Heinali’s ‘Kyiv Eternal’ / Billowing timbres meet glittering field recordings

by Jay Richardson
17 March 2023

Two weeks ago, the Ukranian artist Heinali released the album Kyiv Eternal, built on fragments of his own archival field recordings from Kyiv. He called the tracks “personal, intimate, and fleeting,” and “a farewell to this place in time and space to which none of us will ever be able to return.”

Pitchfork compared the album’s “billowing” timbres to Tim Hecker, and it also perhaps owes some of its softness to the Texan electronics duo Stars of the Lid. Better than both of them, though, Heinali’s field recordings add a narrative texture. After the album’s airy opening, its first track, ‘Tramvai 14,’ subtly deepens and settles with a comforting tram rumble. A subway car arrives at the end of ‘Stantsiia Maidan Nezalezhnosti,’ recorded in the Metro station under Independence Square, to draw the music’s pitch downwards and prepare you for the album’s heavier, more intense middle section. Relentless chord patterns juxtapose what Heinali described to the Guardian as “recordings of a world that has disappeared” with a sense of transcendence—so, Kyiv Eternal.

The city’s own voice still takes the album’s emotional foreground. Its cover art, of a statue in Kyiv protected with sandbags, recalls a potent photographic emblem of the war’s early stages. Arching over the Kyiv soundscape, though, Heinali’s ambient loops take the sonic foreground in almost every track. If his 2020 album Madrigals enchants you into a timeless, frozen present, Kyiv Eternal draws you into a glittering, compelling record of the artist’s personal relationship with home—Heinali describes the album as a “hug,” born from a desire to “keep [Kyiv] from harm.”

In many ways, listening to a place you love is like listening to a lover’s voice. The sound itself, its familiar quirks and contours, and that you can hear it still, all matter just as much as what’s being said. Kyiv Eternal has more emotional force than it has sense of place, but its beauty comes from blending the two. º


Album cover for Kyiv Eternal. Cover photo by Oleksii Samsonov, design by Marina Osnach.

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