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Variations in a​-​moll for a granular synthesis

by Gintas K

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the listener with the brilliant music taste it's odd, abstract and experimental AND listenable friendliness at the same time! trippy! Favorite track: Variations in a-moll for a granular synthesis #1.
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'Variations in a-moll for a granular synthesis' was created by Gintas K in 2016, during an art residency in MoKS (moks.ee), Estonia. The album uses a classical variation form in a-moll and is an extremely overpowering listening experience. Stunning and surprisingly melodic harmonies keep emerging from the granulated and continuously shifting computer generated sounds.

Gintas K (Gintas Kraptavičius) is a Lithuanian sound artist and composer living and working in Lithuania. He has been a part of the Lithuanian experimental music scene since 1994 and was a core member of the first Lithuanian industrial electronic music band 'Modus'. Later Kraptavičius became known for his sound actions, theatrical performances and conceptual art in the manner of Fluxus.

Nowadays Gintas K is exploring experimental, electroacoustic, electronic, computer music aesthetics: from overloaded massive structures, static and physically overwhelming frequencies to melodic ambiences, voice and field recordings. His compositions are based on granulated sounds, improv, new hard digital computer music and small melodies.

Gintas K has released numerous records on other labels such as Cronica, Baskaru, Con-v, Copy for Your Records, Bolt, Creative Sources and Sub Rosa. He took part in various international festivals and symposiums of new media art and sound art (Transmediale, ISEA, ISSTA, IRCAM, xCoAx, ICMC, ICMC-NYCEMF). Winner of the International Sound-Art Contest Broadcasting Art 2010 in Spain and the USF New-Music Consortium International Call for Scores / electronic composition category, 2019 USA.


Review by SSK in Vital Weekly:
Two things before we dive into the musical subject matter at hand. First: the stellar cover art by Harco Rutgers featuring a deftly shimmering glissando of muted but brightly shining pink into greenish hues cut through with subtle white wave form-like lines. With the inner panels and the disc itself following this tone of visuals closely, Variations... is one heck of a CD with quite the luxurious feel to it, a must-have you want to hold and cherish and give prime place of pride on display in your collection, around the stereo.

And secondly, come to speak of stereo: on the sleeve, it doesn't say so, but this album needs to be cranked up to be fully appreciated in all nuance. Just so you know. Often ambient-esque synthesizer experimentation tends to be all hush-hush Feldman volume, but no way with this one, please. The granular synthesis opens up the full level of intensity on myriads of layers of sound processing when the amp gets a thorough workout and the speakers are fed with all the right power to project the microscopic detail(s) across the room. Also: I tried, but cannot think this is supposed to work with headphones, for some reason I prefer the room filling up with sound matter, instead of the head alone and boy does Gintas K deliver here.

Estonian composer Gintas Kraptavičius presents his variations on the classical form in a-moll not to showcase the possibilities of his machines in this most classical of forms and formats per se, but to take the concept and push beyond with the help of intense granular synthesis; beyond that is, into the realm of deeply immerse en impressive listening experiences. Gintas K doesn't let up, doesn't do a second of ease or peace: his granulated fragments and shifting patterns divide, merge, splinter, coalesce with an unrelenting forward and deep-diving motion, although he manages to keep overpowering blunt force trauma at bay, in fact: Variations... turns out to be – above all – surprisingly melodic and harmonic.

Variations... is massive – feels like a ton of steel or concrete in a way, but then again, it is light and airy... maybe best described as sweltering heat mixed with a punishing downpour of torrential rains with rather heavy winds too... While that doesn't sound too appealing, it's exactly the push-back from the music, the up-front an centre stage of the forceful projections of exquisite tones that makes for a wall-like focal point against which the listener can lean as we came to know from the best practices from My Bloody Valentine back in the shoegaze days of yonder. Far from unpleasant, that is, in fact: you're hit with blast after blast and still there is air to breathe, moving air that is sound-pressured.

Gintas K doesn't do easy listening, but his Variations... is one of those CD's that keeps rewarding the listener spin after spin. It's not as 'wild' as Mark Fell and/or Gabór Lazar, but you'd be hard-pressed to remember melodic lines or phrases. This CD doesn't do comfort zone – doesn't allow for the newspaper to be read alongside or a novel. This a full-on attention-grabbing beast, but when you let yourself be hauled into its filigree maelstrom the aural vistas Gintas presents left, right, centre, above as below are all sparkling gems of unfiltered but extremely detailed brilliance. One album not to forget, to be put on the Long List for the 2020 Year lists.


