Latest release Rolling Back reflects on the tensions in our modern world; a melancholic yet hopeful track featuring textural, ambient yet persistent electronic beats. Valerio Vinogradov Dittrich, alias Motsa, is the multi-instrumentalist behind these intricate creations. He shares with us his passion for connecting with nature and dismissing profit-driven online systems of information that manipulate self-worth.
Eleven-track album Perspectives is out June 7. It takes us through an emotional journey with dark detailed compositions leading to an evocative last track, Hope Dies Last. Motsa is nostalgic, playful and honest. Nature hides in plain sight – tracks feature sounds of children playing in the sand on a Balearic beach, crickets in the grass, or the ambient soundscapes of bells recorded from his father’s apartment in Moscow. Perspectives offers a thoughtful, passionate alternative to hyper-commercial realities, transporting the listener to beaches or forests. The half Austrian, half Russian spent his childhood in Scotland and is now based in Vienna.
Organising DIY jungle and drum & bass parties in Findhorn (Scotland) at 16 and experimenting with beats in a friend’s dad’s studio has made a mark on music you are producing today. What is it about growing up in Scotland that inspires you?
Actually, I wasn’t organising the parties, but just a member of our home-grown party scene. Some of my friends were the organisers for some of the most epic parties I have experienced (held in the stunning highlands). I did throw one party in a small old World War II bunker just before I left to live in Vienna again – that was something I will never forget!
I was inspired by the freedom of dancing, the good community vibe created through the crew who worked together, and our youth worker ‘Monkey Magic’, who introduced us to bigbeat, breaks and funk in his sets. I guess the nature in Scotland fits well to the melancholic vibe that can be heard in some of my songs now, but above all, it was my time growing up in the village of Findhorn, surrounded by the great crew of friends and the general mentality there.
Rolling Back, your most recent release, is classified as religious/spiritual on Soundcloud, why? What is the concept behind it?
To be honest, no reason whatsoever, apart from that music can be an alternative to religion and also spiritual in many senses? It’s funny you noticed it, I just added that as a joke since Soundcloud won’t let you finish the upload without filling out a category. The track as an instrumental was written around the time Trump was elected – I was feeling eerie about the future and that is the vibe I feel I have captured. Floating in space, in nothingness, lost. I guess I didn’t have a very positive outlook at the time. Madeline Kenney added another dimension to the song with her melodies and her interpretation of the topics I presented to her.
“I feel we are completely disconnected from our surroundings and living for a big part of our life in a digital bubble.”
If Petricolour was “about the fall of our ‘developed’ society”, then, does your recently-launched album Perspectives offer some suggestions to rebuild it?
For me, the album builds on that thought and has many other layers and ideas which are represented by different songs. For example, No Fear was about not fearing the unknown, fighting the voice in the head that might stop you from experiencing great things and having the courage to keep going even when life is tough. Other songs are other personal stories I have transformed into songs – Salvation was the first song I wrote in my new studio after a difficult phase in my life, so this is a reflection on that for me. It was a song I wrote as I felt I had finally arrived back into a space I had been longing for, hence the biblical title.
I will leave it open to the listener though what the separate songs mean to them. The title Perspectives refers to differing human perspectives of a same situation which, in my experience, tends to lead to conflict, be it in relationships, families, politically, etc. It would be nice if we could sometimes step out of our own perspective to try and understand differing ones and why these different viewpoints arise – maybe through constructive discussions and observation we could learn to leave conflict behind us…
Perspectives advocates for spending more time in nature; tracks feature sounds of children playing in the sand on a Balearic beach and crickets in the grass. Why do you think we need to reconnect with the environment?
I feel we are in many parts of the world completely disconnected from our surroundings and living for a big part of our life (and probably future) in a digital bubble. This disconnects us from actual interaction with other humans and I feel it also disconnects us from our intuition, emotions and surroundings. It for sure has a big impact on how we feel each day and, in my case, I have noticed negative influences (comparison through numbers, etc.). When I go out into nature I very quickly feel grounded and my worries tend to float away. I have also noticed this effect when I go for walks with my friends that might have some stresses in their life – that’s the reason I feel it is important for us to reconnect with our environment and live more consciously.
