into your music. I really like the contrast, there’s story that comes through the music.’ This is where the Drum n Bass roots help; they allow you to look at the house music from the leftist view. In general, I try as much as possible to bring some drum n bass and jungle into house, albeit in a delicate manner – from a minimalist point of view.” Yet even terms like House, Jungle and DnB seems like a gross over-simplification of Dimitri’s music. He’s “not interested in working within the strict parameters of a template”. His music brims with features of great compositional complexity that eschew Dimitri’s lack of a formal musical training. “Unfortunately, I still don’t know how to play any instruments, but 15 years of really listening to music has taught me to hear it.” He draws on a variety of influences in his work and it comes together in a sound that has some similarities to the sound of House billowing out of the UK.

“Someone deeply rooted in dnb asked: ‘Why House? It’s so simple.’ This is not true at all. When the standard liquid funk breaks and samples of DnB bored me, I began to experiment with microfunk, which then could be applied to house or techno. It is all about the musician – his/her taste and originality.” Dimitri tries to “say something” with his music, evoking a feeling from deep within to come out through the expression. He has a romantic point of view when it comes to music and artistic expression, always searching for some provocative image when describing an element in his music. It has some striking resemblance to the old writers of Russia, people like Tolstoy and Bulgakov, who could paint pictures effortlessly with their words. Perhaps some of this has affected the future generation like Dimitri. “St Petersburg is beautiful; it has a lot of soul. 80% of the year the sky is grey, but the atmosphere of the city is always attractive.” His own music is very rarely heard in Russia with the artist unsure as to the reasons behind the lack of support. It doesn’t faze him however and although he finds inspiration from the city, he is not solely dependent on it as a muse. “A place is just a small part of what can affect creativity.” It’s perhaps the reason why his music has such an affinity with a UK sound, but at the same time it shares some of the solitary sombre beauty of Russia. Nuage’s music is like a cloud on the horizon, a cloud that holds the weight of the ocean in a delicate cocoon of the entrancing melodies and lush textures that float over the listener.

Neida shows the producer taking the sound that won him much critical acclaim on previous albums, Prints of you and Music Of Branches a little further into House music’s blurry domain. “I believe that music is evolutionary. Technically, my sounds became deeper when I started to experiment with 120 BPM. At first it was a naive view on garage or deep house, but lately I’ve been paying attention to the complexity of the composition from left field house. I feel like it’s been a journey.” Part of the charm of the journey on Neida comes from the beautiful harp of Olga Maximova, plucking at the sensitive layers of the music, infecting the electronic layers with some human care and devotion; Neida’s lament at the fragility of human life voiced through the angelic charm of the stringed instrument. The collaboration has inspired to work more with acoustic instruments and a future collaboration with the trumpet is also on the cards. For the moment however Dimitri looks forward to his audience enjoying Neida, perhaps listening to it on repeat, but for the most part his only wish is that it will be a story or a soundtrack for someone.” Neida is a remarkable statement in the artist’s biography; one that seems to suggest that there is some new beginning there for the artist without sounding like an executed move into trend-informed areas. The contrasting influences come together effortlessly and the harp, gives the music a very human dimension, but more than anything the story of Neida is its major appeal, taking the listener on an evocative journey through the landscape of northern mythical folklore. You can almost hear the waves crashing onto the shore as the goddess of the ocean lures her next victim into her bosom.