Monday, August 18, 2014

Moscow's Volga transport Russian folk tradition into the future

Posted By on 08.18.14 at 12:00 PM

In next week's paper I have a preview for the super Ukrainian group Dakhabrakha, who made their local debut at last year's World Music Festival: Chicago, and return to the city for some performances at Mayne Stage on Sunday. I'd like to think Dakhabrakha and members of the Russian group Volga don't share any of the current political and racial animosity roiling the border regions of those two nations (and their respective administrations), because they both share an appreciation for their own folklore—traditions that don't ultimately sound too far apart. While Dakhabrakha bring a theatrical flair and an all-acoustic reimagination of Ukrainian-folk traditions, Volga electrify and blow up the Russian folk that lies at the heart of its own modern music—one of the latter's founding members was Alexei Borisov, who once played a concert organized by experimental-music presenters Lampo. The group's most recent album Kumushki Pjut (Asphalt Tango) wisely places at the core of the arrangements the piercing, soulful vocals of Anzhelika Manukyan, who collects the ancient texts and melodies the group's repertoire is built around—according to press materials for the record she sings in ever-changing, historical dialects. I can't confirm these dialects with my ears, but I can hear a wildly varied array of sounds and attacks in her singing. Most of the tracks on the new album throb atop electronic beats and grimy, hard-rock guitar riffs, but I like it best when the traditional sounds played by group member Uri Balashov compete with the rock elements. For today's 12 O'Clock Track you can check out the video for "Rzhanoe Zhito," one of the album's most arresting tracks, with the buzzing jaleika melding with lacerating electronic tones to cut against the grain of Manukyan's frenzied incantations.

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