How Gydra’s debut album Snake Monastery shows they’re in a world of their own

There’s a lot of exciting talent across the world putting their stamp on the drum and bass scene of late, but it’s hard to ignore the unstoppable Russian machine coming from the east. Fierce grooves, unmistakable basslines and endless amounts of ingenuity – It’s a scene packing an almighty punch, and Gydra are an act at the very heart of its operation.

Without doubt one of the most authentic innovators in neurofunk of late, over the past six years they’ve been taking on everything drum and bass has challenged them with – whether it’s dancefloor, jump up, mainstream or dark D&B. But the pinnacle release they’ve been working towards all these years is their debut album Snake Monastery, and it’s a milestone not to be overlooked.

Alongside the achievement of being Eatbrain’s first solo album, it represents everything the duo have wanted their core sound to be from the outset. Sound design that retains and celebrates the original roots of neurofunk, but injects it with an emphatic modern edge helping to continuously drive the genre forward.

As far as albums go, they don’t get much more creative than the immersive game Snake Monastery entails. Many ravers probably dream about the possibility of a D&B fuelled video game, but Gydra have now made it a reality…

Based around the duo’s love for game design, Snake Monastery is an explosive neuro adventure packed with 15 ‘levels’ to progress through. From being tasked with passing the ferocious lava run, to battling a neuro breathing dragon with a heart beating 174bpm, it’s a wicked ride for any player daring enough to take on the challenge. Sounds mad? That’s because it is…

But it’s this level of imagination that has led Gydra to become one of the most talked about names in drum and bass of late, and the reason why UKF needed to speak to Bes to find out more about Gydra’s debut album…

Your debut album is out! What a huge moment for you.

It’s a great feeling! We have been working at this for a long time, so the fact that the release is now out has left us feeling in a daze, like we are not fully aware of what has happened… It has taken us one and a half years to get here.

It definitely feels like the album has been coming for a while. Since forming Gydra you have fit a lot into your careers!

That’s the same feeling we have. The album represents the pinnacle moment we have been working towards during our six year journey. During this time we’ve been honing our style, which is based on the roots of neurofunk. We’ve tried to show our level of creative skill making this album, especially as a duo working together.

This is also Eatbrain’s first solo album… That must feel special?

Of course. Eatbrain put their trust in us and we felt great responsibility releasing our debut album on such a respected label. We promised Gabor (Jade) an album even before our own label Neuropunk Records was born, and we always keep our word. Eatbrain has done a lot for us over the years.

It must feel strange releasing an album during such a crazy moment in history. It’s a challenging time for the arts right now.

We have very mixed feelings… On one hand, we are proud and glad that people will finally hear the album. On the other hand, over the years we have invested a lot into this album, both financially and mentally. It has affected our lives and our families. So to not even be able to go on tour to present the album is a big blow. But money problems are part of everyday life, so it’s important for us to let go of these negative feelings and just enjoy the release. There will always be other sources of income.

The main thing we need to focus on right now is that we all overcome this virus and return to normal life. Everyone has money problems at the moment. Many people have lost everything.

That’s very true. How’s Russia dealing with everything?

There is no full lockdown and events are taking place, but Russia is about the same as anywhere else in the world right now as the events industry is struggling. During the pandemic we have managed to tour six cities in Russia. The last event was our Neuropunk Festival in St. Petersburg on October 17th, which was attended by 1300 people. As bad as things are across the world, some of the best music comes out in the hardest of times because strong emotions are provoked.

Album’s like Snake Monastery are a great example of good music coming out during challenging times. Tell me more about the concept?

We are both old gamers and the parallel realities of games have often inspired us, so turning the album into a challenge for listeners to complete felt like a good direction for us. The album is designed around a test, where there is a path leading to the final boss. It’s a classic MMORPG storyline where you upgrade your character with every track. You learn new abilities and hunt for stronger artifacts, so that by the final battle with the boss you will be at the maximum level of energy. It’s energy food for your inner warrior.

That’s wicked. Each track has its own unique feel, as if it was a new level to explore.

