The music of Galya Bisengalieva is dark and atmospheric. The Kazakh-British composer and violinist centers unyielding drones as she weaves across genres like folk, ambient classical, and electronic music. She released her first two records, EP ONE and EP TWO, on her own NOMAD Music Productions, a label she founded to champion experimental sounds. This September she will release her debut album, Aralkum, on One Little Independent Records. Galya’s focus on wide expanses of tone suit the album’s subject: the Aral Sea and the desolate landscapes formed from its disastrous shrinking.
An internationally-recognized performer, Galya has played at venues including the Barbican, the Royal Festival Hall, the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, and the Paris Philharmonie. Her work as a soloist and the leader of the London Contemporary Orchestra has led to features on albums, film soundtracks, and TV productions. She is credited on projects including Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, Frank Ocean’s dual-releases Blonde and Endless, and the soundtracks for “Honey Boy,” “The Two Popes,” and “Suspiria,” composed by Thom Yorke. She has also worked with artists across genres like Moor Mother, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Suzanne Ciani, and Actress. Most recently, she has collaborated with the fashion house Alexander McQueen.

As part of NOMAD Music Productions, Galya has commissioned works from composers including Ipek Gorgun, Shiva Feshareki, Claire M. Singer, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, and CHAINES.

Why did you choose to make your debut album about an environmental issue?

The writing of Aralkum came out of an innate need to tell the story of the tragedy of the Aral Sea, which has been overlooked and ignored. I have always been passionate about the environment, but was specifically motivated to explore the Aral as it’s close to my heart and connected to my family roots. My family on my mother’s side is from the region.

Your first EPs were not tethered to tangible concepts. How does it feel to base Aralkum off something so real?

My music tends to go to dark places, but the story of this shrinking lake really gave me the opportunity to follow a narrative and look at the beauty of the landscape pre-Soviet Union, the hope of the future as the water returns, as well as the barren landscapes and desolation during the disaster. 

How did you arrive at the album’s sound?

I work a lot with drone and multi-layered strings, so finding the voice of the Aral came quickly to me as my style suited the simplicity of the barren desert as well as the flowing of the water. As part of my research for the album, I was able to speak to locals, which proved to be a real privilege. I also went through archive footage and listened to field recordings of the area. Sounds such as wind hitting against the rusted hulls of abandoned ships and local wildlife can be heard on the album.

Is there something you want listeners to take away from the album?

I hope people can listen and be taken on a journey from beauty to desolation and then hope. I also hope the album can inspire a moment of reflection on how not taking care of our surroundings has continued to have a devastating impact on the environment, and as a result, human life.

For more information, please contact Zoe Sonnenberg, Krista Williams or Carla Sacks at Sacks & Co., 212.741.1000.

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