Review by Stuart Bruce in Chain DLK:
Gintas Kraptaviius recorded this series of six fairly long live electronic improvisations during an art residency in Estonia in 2016. The reference to A-moll (or A minor), famously used by Beethoven and Chopin, suggests or at least implies traditional melodic experimentation- but this is very different and much more technical beast.

This is because the granular synthesis here is sharp, raw, and digital but sometimes lo-fi. It’s rapid-fire- there are no long notes here, but rather there are series of rapid bleeps and clicks at different tones. Over the course of six pieces, these rapid-fire digital patterns based on differing notes in the scale rise and fall in turn, sometimes jumping, sometimes ebbing, a series of digital waves of varying textures that never stand still. The sense of impulse and expression of the live human dial-control can clearly be felt- it’s not overly clinical.

The stereo separation and individualisation is mostly quite extreme, making this quite disorientating when listening on headphones. At times this is glitch music, but in the programmer’s sense rather than the musician’s sense, with spontaneous and momentary impulses that feel almost like compression artefacting has been approached so as to draw the ‘art’ out of ‘artefact’.

With the choice of chord, there is a curious melodic synchronicity that shines through at times. The layered, differently-triggered notes sometimes fall into alignment, like a kind of melodic eclipse, creating arpeggios that now and again feel familiar and reminiscent of traditional music. It’s a curious effect, melody from statistics and probabilities rather than composition, but it’s an occurrence that’s frequent enough to be more than accident, and it works.

There’s not a great deal that distinguishes the character of any of the six numbered pieces compared to the others. For example, the central section of piece 3 is somewhat quieter and more bubbly or a while before introducing a notable bass pulse, while piece 5 feels slightly brighter, more optimistic and confident in its tone at times- but each of these is a temporary distinction. All but one of the pieces is over ten minutes long, which gives each a chance to have plenty of its own internal variation. This does make a 67-minute album something of a deep dive, and a difficult listen for anyone who will find the raw digital sounds too abrasive.

It’s a simple concept, in a way, but it’s executed with a strong sense of purpose and some very solid expression. If digital exploration in raw form appeals, then take a long ear-dive into this.


Review by Squidco:
"Six variations in Lithuanian sound artist and composer Gintas K's work composed during an art residency in MoKS (moks.ee), Estonia, each variation between 8 to 12 minutes long evolving interactions between granulated and continuously shifting computer generated sounds, thick electronics that leaves space amidst the synthetics to create digestible and intriguingly compelling works."


Review by Ben Taffijn in Nieuwe Noten:
Gintas K of Gintas Kraptavičius, zoals hij eigenlijk voluit heet, is afkomstig uit Litouwen en heeft een belangrijke rol gespeeld in de ontwikkeling van de elektronische muziek in zijn vaderland, onder andere door zijn deelname aan Modus, dat zich richtte op de meer heftige, industriële vormen van elektronica. Dat horen we in zijn huidige solowerk nog steeds terug, maar dan wel op een geheel andere wijze dan vroeger, getuige ook het onlangs bij het in Deventer gevestigde Esc. Rec. verschenen ‘Variations in a​-​moll for a granular synthesis’.

Kraptavičius heeft namelijk nog steeds een voorkeur voor de zuivere, maar ongenaakbare elektronische geluiden, als pulses, sinusgolven, glitches en ruis. Deze grillige, harde, onopgesmukte geluiden vormen de bouwstenen waarmee hij zijn composities bouwt. Ritme en melodie zijn daarbij eveneens ingrediënten die we vrijwel altijd aantreffen. En juist deze combinatie maakt zijn werk bijzonder. Aan de ene kant onrust creërend, weerstand oproepend en tegelijkertijd, door die grote aandacht voor structuur, een zekere harmonie uitstralend.

En dus begint de eerste variatie met kale, duidelijk via een analoge synthesizer voortgebrachte geluiden, stotterend aan elkaar geplakt tot een melodie, vreemd verlopend, maar onmiskenbaar een melodie. Dan vervormt K het geheel met een portie stevige ruis, maar melodieus blijft het. Een zeer vervreemdende combinatie. Verdergaand op de ingeslagen weg komen er steeds meer geluidslagen bij tot het geheel langzaam uitdooft. In de tweede variatie weer die bijna onaangename kale, harde klanken in een melodie gegoten. Een fenomeen dat de muziek van K onderscheidt van de musique concrète waar het weliswaar overeenkomsten mee vertoont, maar die nooit zo melodieus en ritmisch klinkt. Verderop horen we dan ook, in zijn aanzetten tot een ritme dat er uiteindelijk nooit komt, duidelijk invloeden van de techno terug.

