About Argonika (an article, short version)

Argonika is a unique band. I discovered them somewhere on the web when I was searching for new music. ‘Flight Of The Spirit’ knocked me down with the drive and the energy, and ‘Priestess Of Candlelight’ sounded really out of this world. After listening to these tracks I rushed an e-mail to the musicians and got in touch with them.

Formed by a female vocalist and a male synths player/sound designer from Moscow, the band recorded their debut album, ‘Rainbow Hunter’, in the early 00s and self-published it in 2005.

Let me introduce the band members. Helga is a theremin player, singer and composer working in electronic and ambient realms. Yuri is a sound designer and musician who plays bass, guitar and synths.

It started as a game or perhaps as a short trip into the unknown. Helga was sitting in front of her computer, having just logged in with her sequencer to the one of the free online studios opened by Rocket Network. There were not many people online, as she remembers, just one guy who asked her, ‘Do you sing?’. And yes, she had songs to sing.

That’s how it started. A fast start. In two weeks they had three tunes almost ready as demo. Many other ideas flourished. The play was in full run.

Step by step, it was becoming obvious that they could not stop now. The project was here, and Helga and Yuri were here to encarnalize it.

The first place where they published some of their tracks was mp3.com, then focused on unsigned artists rather than megastars. At that stage the band’s name was different: they were still called Etherstrings, as Helga wanted to emphasize her theremin addiction. The mp3.com community was English-speaking, and the band had received a heartly welcome. It was there that they found their first fans, and received some very favorable reviews. Someone made an offer for Etherstrings to put their songs on a compilation CD, officially released in the US later that year. The band was happy and optimistic about their future. They just had 2 more songs to finish.

‘We were interested in working with music and new technologies,’ Yuri told me when we talked over the Skype. ‘When we completed the album, we realized that we had made a decent job’.

Argonika played music which was not strictly mainstream in terms of any genre — it has elements of several styles (synth pop, chillout, psyсhedelic, electro, trip-hop, and even industrial), but it can hardly be categorized by any one of these labels alone. ‘This mixture of styles was actually a problem, and we had to find a way to promote our music by ourselves,’ Helga tells. ‘We’ve got several airplays on the traditional radio, and the feedback was very positive. But the Internet and the rise of mp3 seemed to be quite an alternative and effective means of promotion for an unsigned artist, and we decided to focus on it.’

‘So why Argonika? What does your band name mean?’ I asked Yuri and Helga. ‘That’s an interesting question even to us,’ the reply was. ‘This is a mixture of meanings. First of all, Argonika descend from argon, a noble gas which is everywhere around us, in the atmosphere as well as in neon lights… even on Mars where there’s no oxygen, some scientists say that argon can be used as a substitution for breathing… Argon is also used in medical lasers, which are used to correct eye defects — so it descends as well from our original idea to use live video, to add visuals to the music and therefore completely transform the perception.’ There are also connections with the ship Argo (on which Jason and the Argonauts sailed to Colchis, the land which Yuri himself descends from) as well as the Argo Navis constellation and even Argentum.

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