Weary Eyes (Moscow)
The Moscow outfit Weary Eyes is a quartet: Eldar Salamov, Aleksei Krasnov, Nikita Martiushov, and Artem Taganov. During our first visit to these capital songwriters and performers, so to speak, they explained how their inspiration often starts far from home. Salamov lived in Spain for six months, and felt - upon his return to Russia - a strong desire to fashion some instrumentals in honor of sunny towns both Spanish and Portuguese. Those Mediterranean themes were mirrored in the 2012 mini-album "Ghostwritten Stories, Pt. I." As the title suggested, there was, sooner or later, a "Part II" to be expected.
Music that's representative of teamwork
Several months ago, in anticipation of that follow-up, the band declared: "Our [second installment] will be inspired by alcohol, parties, and other wild stuff." It has now been officially released. Weary Eyes' five-track and twenty-one minute mini-album has emerged with an accompanying text in Russian. It focuses upon the working relationships behind the scenes. "We promised you good news... The second half of our 'Ghostwritten Stories' was actually recorded some while ago, during those early studio sessions when we committed the first part to tape. Nonetheless, you'll see how things really differ now. The earliest numbers had been written entirely by Eldar and then collectively edited, at least in part. The 'Part II' compositions, though, are much more representative of general teamwork."
Amicable support turns lyrical musings into something bolder: "These new, joint compositions have become feistier - and more epic, even! There's a good element of post-hardcore on display, together with post-metal, math rock, and even some good old guitar improvisations. That doesn't mean to say you won't find places where everything calms down - or perhaps gets a bit jolly! In a word, we hope that all this variety will keep you intrigued from start to finish."
Collaboration leads to increased scale, scope, and generic range. Amity and proximity are obviously greatly appreciated. The world is faced with greater confidence amid kindred spirits.
Take, for example, the Novosibirsk band Kometjakten. Physical co-presence can be an impossibility in that snow-blown part of Russia; friends and family are kept far apart. Building a fan-base across windswept, icy Siberia is no easy matter. As a digital reflection of physical geography, Kometjakten's webpages continue to be, for the most part, rather sparse. The only texts of consequence can be small, fleeting exchanges between the group and its concert-bound admirers, all of whom are trying to reach the same destinations - at the same time. People are struggling to come together.
One of those organizational chats from earlier in 2012 was designed to help a friend reach a Kometjakten concert in Barnaul, 120 miles away. Even that relatively small distance was prohibitively expensive to cross: "Here's a suggestion," said one friendly soul. "We'll try and scrape some money together for the trip."
Romance, drive, and plenty of room for empathy
Kometjakten's eponymous debut EP has just appeared and already garnered a positive response from the Siberian Big Echo webzine. "There's a genuinely delicate approach evident here. It convinces us that no matter what 'wall of sound' you might unveil behind the stage-name Kometjakten, this is an amazingly good-natured recording, in which the key role is played by melody. There's no room for the sort of emotional detachment you'd associate with this genre [of post-rock]. Instead there's romance, drive, and plenty of room for empathy."
Once more, metaphors of teamwork, friendship, and metaphorically spatial freedom coincide. Mutual support opens up the world, especially if it's minus 40C outside.
Kometjakten: the eponymous EP (2013)
In that light, it's undoubtedly worth noting that the stage-name Kometjakten harks back to the classic Finnish Moomin stories for children, specifically to the animated film of 2010, "Moomins and the Comet Chase." That tale describes the impending collision of a comet with the Moomins' home. As a decision, solution, or exit is sought, the sky grows increasingly ominous. The main goal is get everybody to safety: mutual support will perhaps save the day.
Wordless tales about love, adventure, and frustration…
At this point one might also consider the Moscow band I Will Kill Chita - even if their semi-serious moniker hints at the collapse of camaraderie. The band's last recordings were entitled "Urban Fears" and dedicated to the gloomy contours of "Moscow's industrial outskirts." The tracks came with a small text: "The mood of these works was inspired by dark urban imagery: abandoned, outlying districts, endless railways, and grim old apartment buildings... all against the backdrop of an overcast sky."
