Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Russian Tsarlag - Community Death Tube (Night People LP)

Just published over at Foxy Digitalis:

Sometimes there’s just no room for the sun. The debut full length LP from Providence-based Carlos Gonzalez’s Russian Tsarlag project, here issued by the much-lauded Night People label, is a sink hole of stark strip mall-hewn loner punk that leaves little untarnished in its wake. Yet this is no mere complaining—there is a snarky depth here that pushes it away from mere junkie poetics toward a distinct take on industrial bedroom pop. Think two parts John Bender, and one part each of Black Randy and Alan Vega, with special guest appearances by the slowest gamelan unit yet assembled.

Steeped in bleak concrete echo, Gonzalez’s vocals are the main act here; he has, through clenched teeth and slackened jowls, a unique and compelling delivery on lyrics that run the topical gamut from indecipherable to inconceivable. Drawn out over what are typically hyper slow drum machine tempos, the words take on new levels of desolation, even when they previously had no connotations whatsoever. The near perverse repetition of the one word title on “Roungina,” as one example. Or the declaration that “I Know David” as another… though I suppose we all do know one, don’t we?

Which isn’t to say that this is all mindless muttering—buried beneath the silt is, well, more silt, but it’s pretty compelling silt. Gonzalez’s minimal tin can aesthetic is humorous enough to give his oppressed statements credibility strengthened by odd intervallic skits where Gonzalez further hones the grime bathed in throughout. Through these become visible a distinctly paranoid, urban apocalypticism: ““We’ve gotta find a way to expel these feelings, or at least come to terms with them. Perhaps the ancient bleach party dog calendar can give us some advice to come to terms with this strange unknown energy.” I’m gonna have to go with him on this one.

Other points feature dirt-infused movie snippets or horror aesthetics, but the whole effect goes far beyond mere stylistic recycling. Moments here are quite beautiful, as on the closing “I’ll Walk Through It,” where synth keyboards and gentle, bruised vocals croon for the end of time. It is these sparse moments of tender fragility that lend the album emotive resonance, making it a lasting document from a most effecting sage of Wasteland, America. “I’ve got problems,” he states dryly. Suffice it to say that most can relate to that.

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