In de derde variatie, vrijwel naadloos aansluitend op de tweede, zoekt K iets verder de abstractie op, middels een collage bestaande uit ruis, waar heel vaag nog een melodie in doorklinkt. In de vierde variatie valt het slepend ritmische patroon op, samen met de melodie. De klank lijkt hier wel wat op dat van een zither, ietwat droog en metalig. Ook in de vijfde variatie speelt het ritme een grote rol en ook hier schuurt K tegen de techno aan, zonder dat zijn muziek ook maar één seconde dansbaar wordt. Aansluitend schakelt K hier een versnelling hoger, een verontrustende storm van ruis ontketenend. Eindigen doen we deze variatie met belletjes, onverwachts subtiel. De geluidsstorm wordt doorgezet in de zesde variatie, wat dit afsluitende deel tot de meest indringende variatie van de zes maakt.

Mooi kun je de muziek van Kraptavičius niet echt noemen, daar is zijn geluidswereld gewoonweg te tegendraads voor, te ongepolijst. Maar, zoals reeds gezegd, door dat werken met ritme en melodie weet hij je toch op knappe wijze in te pakken en is die bijna 70 minuten, die deze variaties bij elkaar in beslag nemen, zo voorbij.


Review by Peter Vercauteren in Gonzo Circus magazine:
De granular synthesis-techniek werd uitgevonden door Iannis Xenakis, die geluiden tot microdeeltjes verknipte, en terug in gewijzigde vorm aan elkaar plakte. Met deze referentie zou je al een idee moeten hebben over de beluisterbaarheid: opperste concentratie is aangewezen, en de kans dat je op weg naar het werk een deuntje nafluit, is nihil. De zes variaties die de Litouwer Gintas K (voluit Kraptavicius) uit zijn computer tovert op deze cd, zijn evenwel (relatief) toegankelijk. Soms horen we zelfs een zweem van melodie, alvorens alles opgeslokt wordt in een statische elektrische brij. Variatie nummer vijf maakt de tonen scherp als metaal en wint de wisselbeker voor de meest verrassende uitkomst, terwijl nummer zes ook noiseheads zal plezieren door de afwisseling tussen computertonen en Xenakis-noise.


Review by Roland Torres on SilenceAndSound:
Le lithuanien Gintas K est un stakhanoviste du son. Un artiste qui compose comme on respire. Avec ce troisième projet de l’année 2019, il nous projette dans un monde de synthèse granulaire rêche comme du papier de verre.

Variations In A-Moll For A Granular Synthesis éclabousse de sa rugosité l’espace, recouvre de saturations âpres une civilisation au bord de l’écroulement.

Les cinq titres demandent une certaine patience pour en apprécier les évolutions et pénétrer dans leur fausse linéarité, conçus autour de vibrations tournoyantes et de mouvements intérieurs chargés de noise sous perfusion.

Gintas K compose des atmosphères à la densité abrasive et souvent difficiles d’accès, qui pourtant déploient une beauté interne à l’onirisme désespéré. Intense.


Review by Baze.Djunkiii on Nitestylez:
Coming in from Lithuania recently is "Variations In A-Moll For A Granular Synthesis", the latest album outing by the ever active experimental composer Gintas K which has been released via the Netherlands-based imprint Esc.rec. as a limited edition of 300 copies in early December, 2k19. Created, conceptualized and recorded throughout a 2016 artist residency in Estonia the album caters a total of six variations of the title track stretched over a total runtime of approx. 68 minutes, each of them sporting a surprisingly chill and extremely harmonic approach to what is the result of a granular treatment that presents the listener with an end result of a crunchy, grinding and highly digital sounding foundation of what might be described as an Electronica / Glitch resembling beat structure garnished with floating space harmonies and clean, scientific melodic motifs broken down and shattered into gazillions of warped sonic pieces, providing a great variety of detail and excitement over the course of each tracks very own singular development. Our favorite? "Variations In A-Moll For A Granular Synthesis #2".


Review by Christopher Nosnibor in Aural Aggravation:
This one’s been languishing in the vaults for a while now, but one of the things about recording prolifically is that sometimes it takes time to catch up on the release schedule. And so Gintas K’s variations in a-moll for a granular synthesis gets to see the light of day in the middle of a solid and steady release schedule which has seen the release of one or two albums a year for the last three.

Of the six sequentially-numbered tracks, all but one are well over the ten-minute mark, and the shortest is over eight minutes in duration.

Not a lot happens, at least initially: repetitive synth stabs on a single note with varying levels of force shift into different notes. They begin to overlap, and a fuzz of distortion decays the edges. Gradually it slides into a mess of overloading noise: the synths crackle and burn among a billowing walls of darkness.