In a peripheral, melancholy realm where failure appears to determine both social timelines and local architecture, the greatest expression of love, perhaps, is to empathize with those lives and locations that have "not gone as they planned."
A second and related I Will Kill Chita studio album is now on display, "Before We Disappear." The band's label RAIG informs us that IWKC have recently grown to become a twelve-piece chamber ensemble. Again, among the names of that team-sheet, we find the soundtrack to some elusive social bonds: "Haunting melodies and aching dissonances between the guitars, keyboards, and string section of IWKC all serve to emphasize the [themes of] confusion in wordless tales about love, adventure, and frustration…"
I Will Kill Chita (Moscow)
As we say, the number of people in search of that goal is impressive: Nikita Samarin (drums, percussion); Andrew Silin (keyboards); Artem Litvakovskiy (cello); Alex Ivanov (bass); Ksenia Pluzhnikova (violin); Anastasiya Narochnaya; Karthick Iyer (both violin, viola); Denis Smirnov (french horn); Konstantin Podgorbunsky (tuba, trombone); Egor Gerasimchuk (trumpet); and Boris Medved (keyboards plus "intellectual" input).
One of the first reviews in the Russian press of "Before We Disappear" begins by considering the general fate of post-rock in an age when most of the key Western ensembles have either disbanded or ceased to be relevant. From the outset - in a contrary tone - the journalist in question says that what continues to make any style relevant in Russia is its mere ability to persist. The organization or maintenance of a band is itself worthy of sustained applause. In a realm of feeble career options on stage, any social contact with one's audience is similarly priceless.
Any Russian band that manages to publish a second LP should be christened a local hero
"If you've ever thought about making music in Russia then you'll know one thing. Any band that can publish a second LP should christened a local hero..." The primary challenge and purpose of local songwriting is - somehow - to foster a communal experience in social spheres that often deny that connection.
The (now) Moscow outfit On-the-Go once traveled very far from kith and kin in the name of that same, kinder resonance. The band's founding brothers, Yura and Maxim Makarychev, moved initially from their industrial hometown of Togliatti. Family support was needed across those five hundred miles: "We were already grown-up then. Max was maybe 17 or 18; nonetheless, he traveled to Moscow with me, his elder brother. Our mother had faith in us both. We've got a middle sibling, too; now he's with us in the capital, working as a programmer."
Songs, brothers, and families interwove as related facets of a small and superior network. Each gave the other greater confidence.
A long and recent interview in Afisha offers more information. The anxious move to Moscow by the Makarychev brothers is described wonderfully. "We wanted somehow to reach a certain section of people in Moscow - and we did so. Anybody who reads Afisha or Look at Me understands that there are some really cool people in Moscow who drum up interest [in young bands]... [Living in Togliatti we knew that] if only we worked in the capital, we could be among the same people. And that, in fact, is how things worked out, really quickly and easily." Little by little, faith in the outside world increased, thanks to trusting parents, reliable brothers, and the emboldening affect of a stirring song.
If only we lived in the capital...
Widening those same circles, the adventures of Yura and Maxim Makarychev have become impressively grand. And yet they're built - still - upon the tiniest connections: "We traveled all around the country this year... but we didn't run into anything especially nasty! Things have all come together rather well... We even managed to play in front of 40,000 people on a civic holiday and I know perfectly well that 95% of them aren't our fans in any way. Nonetheless, nobody threw any bottles and people even clapped. (Maybe they just didn't know what was going on!) All kinds of folks came up to us afterwards, all the way from die-hard nu-metal fans to some awful hipster types..."
This gentle fostering of miniature social bonds against the backdrop of a huge, often worrying nation leads On-the-Go to shy away from overtly social or political themes. Songs are better suited to a consideration of brothers, sisters, and absent lovers. "We really don't want to make a big deal of 'civic' issues in our lyrics. And that's no real surprise, since most musicians are basically escapists. There are enough socially active bands in Russia. The kind who focus less on the music than on the stuff surrounding Pussy Riot, for example."
Away from any barricade, friends and family members stand shoulder to shoulder. Uncomplicated acts of amity make the world look a lot better.
On-the-Go, with Maxim (in green) and Yura Makarychev (in sky blue)