The Belarusian-Armenian artist instrumentalizes nostalgia to navigate the edges of honest masculinity in the ex-Soviet permafrost. From his studio in Minsk, the synth-punk artist opens up via video-call with E&M‘s team.

Little did Georgy Ambartsumyan (real name of Permsky Kray) know three years ago, that he’d be releasing an ambitious sophomore album for a thirsty global fandom. His unexpected inclusion in Youtube “Doomer” playlists lead his debut’s title-track “Dear Person” (Дорогой Человек, 2021) to go viral on Tiktok. Millions of streams after, a new challenge laid ahead: a follow-up record. In other words, a journey to find his own sound and voice as a Belarusian-Armenian in the internet era. It was time to get lost, and Permsky Kray chose to create a musical dreamscape for it. His world, his fog, his rules.

There’s still daylight in my Barcelona room, but in Minsk, 3000km away and into the North-East corner of Europe, the sun has long set. Permsky Kray doesn’t mind calling at night, he says his art is always crafted in the after hours and he is a nocturnal being per se. Fresh off his 23rd birthday glow, the musician laughs trying out his mic. He’s surrounded by an army of keyboards, including a temporarily borrowed Yamaha DX100 from punk-superstar Egor Shkutko (frontman of genre-leading Molchat Doma) and a Soviet Maestro. “Ready” he says, holding both thumbs up and smiling.

 

Soviet post-punk artist Permsky Kray in the snow in Belarus, Minsk.

 

2020 was a tough year for him. Dropping out of college and heartbreak had him finding shelter and inspiration in the discography of Kino and the voice of Viktor Tsoi. Together with a fascination for working-class Slavic towns, his musical project was born. No wonder his artistic name is the romanization of Пе́рмский край, a Ural Mountains-bordering Krai with a coat of arms featuring a polar bear carrying an Orthodox Bible.

Mixing Eastern and Western musical influences is the natural result of him having grown physically on isolated ex-Soviet ground but virtually in the West due to the Internet. Nevertheless, that is only the first reflection of the limbo his identity has always been on. He shares the same generational disenchantment as everyone around him who’s been raised by USSR-era parents. The nostalgia-fueled, collective-intelligence concept of a golden age clashes with an oxidized present where lines of khrushchevka buildings illustrate an omnipresent past that doesn’t let go off the future. “But there’s dignity in that” he states. “Yes, those buildings belonged to a past high-hopes-era and nowadays are old, but it’s okay. It’s okay living in the remnants of an unfulfilled promise and fantasizing with the past in hopes of a better future, there’s nothing to pity there”.

 

“That’s who I am, I won’t keep a thunderstorm inside of me“.

 

In a moment where the West is slowly deconstructing the mythical concept of masculinity for a more honest new generation of men, Permsky Kray explores male vulnerability from his Minsk music studio. “There’s a stereotype that East-Slavic men don’t smile and maybe that is because we tend to bottle up everything that’s happening inside of us emotionally. But I feel too much, I sometimes think that I’m too sensitive for my surroundings” – he laughs and adds – “and I’m not shy to show it in my music, because that is something other people can relate to too. It’s important for me to share that there’s a way out of psychological misery. If it’s helpful, I’m happy to make it my mission. That’s who I am, I won’t keep a thunderstorm inside of me”.

Born in 2000, it may look as destiny for him to be navigating the path between two time cycles. It is that conflicted sense of belonging that has him approaching reality cautiously, and evading in an introspective sonic exploration instead. Through his instrumentals and intimate lyrics, Permsky Kray creates some kind of dream-fog. And that’s where the nostalgia kicks in. Soviet-era urban landscapes and synthesized echoes serve as a background for his atmospheric illusion. The fantasy of an eternal winter sunset where it’s safe to hibernate when the present becomes hostile. “This is maybe going to sound weird, but there is something very cozy about being outside on a winter day here, in Minsk. Even though there’s wind and snow… it feels better than summer”.

 

Soviet post-punk artist Permsky Kray in the snow in Belarus, Minsk, surrounded by buildings.

 

Swinging between dystopia and utopia, Permsky Kray looks for an identity where his emotions are not compromised and finds a mirror in nature. Rain, leaves, storm, or, as his favorite lyric from his new record says “Oh, heavens/ don’t wait for me/ my way loves snow”, serve as an example of how interconnected his inner and outer worlds are. “I conceive my songs as pieces that can exist on their own, without any kind of decoration, just music. However, accompanying it with a visual world, bridges the gap between my experience and some of my listeners in other corners of the globe, and that’s important”. Regardless of most of his listeners being in the Americas and Central Europe, Permsky Kray has yet to do his first live concert: “There’s nothing I dream more about than performing in front my fans to pay back for their support and patience, but organizing it from Minsk with no team is a challenge I’m still working on”.

Until that day comes, his listeners seem to have already picked their brumal yin-yang out of his new album: the icy gem “Sky Don’t Cry” and its balmy counterpart “Dear Nights“. Entirely written, recorded and produced individually by him, it comes as no surprise that the title of his full-length sophomore record is “The Music of One”. Blending post-punk, synth-pop and soviet-wave, Permsky Kray pays tribute to his origins while shooting for international success: his melodies are his pearls and the world is his oyster.

 

 

Pictures by Permsky Kray

  • retro
    Alberto Méndez

    Editor & Author

    Global nomad from Barcelona. Advertising, Marketing & PR grad fascinated by culture, sociology, art and media. After having specialised in Marketing and Management within the Music Industry, Alberto is currently working as a brand manager assistant for a creative hub where record label-bureocracy, audiovisual production and fashion brands meet.

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