Tik Tu — Ulitakis (2019)

Ternopil-based rednecks who want to create a dub-taxi, ring with percussion cactus needles, play for twenty dancing children in Buchach, live within the chamber Ternopil – "musical Mecca of Ukraine" and record raw pieces in total isolation, in clear field with birds and wind at Vadim Voznyak’s studio.

Natalka spent her childhood in Lithuania. In modern songs there is "a lot of sadness, pity, grief, unrequited love, suffering. We’d like to show that calm, reasoned love exists" – she says to UA:First channel. Her approach – live looping, layering vocal harmonies on the go – a mature step to embrace new opportunities, which, along to sharp vocal ear for music and lyrics of different languages is quiet an extraordinary mixture. Lesyk owns his studio and has an experience of work with the real American label. Romko, as Neformat’s user Sun of a Beach says, "obvious fan of classic minimalists", works as a soundman in Bunkermuz. Three musicians saturate the air with frequencies so much together, that the sound literally stands as an endless wall. Well, they found each other after being familiars for ages. Now, as Romko says, each of them took ones favorite place and they make music "that one will want to turn on even 10 years later" (Lesyk). Controversial questions are solved by the rule of three: the truth is on the bigger side.

Tik Tu is just a cherry on the cake of bands, which our heroes had to pass through. So, to make a chain of influences, we’ll mention these projects.

A step back was Echo Gardens, where all three played – trip-hoppy shoegaze with the best acoustic fixation of the 2010 spirit, moreover, not only musically, but also visually: the wide angled black and white retro video ("One Man") or naive snow-white hare one ("Imagine") tell us, that as for those years the musicians were ahead of their time locally, and were cutting-edge globally.

Aladebosh – the solo project of Romko exists parallelly – space guitars similar to Slowdive in the wrapping of atmospheric drums, and the band Ті, що падають вгору (Those who fall upwards), where Natalya played – a tender indie-rock with a character of almost commercial quality.

Nameless – Roman and Natalya were there – is not only Ukrainian Blur, but, in a certain way, Velvet Underground. Brian Eno is often quoted "The first edition album of Velvets didn’t have a huge number of releases, but each one, who bought it, started a band". Nameless have a similar influence, who, keeping the Braty Hadiukiny’s idea of "файне місто" (dialectic, "cool city"), gave birth to a whole stringed coral of collectives: SKAI, Los Colorados, mentioned earlier Echo Gardens and Tik Tu.

Tik Tu exist since 2014, first as the duo of Natalka and Roman, later – as a trio, when Lesyk Omodada Drachuk joined the band. The main instruments were shared in such way:

  • Natalya – Microkorg, vocal processor/looper
  • Roman – bass, midi-keyboard
  • Lesyk – drums

Everything has started from the release of the acoustic lullaby "Колихана" ("Kolyhana"), that touched both children and grown-ups. Later, songs "Zvoni", "Puh" were released and, on the stage of working with Omodada, "All My Gods" which went around the world until being re-released on the label Moon Sound Records from Texas, which, besides, had released forgotten records of Ozean, songs of the band Ceremony and Ukrainian-Canadian duo Ummagma. The last one, known for their work with Robin Guthrie, made a remix of "All My Gods".

Later on, the dub single "Твоє Моє" ("Your Mine)" was released, and right after it – the "mole inspection" of "Маленькі малюсіки" ("Little tiny ones"). The first LP, "Shuma" (2016) made some noise and showed a bunch of potential and skills, instantly making the band cult. After a couple of pretty warmly accepted singles "Planyda/Zyma/Tommy" three years later the "Ulitakis" LP finds its birth — one more eclectic mix with the western spirit of ternowave (Ternopil based indie), though, less filled with frequencies than "Shuma", but becomes equalizator of the saturation scalepan.  

The soundtrack for project "Книга-мандрівка Україною" ("Ukrainian travel book") and film "Бобот та енергія всесвіту" ("Bobot and the energy of the universe"), appearance at channels Zik and UA: First, festivals Gogolfest, ZAXIDFEST and Faine Misto, European tour through Germany, Poland and Czech, — it’s a list of their actions if only to describe last year or two, not mentioning numerous notifications from media resources and radioshows. In short, where in the world they’ve been — the head goes round, that’s why, we’ll be in contact with present: let’s try "Ultakis", while it’s still warm.

The first song "Banana" serves as a motivator – a kind of unimaginable fairy-scene, charming female element, Southern wind from the Apennines peninsula, from the siren’s rocks. This song obscures all the next tracks with its vitality, it’s so much different, that only with "Planyda" the impression that the same young maid is singing comes back. Some kind of whirr of roller coaster breaks off after "Banana", some voyages around netherworld, club underground of 90’s. In a word, bad trip. But why is it here?

It’s all about contrasts, their existence plays with feelings. If to take album for a story, as Kurt Vonnegut says, it lives by movement from the worst state to a better one, rising up and falling down. It seems like "Ulitakis" begins at the peak of euphoria, because musically emphasized ethereality drowns listener into the goodies of a pre-holiday winter.

Later, the psychoanalysis of a female citizen emerges, who "is handled, wherever the movement goes", though, her quiet fireside takes the lead. Does the idea of sitting at home play for this popular topic? Barely. Experienced musicians with numerous projects behind are people too and wrapping into blanket with a cat is as important need for them, as for all alive ones. 

