The atmospheric sound of Kercha has a haunting quality that lingers long after the last beat. Listening to the Russian dubstep producer’s music evokes a paranoid circuit through an empty city in the small hours, with long shadows jutting out at monochrome angles and every sound magnified by the reverberations off looming buildings.
Based in Gelendzhik on the Black Sea coast, Kercha (real name Kirill Nosikov) has put out a steady run of releases on labels like Calligraphy and Substruct, and is now signed exclusively to Brighton’s DNO Records. More recently, he has matched spacious sound design and bass weight with influences from classic hip-hop and jazz. While his ‘Fulminating’ EP had unearthly Rhodes keyboards, dusty ride cymbals, late-night chords, and disembodied voices emerging from the murk, his new EP, ‘Mental Ballast’ (also on DNO), intensifies the low-end pressure, with head-nodding beats, echoic sound design, rap snippets and ghostly patinas of melody.
Kercha first got the creative bug when he was a kid, after his uncle introduced him to a simple computer production program. “He had eJAY Hip-Hop 4 installed, where music could be made from ready-made loops in a regular sequencer,” Kercha says. “I made hip-hop beats there non-stop, because it was so simple and gave immediate results. I believe it awakened my desire to produce music.”
Though he got into techno and house for a while after going to clubs in his home city, when Kercha heard a UK dubstep podcast in 2012, he was excited by the genre’s endless musical possibilities.
“I instantly discovered the presence of new sonics,” he says, “a strong connection between drums and bass, filled with the most creative sound design possible. I was hearing so many different variations, while the style was maintained and the laws of the genre were clearly followed. I realised that this was exactly what I wanted to do within production.” Kercha’s early hip-hop influences still surface in his tracks. On ‘Mental Ballast’ from the new EP, jazz notes and pitched-down rhyme couplets rise like faded revenants over the booming bass and polyrhythmic drums.
“For several years I was doing hip-hop with my brother and my friends,” he says. “It was a very warm time in my life — something special — and this is reflected in my tracks. I was not able to completely switch to another genre, and therefore it seemed to me that the implementation of a piece of my hip-hop soul would be a great decision.”
Kercha’s collaboration with Berlin producer Yoofee, ‘Analysis’, is one of the new EP’s highlights. It zings with a neon funk flavour thanks to its electrifying synth chords, and shows another side of his musical taste.
“Yoofee has impressed me with his experience in building melodies, and also with his sense of rhythm,” Kercha says. “In my opinion he is definitely one of the most talented young producers around. After exchanging mutual support, we decided to try to collaborate on a track.”
In Gelendzhik, Kercha says, “there are only a handful of those who really understand what dubstep is”. Nevertheless, across Russia, the sound is becoming popular, with many talented producers springing up.
“The most important dubstep scene in the Russian Federation, that has long been formed, is Dub’Raw,” he says. “This is a whole culture promoting true bass traditions in the south of Russia. Plus, it is a fully-fledged label promoting local music producers. I can highlight such producers as Champion Sound, Oddkut, Ninety, Leo Cap, Ghostek, Skotcha, Atom Dubs, Bisweed, Cultrow, Moscow Legend and HeadSpace.”
In addition to more upcoming material for DNO, Kercha has two other projects in the works. PLLFRY is “bass-based hip-hop at 160bpm”, while Prophetic Dreams is “cinematic music with lo-fi elements based on the sound of retro synthesisers”. We can also expect a subtle shift in musical direction. “The sound has undergone a slight transformation in design and structure,” Kercha says. “There will be a new approach, and quite a few tracks with an ideological upgrade.”