To understand an intriguing artist like Svarog, drive to your nearest mountain, climb to the peak with the necessary equipment and once you’re up there, look at the massive landscape, open well your lungs, breathe nature, trees… then jump into this article.
Coming from the beautiful city of Lviv in Ukraine, close to the eastern Carpathian Mountains, Oleksa Moroz AKA Svarog is often outside, hiking with a bunch of friends, visiting a contemporary museum or admiring the ancient architecture while walking in his hometown’s charming cobblestone streets. By night, Oleksa Moroz becomes Svarog, smashing the celestial fire and the blacksmithing sounds suggested by his moniker.
Approaching his music requires a rite of passage in the mythology: Svarog – AKA the Slavic God – separated the world of the living (Jav) from the dead (Nav), thus establishing order (Prav). The separation would have become the legendary Ukrainian Smorodina River, defended by a demon on the Kalinov Bridge. Two poles, one river in the middle, this is exactly where Svarog’s music lies.
Mix the day and night elements of the Ukrainian’s lifestyle and you’ll get the nature of his sound (or the sound of his nature). From the mountain: mystical atmospheric textures, sonic monochromes, thick vapour. From the obscurity: saturated timbres, pulsing basslines, charismatic beats, usually dark, always subtle and evocative.
Two other poles can be found in the artist’s background: a structured mind, developed in the realm of architecture, studied in the university, and a specific artistic sensitivity leaned toward the trippy side, emerged from his past favourite scene: the psytrance. The mix between structure and art can also be found in his chosen acoustic instruments: guitar and various ethnic flutes, showing also an interest in tribalism.
Oleksa Moroz started to play around with Traktor in his youth. Without waiting to master the art of DJing, he went to a local club to request some gigs. The owner noticed the lack of technic but saw potential: he invited him to practice his mixing skills in afterparties. This is hence on stage that Svarog has learned how to mix.
One year after, he understood that the DJ path requires some production skills to reach a higher level. He bought Cubase and instantly fell in love with the sound design. No rush this time: he took about five years to learn how to translate his ideas musically. He built demos and sent them to his favourite labels: Circular Limited answered, and with the EP Circular 16, Svarog was officially born as a producer.
The legendary Smorodina river then brought him to other important labels, such as Nachtstrom Schallplatten, Illegal Alien, Affin and Edit Select Records. His rising productions also allowed him to experience great stages, from emblematic places such as Khidi and Suicide Club to a memorable China tour. He has mixed for notorious podcasts, including The Memoir by Hypnus, 6AM, Monument, PoleGroup, Reclaim Your City and Lost in Ether. It’s from a rich experience and a will of steel that the symbolic warrior has found his path across Middle-earth’s territories.
OUR TOP 3 OF SVAROG’S MUSIC
Chart established from his first release until the publishing of this review, in May 2021.
Svarog – Mahiia Molfara [Robotik Soul, 2020]
Proposing a top 3 of the artist’s releases is not evident; it’s like selecting the three best pictures of a talented photograph who applies the same colour filter on each (thinking of MOD21’s work in particular).
Svarog’s sound signature is very distinct: the journeys are different but the means of transport are somewhat similar. There are exceptions, such as the beautiful dreamy Fourth Myth and Passengers, which venture off the beaten path, but which also don’t represent his sound enough to be selected here.
The similarities “in the vibes” can be partly explained in Svarog’s creative approach: “I produce music from an idea of a mood, that I develop through all the tracks of a release,” he says. As a result, the journeys are more “global” than “local”. The phenomenon is also accentuated by his clear vision on music-making. He qualifies his sound as “kaleidoscopic”, to illustrate how he merges the various layers together without big contrast changes, an approach that also contributes to the replication of the vibe, subtle enough not to sound repetitive.
In this ranking, we’ve selected three tracks that – according to us – represent the most his sound, more than based on qualitative criteria. “Mahiia Molfara” and “Frankincense”, ranked third and second respectively, allow us to make other links with the Slavic mythology, so dear to the artist.
“Mahiia Molfara”, for instance, illustrates well the contact line between Jav and Nav. The area can’t be peaceful, serene, as it is torn between two extremes, life and death, each furiously attractive. The track, through its fragile balance, plunges the listener into the tumultuous waters between the idealised and the real world, the desire to leave and the courage to stay. While dancing around the conflictual border, the tension flares up. The heavenly clouds remain however indifferent to the assault of the obscure underground, but the battle has begun…
Svarog – Frankincense [Affin LTD, 2020]
“Frankincense” sounds like the outcome of the combat: the mythological order (prav) has been successfully established by the guardian, Svarog. No more confrontation: the dark percussive layer marries perfectly the luminous aerial one. The symbolic deity has merged the two worlds together instead of bringing a winner. Pain is going to live forever next to happiness, like in a balance of yin and yang, with no hope to eradicate one or another dimension during the lifetime.
Since our mind is constantly attracted by both light and dark sides, the two tracks, through their abstract interpretation, are great symbols of human nature, and potentially constitute the elaboration of an interesting mantra, inviting the listener to ride the river carefully in between the two magnetic worlds.
