This is a blog devoted to music on the edge - experimental, underground, alternative, subversive, or just plain weird - new music that tries new things, or old music that broke old rules. It's a place to discuss ideas, share discoveries, to think about what makes music interesting and challenging but still good to listen to. Join in and have your say!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Russian call across time and space - Asian Women On The Telephone

Given my dual penchants for all things Russian and for most things weird, it is a little odd that it took a tip-off from Magdalena Solis, only a few weeks ago, for me to discover a very freaky avant-psych-rock band from Moscow called Asian Women on the Telephone (AWOTT).

AWOTT is a band that, ideally, you need to see. And you can find a few clips on YouTube that allow you to do that, but they only serve as enticing teasers for what the real experience of seeing these strange, Dadaist, oddly-clad performers must be like. The music itself is part of a bigger whole, where musicians in weird, alien-like costumes and masks bash away at their instruments and their bits of odd percussion and noise, in what looks and sounds like a junkyard ritual from another world.

But, for those of us who can’t get to Moscow, there are a few downloads and a CD available if you know where to look. And it’s worth the effort because, if you let this music get into your head, you will find it creates some pretty amazing images in there, pretty much as wild and weird as seeing it done for you on stage.

The music, in the best Dadaist way, takes a bit of this and a bit of that, and puts it together in a way that turns it all into something else entirely. There is a tribal ritualistic beat to much of the music, a sense of naïve primitivism, but it might be mixed with the motorik pulse of Krautrock, with collages of noise, wailing vocals and grotesque giggles; there might be psyched-out electronics, and stray notes that howl and slide around their centre, all coming together in a sort of partly primal, partly space-age orgy of sound.

The album ICanT is the one that I managed to find – a generous 78 minutes of amazing music that kicks off with “Pleasure Dome”, a dark, drone-like march that leads you, blindfolded, into the mystery world that holds you captive throughout the rest of the album.

In “Отверстие-Учитель” (hole-teacher) the first images of pagan ritual are painted on your mind’s canvas, but splashed with electronic twinges and twangs that linger and waver in the air.

It’s this uncanny coming-together of everything old with everything new that permeates much of this music – its brilliant use of ostinato rhythms, of other-worldly tonalities, of haunted animal-like yowls, and of sounds from another galaxy. And, because they bring it all together so well and so easily, AWOTT creates in you a sense that it is your time-world, rather than theirs, that is out of sync.

By “Похотливая горбунья ищет и находит” (Lustful hunchback seeks and finds) this whole effect becomes positively scary, with those lingering, wavering twangs becoming longer and creepier, as maniacal laughs infect the music and the air and which, even while they’re sending shivers down your spine, could almost be in parody of themselves.  Nothing in this place makes sense, at least not in the usual way.

The weirdness comes to an end, of sorts, in the album’s closer, “White Rabbi Motorcycle Dub” – a gentler track, but still an unsettling one, as if you are at last being led out of this strange world that has held you in its grip for the last hour – led out, but not entirely released.

Generally, each of the eight tracks on ICanT is quite long, but their persistent, ruthless beat always underpins other sounds and noises that change slowly and subtly, giving you the feeling that huge creatures – dinosaurs crossed with aliens, perhaps – are striding, slowly, but relentlessly around you until you, too, in spite of yourself, join their parade. 

AWOTT’s music is proudly low-fi – it is the music of the post-Soviet urban underground, music from dark places that repel and allure with only one hand.

It is certainly worth hunting down ICanT, or anything else you can find of AWOTT – music that can plug you into that shadowy, seductive, schizoid world that lays lurking, somewhere deep in all of us.

The band’s MySpace page is a good place to start.

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