"Songs that mix slinky balladry and echoes of Gypsy music with a dash of Kurt Weill or the blues… The results sound like a disjointed east-European answer to Tom Waits" - The Guardian
"One of the most remarkable debut albums of recent years" - BBC Music
FRONTED by the achingly melancholic voice of artist and singer Irina Doubrovskaja, and people by a half dozen Soviet émigrés who escaped the turmoil of Russia following the end of Cold War for the artistic communes of East Berlin, ErsatzMusika are the ghost in the machine of 21st century music.
Their sound is unique - a rootsy Russian urban folk without insulation and throwing off sparks. Lurking in their condensed, gritty bass and guitar riffs is a pure, unrefined and unruly spirit that's redolent of 1980s Fall, 1970s Jamaican dub, 1930s Berlin cabaret, and Soviet ska-like beats chopped out in the style of the dissident singers of the Soviet era - whose "criminal songs" - vicious vignettes of Soviet realities - were secretly circulated in their millions on cassette.
Theirs is not a nostalgia for an old world, however, but a reclamation of its fierce creative underground. The 13 strange and singular tracks on their second album, Songs Unrecantable, is like a hall of mirrors reflecting the psychic landscapes of old Russia back onto the crazy realities of 21st century Mittel-Europa and turning them loose into some of the strangest songs on the planet.
From the opening old-world elegance of Song on a Gypsy Air with its exquisitely dry piano melody, through the dread, subterranean beat of Tver, the Neolithic rock n roll of Oy Pterodactyl or the image-drenched tone poetry of Antediluvian, Songs Unrecantable draws you inexorably into a conspiracy of organs, raw guitars, clipped, arcane riffs, jerky dances, haunting vocals, and a vast image bank drawn from past and present, east and west.
Their acclaimed 2007 debut, Voice Letter, took its name from the flexidiscs that people would mail across the Soviet Union as musical postcards. The album's songs were sung in Russian, but you didn't need to speak it to feel their power and their soul. Now with Songs Unrecantable the band's jagged, surreal poetry has been rendered into English, mixing cinematic images with surreal voices and dislocated epithets peopled by pterodactyls, pawned clocks, rotting rafters, cactoid skyscrapers, and psylocybine panic.
New world orders come and go, and ErsatzMusika are the soundtrack for what's gone and what's to come. Theirs is a reclamation in sound of the old weird Russia on the other side of the mirror, suffused in the gothic tremolo of duelling guitars, subterranean bass, off-kilter dance beats, the sepia-street sound of an accordion that sounds as if it's been filtered through winter fog. With Songs Unrecantable, ErsatzMusika brings you the Russian beat dancing on a chain to the lyrics of Irina Doubrovskaja and others; her melancholic, dispossessed voice wanders like a haunted spirit across a terrain of old borders and broken idols. Normality will never feel the same again.