Almanac of Contemporary Aesthetics
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BUTTECHNO
words by Anastasiia Fedorova

Moscow-based artist and producer Pavel Milyakov, aka Buttechno, will premiere an audiovisual performance within the Russian Pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale.

Pavel Milyakov is one of the most prolific and multi-faceted artists to have emerged from Russia’s music underground in the new millenium—yet his creative universe extends much further than sound. His work explores the nature of spaces we occupy: both digital spaces of collaboration and discovery, and built environments which determine how we hear and feel.

Born and raised in the towering cityscape of Moscow’s suburbs, Milyakov started releasing music under the alias Buttechno in 2014 while also creating cryptic and haunting visual artworks. He co-founded the creative collective and lo-fi cassette label John’s Kingdom and became the art director of the NII club, placing him at the center of Moscow’s underground sound. He gained notoriety through collaborating with fashion designer Gosha Rubchinskiy on catwalk and film scores, and soon could be caught playing gigs at the finest techno institutions from Berlin to Tokyo. However, none of these contexts—Russian music underground, the dancefloor or fashion–seem to do justice to Milyakov’s output as an innovative artist on his own journey. “I started my music path with an experimental noise-punk band called Midnite Cobras. In 2014, a few close friends and I opened a venue called NII, which was a dancefloor-oriented club with an experimental approach in terms of programming,” Milyakov recalls. “I was always doing really different music in terms of genres, and was never focused on the dance aspect only. For me, genre itself is just one of the tools in creation of more complex conceptual works.”

Over the years, Milyakov’s music has grown more and more genre-defying, from immersive ambient textures to intricate fusions of acidy synths with gabber-adjacent kick drums. For this year’s Architectural Biennale in Venice, he is producing a four-hour soundtrack for the Russian Pavilion, alongside an audiovisual performance. “In recent years, releasing under my own name, I've focused on exploring more abstract and obscure territories of sound,” he explains. “I am trying to create complex and conceptual works of art and performance, where music is just one part of the whole larger concept alongside other media. For instance, I have a new double-LP vinyl that just came out on Trilogy Tapes called MASSE MÉTAL, which is a sound piece that was prepared and performed on the Kraftwerk Berlin main stage during Berlin Atonal 2019. These sounds were part of an audiovisual performance that explored the light and sound possibilities of that historical industrial building. All parts of media should work together: sound, video, paintings, lights. Only then can you create solid work which speaks for itself.”

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The cultural and visual pool of references and collaborators Milyakov draws from is indeed a pleasure to study. The cover of the newly released equinox 2020, for instance, is a collage of video stills by Ukrainian artist Oleksandra Trishyna, and is inspired by early 1910s silent cinema as well as artists like Derek Jarman and Stan Brakhage. He also cites Russian and Soviet art, cinema and literature as a big influence, and has made efforts to explore the erased history of Soviet avant-garde music. At the end of 2019, NTS radio aired a new Milyakov piece titled “Dedication to Boris Deart,” a compilation of archival materials by the underrated and largely forgotten 1980-90s Russian composer who described his own works as “romantic spacesynth.” For Milyakov, it was a true honor to work with these unreleased recordings; he’s encouraged by what he sees as a growing interest in the lost heritage of Russian music among his broader community, with labels like Shukai and Gost Archive similarly unearthing lost works from the Soviet past. This creative curiosity is key to Milyakov's output: whether he’s charting new artistic territories or drawing from the forgotten past, his work poses a question of the meaning of music today—not a mere soundtrack, but a tool for exploring contemporary reality.

Photo credit: Oleksandra Trishyna

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