Khotin ‘Release Spirit’
(Khotin Industries)

I have been following the story of Dylan Khotin-Foote and his musical adventures for nigh on a decade. He released Hello World under his Khotin alias in 2014. New Tab followed. It was a wonderful collection of digital grooves and soundscapes that moved mellifluously through transformational field recordings and unabashed Russiky-Angliysky conservations. Beautiful You was meltingly tender and chock-full of quasi-melodies. It was also somewhat non-conformist and rhythmically periodic – tracks diverged and converged to and from the downtempo (Planet B), vaporwave (Alla’s Scans) and beatless trance musical sub-genres (Vacation). Finds You Well was low-fidelity, tape hissing gold.

It is March 2023. A month has passed since Release Spirit was released on Ghostly International. The harmonic distortion and analogue warmth of HV Road once again immerse me in a vessel of unknowable proportions. A phantasmagoria of tonal and atonal synths playfully hopscotch around on Lovely and My Same Size: synthetic bowed strings vibrato and legato on the former; the semi-automated synths twinkle in the half-light of the latter as its hook climbs up and down a laddering scale akin to the hyper-ambience of his Area 3 alias. The semitonal key drop on the crystalline keys on Unlimited underpins his predilection for modulation. Home World 303 is unmistakably litmus-red; the bass synthesiser melody ascends up a broad staircase of sound. Khotin progresses his signature melodia, plashing (not saturating) his 4-4 beat with stock cymbal crashes and hi-hat taps.

3 pz delivers the moment of tragicommedia that has become so idiosyncratic with his work. The lithe water-plopping synths and whirling synths gently cycle around the darkly comic Anglo-Russian vocal sampling. They are dichotomous like a Pinter play. Incongruity persists on the dreamworld of Computer Break (Late Mix). High-pitched synths lasso themselves around the rhythm section. It is the closest Khotin-Foote gets to the temple of house music that he once resided. This celebration of its 4-4 and hook-heavy totem is particularly evident on and the eponymous and Flight Theme tracks of Hello World and the fantastically named Data Orb / Nessie’s Revenge under his Waterpark nom de plume.

And then there is Fountain, Growth. Piano keys push through waves of bright and reverberating synths. The breathy vocals of Tess Roby billow beautifully. She sings the chorus line “let go all you know / let go” with lyrical litheness. The piano is reprised on Life Mask. Birdsong and the ambience of a cityscape echo quietly in the background. A tin can- like sound disappears chaotically into the distance. The esoteric Techno Creep emerges. Its Subotnick-esque noises and shaman-like rhythm section which make the dream scenario more complex. It is as if the conscious self (guitar tremolo, zither-like cascades) and the subconscious self (modular synth improvisation) exist contemporaneously, and openly.

Release Spirit is at times unsubstantial, chimeric – oneiric even. It is no less illusory or meltingly melodic than its precursors. Arguably the strongest piece is its finale: Sound Gathering Trip. Indistinct sounds tremble in the opening seconds. Piano notes play measuredly. It is without percussion – this is not needed as no formal time signature has been applied. Khotin builds the piece but never progresses it beyond where it has to be. It remains ambivalent throughout. Low-fidelity moments like this defined his earliest works (listen to For Trial Listening, particularly tracks #08 and #15, which he recorded under the alias Happy Trendy). Refinement in sound has meant that such instances in his work are fleeting, yet Khotin-Foote’s musical narrative started in this imperfect space of thudding keyboards, rough-cut crackles and degraded audio signal. These chapters are the ones that leave the most indelible of impressions.

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