Crossing the Steppe ℅ Preston Smirnoff
Crossing the Steppe ℅ Preston Smirnoff
Crossing the Steppe ℅ Preston Smirnoff
Crossing the Steppe ℅ Preston Smirnoff

Crossing the Steppe ℅ Preston Smirnoff

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Crossing the Steppe is San Diego-based composer/musician Preston Swirnoff’s second solo album of electroacoustic music, following his solo debut Maariv (Last Visible Dog, 2008). It is the first release on Richard Isabella’s newly launched Set Spaces label, recorded and produced by Isabella in his warehouse studio over several sessions in 2019-2020. The record is pressed on 180g vinyl, including a back cover essay on the Great Steppe by Swirnoff and a custom-scented insert made specially for the record, created by scent artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter.

Swirnoff uses only acoustic instruments, with subtle tape manipulation and the natural reverb of the warehouse space, to create a haunting atmosphere inspired by the terrain of the Great Steppe, the vast ecoregion that connects Europe to Asia, a mysterious winding trail that blurs our traditional boundaries of ‘East/West’. Detuned guitars, percussion instruments, bells, air organ, kalimba, autoharp, double flutes, vocalizations with breath and whistling, and even the sounds of footsteps are used in a suite of intimate songs and interludes that evoke a fragile dreamlike state. It is the meditation of one faced with a momentous journey, whether internal or out on the open road. The closing title track is the culmination, the realizing of the journey, played on trumpet and hurdy-gurdy by Sean Francis Conway.

The music exists somewhere between musique concrete and rural folk traditions, transporting the listener to a sort of floating purgatory, a disorienting unmappable locale. Recommended for fans of Roberto Musci, Jean Claude Vannier, Alvin Curran, Igor Wakhévitch, Popol Vuh, This Heat, Gyorgy Ligeti, Harry Partch, or music from the Greek tragedy films of Pasolini.


→ composed and performed by Preston Swirnoff,hurdy gurdy & trumpet on title track by Sean Francis Conway
→ recorded and produced by Richard Isabella
→ mixed by Preston Swirnoff
→ mastered by Kelly Hibbert at Alachrome
→ cover design by Emily Hall
→ photography by Ed Mello
→ painting by Richard Isabella
→ cent design by Brian Goeltzenleuchter