Svarog – Apocrypha [Informa Records, 2020]
The deep spirals, the atmospheric layer – epic but at the same time all in restraint – and the progressive percussions altogether offer to the listener a very emotional experience. Donato Dozzy defines hypnotic techno as a warm language; “a repetition in which we feel comfortable”, a safe place to get lost in. This is exactly what Svarog has brilliantly achieved with “Apocrypha”: the comfort and the sonic connection are instant, which is the essence of what modern hypnotic techno is all about, tainted of its efficient trippy atmospheres. Through contemplative listening, the magnetism of the track creates a timeless exhilaration and the only way to extend it in the real world, is to enable the “Loop” button on your favourite music player.
A MIX YOU SHOULDN’T MISS
Svarog designs his mixes like his releases: an idea, a mood, a development. Such an artistic approach suits particularly well the mix-format, as it brings a consistent and meaningful basis to the global journey. The artist has a similar approach when playing in a club: “When I’m booked for a gig, I always prepare my tracks in advance: I’m not really flexible. I do my selection depending on the time of my slot – warmup, peak time or after party – then I only mix the tracks of that selection. I take the opportunity to experience my own tracks also, but my goal is to bring people on a trip. I don’t try to entertain; it’s not important for me if people stay or leave the dancefloor, I enjoy seeing everyone free and I’m happy when people get lost in my music.”
Technopoetry is a pretty eclectic podcast, evolving from dub to industrial techno, sometimes with more experimental sounds. It gives to the artist the freedom to showcase who he/she really is musical. With an average of 2k views on each mix, Svarog’s entry with its 8k views (at the posting date) has been one of the most noticed mixes of the podcast, a sign that it has been well shared. It must be said that Svarog has succeeded to bring a very poetic dimension to a journey technically perfectly mixed, with a palpable authentic touch that keeps the vibe surprising and marvellous along the whole trippy experience.
The set kicks off directly with a beat, which is not common in the atmospheric techno genre. Some would say that it’s the hallmark of the club DJs, which partly makes sense knowing Svarog’s roots, but it’s in fact more subtle than that. Intentional or not, the third track’s very long break at 12:53 somehow re-builds the missing beatless intro, with the kicks slowly fading in at the end of it. The two first tracks come thus as “appetisers” before the journey takes off. It creates an instant interest in the mix, which then slowly builds up its energy from “Design Argument” to “The Way To”, whose chants represent the climax of the journey. Svarog then keeps the energy high until the end of the set, seemingly not ready to come down from his mountain. He somehow reached a second summit with the last track, that seems out of this world: it’s intense, divine, it brings the brightness of the high altitudes and operates a transition to another dimension.
TRACKLIST (Please buy the tracks to support the underground scene with us)
1. The Abyss Within Us – Abyss 4 [The Abyss Within Us] 2. Primal Code – Along The Fjords [TGP] 3. Pjotr G & Dubiosity – Design Argument [Planet Rhythm Records] 4. Infinity – Second_Attempt [Illegal Alien Records] 5. Alex Smoke – A Moment To Myself (Deepbass Remix) [Soma Quality Recordings] 6. Fjäder – Aurora Borealis [Envelope Audio] 7. Kontinum – Stalactites [Aarden Records] 8. Svarog – Sanctuary [Amam] 9. Svarog – The Way To (The Mystical Land) [Lowless] 10. Surt – Metaurus [Northallsen Records] 11. Petit Astronaute – Beyond The Invisible [Circular Limited] 12. Svarog – First Myth [Norite]
INTERVIEW ON A SELECTED TOPIC
Svarog shares with us how nature and culture impact his music.
Your atmospheric techno sounds like a breath in the mountain: please describe this deep connection that you have with this particular – massive – element of nature and its impact on your music.
That’s probably because I admire mountains and all the atmosphere and feelings one can experience there. I used to spend a lot of time in the mountains and I guess this vibe is reflected in my music. The background is also palpable when people communicate: when meeting a stranger for the first time for instance, by language one can guess which environment a person grew up and was brought up in, his/her level of culture and intelligence. So I believe that if my music “communicates” with the listeners, they can guess about the source of inspiration for my tracks and understand this atmospheric connection with mountains.
While sounding as if it was “breathing”, your music evolves more on the dark side. Which personal, social, cultural and/or environmental dramas are influencing your musical mood?
In my opinion, the concept and idea of the project have a much bigger impact on the sound. While working on the tracks, I try to create an epic and majestic atmosphere, that’s why music sometimes may seem “dark”. Of course, the past year’s events had a strong impact on everyone in a way. If you analyse my latest release “23 hours of drama” on Edit Select, you can feel that as well. The tempo of the tracks is slower than my typical music, as a consequence of the life rhythm change due to the lack of active touring and travelling because of closed borders and lockdown [referring to the Coronavirus pandemic period].
However, I managed to transform my attitude toward everything that is happening around me into a philosophical approach. The world around us is constantly changing, and we can only provide a negative or positive context for this, depending on our experience and assessment of the situation. We may try to save or hold something, but it’s important not to get attached to what we consider valuable.
A certain mysticism is building around your artistic character, which elements from tribalism fascinate you and why?
Yes, certain images that I saw in movies or found out about from legends have an impact on my concept and music. Mythological characters, magical landscapes, shamanic tambourines and the throat singing of monks fascinate me. Why these specific things? It’s difficult for me to understand, but I certainly like the atmosphere in the tracks that I can create with these sounds. It’s as if I’m creating a legend myself. So I become part of this mysticism.