In essence, this site exists in order to showcase interesting or important music that has received absolutely no attention in the English language. Once, however, we've sketched the outlines of a given ensemble, contextualized some audio, and provided a handful of links, the band in question does not - of course! - cease being productive. When new material appears, we can - in theory - return to the same outfit and provide more information, although the fundamental back-story has already been written: we simply link, therefore, to our older posts.
Given, however, the fact that this site does not exist in order to criticize and malign, the need to speak of new, impressive work by bands we already know leaves us but one option: enthusiastic, repeated dithyrambs - which can seem a little unobjective the fourth or fifth time around. On this occasion, therefore, we'd like to reflect some external opinions that are forming around a couple of excellent bands about whom we've already written. We've already tallied our opinions of them, so let's see what else is being said in other venues (and thanks to Yasha Vetkin for these images, too).
The groups in question are Moscow's Motherfathers and - as far away as possible - Vladivostok's Mari! Mari! It's worth taking a look how the former band is being reviewed in the West, and how the latter is being received at home, especially from online fans in distant towns. Both ensembles have just released new, top-notch material in a couple of small doses. The Motherfathers' new EP is a three-track effort entitled "Groovy Violence" and - happily - it can be downloaded for free.
It continues their wonderfully sprawling tradition of aural chaos, which the group themselves now define as follows: "The basic concept of the band is a postmodern combination of genres and styles, all the way from psychedelic or classic rock to intellectual electronica and pure noise. It's all filtered through the insistently avant-garde and ironic worldview of the band members," i.e., Dmitrii Peich, Maksim Elizarov, and Ol'ga Nosova, shown in our first image.
The basic concept of the band is a postmodern combination of genres and styles, all the way from psychedelic or classic rock to intellectual electronica and pure noise. It's all filtered through the insistently avant-garde and ironic worldview of the band members.
Motherfathers have been winning fans in the Anglo world. Take, for example, Sonic Frontiers (s0me of these reviews are written in pretty dodgy English, but we've left them untouched whenever grammatically possible): "Some tracks [by the band] seem like more of a jam session; [everyone's] just playing around and, overall, taking things with humour - and not too seriously (especially given the lyrics). There’s also some punkish and new wave sounds thrown into the mix. At times it sounds like a free-jazz/improv[session]... If you like sloppy-sounding punk/psych/improv/experimental/garage rock, you might find this interesting... There is potential in this band, they should exploit it. I can sense a spark under the crude layer[s]; they need to uncover it. I’m interested to hear how they’ll develop."
Star approval is already assured.
The staff at Deaf Sparrow are also keen: "...What I like the most about this Moscow-based trio is that when focused, their material is titillating. Motherfathers insist on being experimental, so at their most obtuse and deranged, the band’s avant-aspirations succeed by building tense moods and, obviously, [some] experimental workouts, [too]. Quite frankly, the sound takes time to grow on you. For the first five or six songs [of their debut CD] this just sounds like a rehearsal, [but eventually] the band’s abilities do come afloat... Motherfathers seem to be channeling Helmet by way of Nick Cave."
These two aspects of jamming and Cave were highlighted by ourselves on the first outing. In other words, there are clear echoes both of early recordings by The Birthday Party and the structural similarity with, say, CDs by I Am Above On the Left, which are indeed taken directly from jam sessions. Long periods of uninterrupted experimentation are committed to tape, and the high-points simply excised as individual tracks.
One of the most pleasing reviews has come from Crucial Blast: "What a weird f***ing album. It goes all over the place, a Dadaist mash-up of low-fi industrial scum, Am Rep influenced noise rock, Acid Mothers-style psychedelia, Krautrock (LOTS of Krautrock), gothy post-punk, weirdo jazz/noise improvisation... I actually really liked this though, in spite of how disjointed and inchoate this album can be. There are some pretty damn good songs on here that could have gotten a lot of play on college radio in the late 80's - and whenever the band gets into one of their grooving Krautrock jams, they can really cook. Definitely not for everyone though; Motherfathers experimental noise/punk weirdness is way, way out."
These structural tendencies - towards disorder or, on occasion, brief periods of cohesion - were dramatically expressed by Sea of Tranquility: "When you bill yourself as an experimental rock band, a certain 'hit or miss' expectancy level kind of comes with the territory. In the case of this first release Kolchak! by Russian avant-garde outfit Motherfathers, this is a band that seems to enjoy walking the thin line between genius and madness, something they do remarkably well on their stronger material."
In short, then, there's a sense that the local specificity of the band's material - the thing that marks them as "way, way out" - is a willingness to leave the processes of change and experimentation in the music. There's a desire, in other words, to make the eventful aspect of the sounds more important than their polished completion. Making music is more important than the finished job.
There's a photographic pun in here somewhere about "developing" potential, but it currently eludes us.
So what of Mari! Mari!? How are they being assessed by their domestic fans? They, too, have enjoyed our attention and approval already, being - as they put it - "some young, cocky, and generally pleasant indie-rockers from the town of Vladivostok," on Russia's Pacific coast. Issue Number One appears - amazingly - to still be the group's name.
As recently as April 2009 there were debates with the band - since even they were unsure! - as to whether the stress in their name falls on the first or second syllable. No common agreement was reached. And what does Mari! Mari! even mean? Recent suggestions in the last few weeks have included "marikul'tura," the Russian term for sea-farming or "aquiculture" - a logical choice, perhaps, for a coastal address.
No agreement was heard from the group members, no matter how vigorous the voting from the audience.
The Virgin Mary is also a suggested candidate, thanks to a little help from Wikipedia, but one of the band's guitarists then jumps into the conversation with a variant that may - possibly - have been serious. He says it originates in a very poor pronunciation of the phrase "Look! Look!" in Russian ("Smotri! Smotri!"). In the most recent post (at the time of writing) from a mere two days ago, the same band member, however, now says that the name's origins are, in fact, a secret - and will be revealed only in eight years' time.
No-one will look the fans in the face with a straight answer.
This joking around has a serious purpose, though. It relates to the most common question that the quartet is asked: "When will you come and visit us? We would love to see you, but we understand that Vladivostok is horribly far away." Variations upon that theme reappear time and time again. As we can tell from the tomfoolery here, however, multiple time-zones do little to stop the band from cultivating a close, genuinely friendly relationship with their fans. The same admirers play an active part in the selection and creation of tracks, often voting halfway through a project when important decisions need to be made.
When will you come and visit us? We would love to see you, but we understand that Vladivostok is horribly far away.
When we wrote yesterday about the band Komnata, we pointed out the downside to this type of interaction, but here it is working well. It is especially important on sites like V kontakte and MySpace. Close relations with the fan-base lead to long lists of registered "friends," massed avatars, and more downloads of music, which - as here - is increasingly offered for free, as promo materials for local gigs.
Most of us would admit that our initial impression of a musician's web-based status is gained from looking at the number of friends, hits, and/or downloads. Positive comments and commitment online, therefore, will work to the direct benefit of local performance, to the likelihood that someone who's contemplating attending a concert will then believe it to be an event of consequence. These online networks are valuable tools of persuasion.
Distant (digital) fans, in other words, help to maintain local (and physical) scenes.
This, as with the music of Motherfathers, is very much a process, something that is always happening, rather than a project hidden from public eyes until finished and "ready" in some fashion. It's a social equivalent of the musical jam. As the magazine Sonic Frontiers noted above, "We're interested to hear how it'll develop." If the bands can get to grips with the potential of modern media, good news should be forthcoming.