When creating a track, this requires the building of layers and choosing what you place in the foreground. This could be compared to painting a natural landscape, which also requires layers and a foreground. Is this something you would compare your creative process to?
Maybe! Since I’m not a painter I cannot compare the two too well, but I imagine that all improvised creative processes are comparable but require a different ‘language’ or form of execution to make it happen. For example, I love cooking – especially creating something without a recipe or pimping a recipe without trying it first. In that case, there is a process in my head that is more or less the same when I make music and layer sounds and melodies, except I layer different flavours that I have experienced and where I think they will fit together well for the final composition.
“I don’t really have one certain way of starting a track, but quite often, an idea can start from me playing the piano and getting lost in that mood.”
A couple tracks off your previous EP started as instrumental, you playing the piano. Do you often work like this, and layer synths on later?
I don’t really have one certain way of starting a track, but yes, quite often an idea can start from me playing the piano and getting lost in that mood. Other times, I will start by experimenting with sound design on my synths, which will then lead me to a melody on which I might build a groove and then some vocal melodies. Other times, it starts off with me finding a nice drum sample and me building an idea on the sound of the drums. Piano can definitely be a great way for me to get a vibe going and it’s the instrument I play best.
Your video for Petrichor is shot between breath-taking natural landscapes and a broken house, finishing with a totally ignored out-break of fire. I read this as a veiled comment on ignorance and apathy towards climate change. What are your thoughts?
I would say that you can definitely read it that way – these are topics that are very present for both the directors and myself. But it is open for interpretation! When the directors and I sat down prior to the shoots, we discussed the colours, moods that I was getting from the song and the meaning of Petrichor. This led to the idea of the video and the end result fitted very well with my vision for the EP.
At the time, we did not say, ‘let’s make a statement about climate change’; I guess it is something that subconsciously is in our mentality anyway. With my new videos, on the other hand, I sat down with the director and we definitely decided on the messages we wanted to transmit, which build on the comments you made – our ignorance and apathy towards climate change, humans abusing the planet in order to maintain a system of consumption and profit, technology disconnecting us from what makes us human (empathy, reflective and critical thinking, etc.)
Recent video No Fear features striking shots of abandoned mining areas of Spain. Do you have an interest in composing for cinema, as your work has previously been described as ‘cinematic’?
I certainly do have an interest, one that is growing more and more. At the moment, it still seems pretty daunting to me, as it has always been the other way around: I wrote the music, and the imagery was created around that. I hope to be able to experiment in this direction soon!
You have expressed an “acute awareness of modern society’s dependence on technology, and the social media bubble also responsible for globally polarising our current civilisation.” When you refer to polarising, are you talking about the Facebook algorithms that show viewers content that they will agree with, creating a form of misinformation, ignoring a global perspective of truth? Is social media changing our truth?
I feel like we are currently living in a globalised, polarized world that is also created through social media and the way its algorithms work. In general, media has always had a huge influence on the way societies think and have propagated wars over and over again. Since we are also living in a profit-driven society, there are so many media outlets purely click-driven, which leads to a huge amount of ‘fake news’ just for advertising revenue.
It feels like a great percentage of people are not able to critically think and reflect. Therefore, they believe so much crap that they read in cheap newspapers, online outlets etc. Why? Because of fearmongering – the best way for systems to keep its people under control. I feel like we are living in a very egocentrically-driven time, and social media is feeding that fire by containing the users in their own bubbles and manipulating their feelings of self-worth. The problem I see with these bubbles is that you tend to be surrounded by the same opinion rather than being confronted with opposing opinions and trying to understand them.
What is the most important thing music can do for us?
Give us hope and strength – take our minds away from the stresses in our life. Touch us emotionally, make us happy or sad. Fill the silence (although I love silence very much). Spread messages and awareness.