The song "Tommy" is associated with the DIIV’s music video "How Long Have You Known", in which the hero mixes particles, a piece of film from Nirvana's "In Utero" tape, a piece of his hair in the mixer, pouring it all with the lava-lamp liquid. Though, musically "Tommy", as its neighbor dance tracks, seems like, searches common ground with Gorillaz or Massive Attack. And it’s not an accident: Lesyk and Romko gladly put dub, reggae and a variety of hip-hop records at their 20ft radio show, finishing the mix with the hit "Лице-яйце" ("Egg-face") by Левко Дурко (Levko Durko).

The habit of using analog synth with the sawtooth mode – this modern classic of sound design – can be related to the most different influences: from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s sound synthesis experiments to, almost modern, Stereolab, though, sometimes Ulitakis’es approach is impudent: as if accepts an introvert listener, but, at the same time, in drunk gust tweaks ones hand: "Let’s go dancing! I know you can!" Yes. "Tommy" and "Diego" are exactly suchlike.

The track "Zyma" reminds Gorillaz’es "Broken" from the "Plastic Beach" album. The drums are very lo-fi-йні (tr. "finee" means "good" in dialectic ukr.), and you can use "fi-йні" in the familiar for the Western Ukraine people meaning.

If we believe the perception, "Planyda" also reminds Damon Albarn and his projects. This song must be cut for ringtones instantly, starting from 4:00, quiet there the birch sap starts to ooze on the soul with the explosive appearance of the electric organ with Natalkas "trembitas" and "surmas". By the way, the word "Planyda" means inevitable human’s destiny, which is unable to be influenced on. The way it "spins and whirls with its stars" can support people who believe in its unchangeability, though, those who understand the power of ruling their life will barely agree with such, kind of, traditional concept.

So now, taking guitar and opening the "Circle of fifth", a thunder of scared music grindstone hitters, one of which is the author of this text, we’ll try to figure out the source of this Gorillaz’es phenomenon. Let’s pick up the main themes of songs "Planyda" (from 00:52) and "Kotku" (from almost the same 00:57). Of course, our approach is amateurish and, if we don’t mess up, both pieces have Em-Dm chords. Well, there are the same chords in the basis of "Broken" by Gorillaz. That’s how it is! As for the track "Zyma" its main theme – Gm and Fm, if, to believe that scary circle, have similar relations to Em-Dm, just in different tonality. Seems like, it’s the reason why these songs give such a similar feeling. Of course, knowing these few chords will allow us to croon up to three Tik Tu’s songs! Yes, their minor nature won’t add happiness, the more so, "Zyma", "Planyda" and "Kotku" go one after another in the album and, thanks to it, feel like glued together, on the other hand, what a contrast we have with the first "Banana"! Maybe, it was an occasion, when they put tracks in the order of similarity, or it was made purposely to dip a listener into the kaleidoscope of minors – we don’t know, we’d gladly listen to the authors’ thought.

When opening a song’s tonality and making weird and interesting harmonic steps, modulations, which are present enough in some of Tik Tu’s intros or transitions, the music touches with the chord changes. Playing with the differences of tonalities it’s easier to find and express feelings of an artist. In the "Banana" there’s optimism on surface, F-C, major scale, in which Natalka plunges like a fish in water, and even flies out above it on the moment "barely turned around for a while, there’s nothing here". And it’s a good exception, because it gives us understanding where to see the best side of Tik Tu.

Just listen to this pianica in "Kukuti" from 00:45! It’s a Ternopil-based Wild West, the hills of Kremenets and the view of drone on the Motherland from the videos of Ukraїner, and the accurate dub is playing around. This melody worth breaking the piggy-bank to buy the album; worth writing a fan-letter "Dear Tik Tu! I beg you, release the 40-minute version of this instrumental piece, or I’ll edit it by myself and upload to YouTube. Yes, it’s a treat."

Lesyk Omodada with his "Єдиний Птах" ("One and only bird") and "Сова" ("Owl") is, probably, the author of "Korol Ptakhiv" ("The King of Birds"), isn’t he? We guess, it’s true, as there are synthesizers and chord progressions that follow the style of the commercial indie-tracks, except the dialogue of Romko’s soft bass and analog from 02:31. Cartoon "The Lion King" emerges in the imagination.

Of course, it’s impossible to leave the artwork behind, I mean, special handmade sculpture dolls which are small copies of the musicians (author – Luska Drozzd). A serious approach in such businesses plays a key role, and, in the visual content era, all the more. A fortiori, since the times of Echo Gardens their promo videos are extraordinary: the trio easily can run a creative video agency beside music. Precisely by this external expression one can feel for a while, how safely, through the history, Tik Tu set their creative bar, this Western spirit, the mystery of forest with the root so strong, that even a tractor cannot draw this trio out of their thorny nest (Ternopil literally means "thorny field"). So, let it be. But, at the same time, someplace else the Plast scout camp plays their version of "Kolyhana" along with bandura, and, somewhere else one writes a comment "rode the car from Dunayivtsi to Nova Ushytsia heard this song, stopped, weeped for a while…… went further".

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1. Banana
2. Introvert 
3. Bezpechnishe Lyshytys' Vdoma 
4. Tommy 
5. Diego 
6. Zyma 
7. Planyda 
8. Kotku 
9. Kukuti 
10. Korol' Ptakhiv