Post 1000 Names Nikolay Todorov has devoted himself to his Puma & The Dolphin project which provided the sountrack to the massively successful Louis Vitton/Yayoi Kysama campaign.
The puma and the dolphin inhabit two separate worlds on the same planet, completely unaware of each other's existence. Nikolay Todorov aka Niko's Puma & The Dolphin project prompts us to picture their encounter as a "a combination of different rhythms and styles that would otherwise never cross paths". This work of the imagination was first released in 2015 on cassette tape - nowadays the rarest of formats, by the Bulgarian label Wtf Is Swag. It was followed by a slate of vinyl releases by Canadian, Scottish and Belgian labels, including the album "Indoor Routine" on Invisible Inc. For several months now Puma & The Dolphin's music has been the soundtrack to Louis Vitton and Yayoi Kysama's global fashion brand campaign on social media.
This success is no fluke. Niko, as he prefers to be called, has been involved in music ever since he started taking piano lessons as a young child. He's been working as a producer for over twenty years. "I remember the early years, filled with enthusiasm. Technology was evolving and music was becoming more accessible and interesting," he says.
Part of that experience and passion for techno gadgetry found an outlet when Nikolay adopted the moniker 99 Mistakes and became one half of electronic band 1000names. Together with Margarit Alexiev aka Casio Blaster, they transformed their shared fondness of hip hop culture, dating back to the 90s, into their own brand of original beat electronica or electro hip hop, wherein their ultimate goal seemed to be deconstructing the beat to its components.
Their debut 7 and 12 inch singles came out on French label Eklektik Records, followed by the album "Illuminated Man", on UK label Black Acre. The next five years saw the release of four more albums and nine singles as the duo became notable not only for their impressive music, but also their colourful live appearances.
Over time "the Thousand names", as their fans like to call them, gradually drifted apart and eventually went their separate ways, remaining connected by the love of good music, their families and, above all, their friendship. At the end of last month, fifteen years after their first release, the duo reunited for a stellar performance in front of ecstatic fans at Sofia Live Festival.
"Generally, I don't like looking back. It was what it was, we learned a lot and experienced so much more. It was great, but now it's just as interesting. I'm constantly discovering cool new music and producers. You've got all the music in the world in your pocket. What more could you possibly want?" Nikolay enthuses. He goes on to add that there's more responsibility in being a solo artist, but he's not sure whether that's an advantage or a disadvantage. "If you're feeling lazy when you have to finish something...well, there's no one to do it for you."
When he's not in the imaginary musical dimension between the puma and the dolphin, Nikolay descrbes himself as a "yogurt critic", father of two girls and a husband who "wears everyday clothes" and works as a freelance UX/UI graphic designer.
He states that the creative process is of paramount importance to him and says that if he wasn't a musician, he would definitely be some other kind of artist. It's a little known fact that he used to paint, but today does so only with his daughters. "Painting taught me to observe and analyze things, as well as see them within a frame."
If he had to choose between the stage and the studio, he'd opt for the latter because he finds it much more interesting. He does, however, love to go outside hunting for new sounds and says that is his idea of meditation. He claims to hear rhythm even within silence. "Quite often I find myself carefully listening to the buzzing of the refrigerator or the electric poles on the street. There's no complete silence anywhere. We're surrounded by sounds, we just have to be alert to them. There's no silence even in the forest, it's full of rhythm."
His album "Indoor Routine" (2020) for instance, was born out of some of the most monotonous moments in his life, when he managed to surrender to "the beauty of domestic life, watching my children play, feeding the birds and weacing the sounds of my surroundings with the rhythmic layers." At other times his tracks take the form of mystical shamanic journeys, beginning and ending in his own body, with no concept or answers.
Early this year his new single Phantom Impulses marked a return to Invisible Inc. However, the past winter saw him lacking inspiration for the first time in a long while. "I guess it's down to accumulated fatigue. It was a weird feeling. I needed something to get me going, some kind of impulse. I started feeding it bit by bit and now it's gaining momentum."
This much needed boost came out of the blue in the form of the Louis Vitton/Yayoi Kysama campaign. "LIke everything in this world, it happened by chance. There's no dramatic story, but it came at just the right time. I was having a bit of writer's block and this thing came like a blast. It showed me that what I was doing wasn't pointless."
Currently he's rolled his sleeves up again and summoned his muses as he gradually begins work on his next ambient album. He plans to make even more use of soundscapes, but with a different approach to the recording process. He envisions it like when the artist captures a moment in his painting, only in music that moment would be on loop for hours, thus becoming a meditative short story. The sound is only the beginning of an idea, which at the end is never the same, but that's exactly where the thrill of surprise emanates from.
This summer we can hear Puma & The Dolphin racing and swimming behind the decks at several festivals - Vola Open Air, which takes over Mount Okolchitsa in the Vrachanski Balkan Natural Park from July 21 to 23, and Wake Up Stran-jah, on Varvara beach between August 11 and 14. Somewhere out there, we may catch him not only in creating, but also in capturing some of his soundscapes into which we could dive together.
Translated by Nasso Ruskov