Across the album, scraping granularity and stuttering dominate the foreground. It difficult to settle to a constant flickering, a crackling distortion of interrupting signals, and the sensation is disorientating, dissonant, disruptive. By the third piece, the sounds has degraded to a rumbling crackle. This sonic disintegration could likely be taken as a metaphor for something. But for what? Well, from a reception theory perspective, you can insert your own metaphor as appropriate. To me, it feels like a sort of glitched-out panic attack, a mental collapse as a response to the crumbling culture at the tail-end of 2019. A decade slumping to its bitter end in an amorphous mass of fragmentation, with rhythms reduced to swampy surges back and forth, and fractal notes dance skittishly.

The fifth piece introduces some softer tones, an ambient wash that’s cracked and damaged, bur nevertheless hints at something mellow… and then it tears apart from the seams as a heavy fog of noise descends, and the final composition splinters and breaks, the shards bursting apart in slow-motion to leave rubble and dust.


Review by KN on Yeah I Know It Sucks:
If you let go of the conceptual side of Gintas K’s newest release on esc.rec. and just hear the music with a clean and fairly wiped out open mind, you can witness the sounds of electric emotion that are surprisingly beautiful. The hardest bit is getting yourself into that mindset and probably finding a ‘safe space’, a listening room without any extra ears from friends, flat mates or family members that might be nagging and complaining about ‘the strange noise’ that is coming out of the speakers. Not that it is noise in any way, but it isn’t your average commercial pop poop either. Which mind you; many of us might consider to be noise as well!

Getting any unwilling ears out of the way + getting your own head in the right state is maybe a hefty operation, but is one that will certainly be rewarded when going for a listening session of Variations in a-moll for a granular synthesis. It mainly comes across as if a pixelated electric sound is being strummed nervously as if it’s copying the aspects of a nicely stringed instrument, transforming it into a speedy glitch that forms high spirited structures of nicely active audio. A mouth full to put down in paper but actually it’s quite the pleasure provider.

Maybe you can see it as if a very pleasant electric sound had replaced the horrid noise that would normally be coming out of a motor cycle when you turn the gas handle up and down. In a nicer world I would love this to be the actual case, as the main tone used by Gintas K is a lot more pleasant and loveable, even flowing into musical territories that authentically are of the pleasantly pretty kind. It’s an odd thing, difficult to describe but maybe comparable to listening to a nice looking cocoon in the process to transform its inner creature into a wonderful butterfly. It’s keeping the tension as if it’s like listening to a work in process, one that is living a life on its very own, abstract and experimental perhaps but also oddly quite the listenable friendliness.

The overall electric sound used in all the tracks over here seems to be fairly the same; underlining my personal theory that if something sounds good why would you change it? Just take that sound and be like Gintas K and explore all the possible possibilities with and within it! A neat ‘trick’ that even though the artist experimenting like a mad scientist with ‘granular synthesis’ as its main fetish to explore, will make sure that all six experiments are feeling as one, creating a granular listening experience that is easy to go into with the ears and mind when all alone and deeply into the adventurous audio zone. Treat yourself well and get yourself one of these well designed albums.


Review by Mindaugas Peleckis on Radikaliai!:
Another great album of one of the most interesting composers of experimental music; Gintas K. This time, it’s about granular synthesis of microsounds. The 6 track album lasts 68 minutes and was created during an art residency in MoKS (moks.ee), Estonia in 2016. All music was played live then. Cover art and design by Harco Rutgers. His label Esc.rec (escrec.com) from The Netherlands has released this CD.

The album is very interesting even if you do not know (as me) what a granular synthesis is. It uses a classical variation form in a-moll and is an extremely overpowering listening experience. Stunning and surprisingly melodic harmonies keep emerging from the granulated and continuously shifting computer generated sounds.

To tell it in my words, I find it to be a perfect form of a meditation. The sound which, to say it simple, reminds of noise/wall of sound, is a marvelous journey to concentration. If you follow the sounds, they can bring you both happiness and joy and various other (it depends) feelings. For me, long, lasting from 8 to almost 15 minutes, compositions fantastically fit into a possibility to grasp some inner peace.

It’s one of my favorite Gintas K albums, being as conceptual as it could be. If there are rock stars in the universe of experimental music, Gintas K is one of them.


released December 9, 2019

All music played live & mastered by Gintas Kraptavičius / computer / 2016
Cover art and design by Harco Rutgers
Financially supported by AGATA


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Esc.rec. is a small, critically acclaimed record label for adventurous music, founded in 2004 by Harco Rutgers in Deventer, NL.

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