The end result of that interest is "Czar Nicholas Is Dead", a soundtrack to a tundra wasteland filled with lonely soldiers, ornate towers crumbling into ruin, and desolate, blood-soaked snowscapes. An essentially ambient project with minimal instrumentation, "Czar Nicholas Is Dead" captures Russia as a fever dream, a strange and disorienting place that lay on no map, but rather resides entirely in the authorâ€™s imagination.
On the one hand, the subject of Kieferâ€™s project is a strange one to be sure, particularly since most of his recorded outputâ€”including the similarly epic and minimalist instrumental project "Exodust" (2002) â€”has been rooted strongly in American soil. But Kieferâ€™s work has always also been rooted in history and in academic and intellectual pursuits. His Ph.D. work at the University of California at Davis explores the intersection of history and the arts (particularly literature) and "Czar Nicholas Is Dead" falls perfectly within his primary field of interest, even if the geographical location has shifted off the North American continent. For research, Kiefer turned to thick volumes on the assassination of the Romanoff family, the tradition of Russian folk music, and to early Russian silent film.
Kiefer brought in a handful of his favorite musicians and asked them to improvise with him live in the studio with a handful of simple instructions. The material was then worked over further in the studio, edited, rearranged, and produced, often with additional parts being added or subtracted as the musical force of the album began to reveal itself. The end result is part collective improvisation on a conceptual and musical theme, and part constructed and composed musical work.
About the Artist:
Christian lives in Northern California, outside of Sacramento. He'll tell you "I'm from the hill country but now I'm in a subdivision filled with sport utility vehicles and the upwardly mobile". "Czar Nicholas Is Dead" is his fifth full length release, and the second of four planned for this year (his collaboration with Sharron Kraus, "The Black Dove" is out now). His work tends to fall into two camps: Improvisatory and semi-composed avant-garde instrumentals ("Exodust") and more straight-laced folk-influenced songwriter material "Welcome to Hard Times" and "Medicine Show", but all ultimately driven by the same interests in history and myth.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Yurovsky's Lament
2. Koptyaki Road, Night
3. 15 Degrees
4. Kalmykov (Poppies)
5. On Suffering Grief
6. July 21: Ipatiev Returns Home
8. The Firing Squad
9. The Politburo Dreams of the Urals