This is the creativity we aimed for with our approach to the album. Each track is made from the ground up. We did not create presets or templates, everything is organic. Yes, we sometimes repeat ourselves with our signature grooves and moves, but we always make sure each track’s textures, sounds and mixing is unique in some way. There is even one track on the album, Battle Dance, that is synthesised entirely analog, with a single drum sample at the end. We wanted to test ourselves!

I think one of the things Gydra has demonstrated over time is a focus on testing yourselves with your sound design. You’ve definitely infused a new sound into neuro since arriving on the scene.

When we started Gydra we set out with a goal to make neuro with a sound that showed respect to its roots, but enhance it with the best possible trending sound design. At first we tried to keep up with trends – producing mainstream D&B, jump up, dark D&B, and much more. But over time we realised this was contrary to our feelings, so we decided to focus only on what really rocks us.

After trying different styles, we still returned to what we originally planned – recreating the roots in a modern way. We wouldn’t call it unique though. We cook from the same ingredients as many years ago, based on a sense of respect for where it all began, but with new methods and spices. This is the path we’ve been following over the years.

So is this album the pinnacle of that Gyrda sound you’ve been working towards?

This is a difficult question as fans get used to your sound and learn to love you for it, but at the same time you want to continue growing and challenging yourself as an artist. Snake Monastery feels like the final exam after six years of studying… We hope we get a good grade for it, haha! No one knows what will happen next though.

That’s a cool analogy! Tunes like Dragon’s Lair demonstrate the way you’ve been pushing the capabilities of your sound.

Definitely. This is the main fight with the final boss, the closing track. It had to be something special, but at the same time have that signature Gydra sound. We wanted to make it difficult, unusual, surprising, and somewhat unpleasant, so that listeners could feel a sense of relief after listening to the entire album. We tried to really express ourselves in that track.

All of the little sound effects really brought the story to life. I felt like I was entering a dark cave for one final battle…

Working on the sound effects gave us immense pleasure. We love doing this. We have a wealth of experience synthesising and creating natural sounds for games, advertising and cinema, which has been an additional source of income for us. We’re just gamers at heart, and wanted this album to show that!

It’s fair to say Russian’s know how to make some seriously heavy, unique drum and bass…

Interesting fact, Russian D&B is scientifically different… According to research, we all think and create the way our language works. Russian D&B grew up on the British roots of D&B, but it’s now distinguished by different melodies, moves and vibes. If you think about the nationality of each local D&B culture and listen to it carefully from this point of view, you will hear these differences. It’s like how 7-9 thousand years ago potatoes were the root crop of South America, but they were brought to Russia and now they are a national dish here, being served in a very different way. The same process happens with music.

That’s an interesting way of looking at it. I’ve always noticed when I go to the Czech Republic for Let It Roll the music seems to be heavier than other places. It’s funny!

Definitely. When we play in Russia we have one playlist, when in the Czech Republic we have another, and when in the UK a different one. Tracks that blow up on the Russian dance floor will bore people in the UK, and vice versa. As an international project we travel a lot, so we understand the need to adjust our style accordingly.

Despite being known for your heavy productions, I like that Snake Monastery also shows your ability to produce toned down ‘breathers’ like Hunt for The Black Egg. They link the quest together nicely.

For sure. This track is the plot trigger. After the absolutely crazy energy of the first five tracks, Hunt For The Black Egg switches you into something else – a different phase before the climax. The album contains several non-dnb tracks. We wanted to show our Kung Fu skills in other sub-genres and bpm ranges. We hope that adherents of such genres will not make fun of us for this, haha!

I highly doubt that! Fate is another wicked ‘breather’ to end the album. I felt like I had left the dragon’s lair victorious after beating the final boss.

I hope you looked in the mirror to see if you became a dragon or remained human?

Unfortunately I’m still a human… So what is the prize for completing the game? The intelligence of a dragon would be very handy.

We think the main prize of this journey is the resource the album has created, as it’s like a battery giving you energy for life. We hope the album stays with each player for a long time!

So now that you’ve completed your quest of releasing your debut album, what’s next for Gydra? Many more epic adventures I imagine.

It will definitely be an adventure and we will always try to make it epic, but where it will take us is unknown…

Gydra – Snake Monastery is out now on Eatbrain

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