Этажи, by Molchat Doma
Suggested by Krystian Musztafa
It’s not often I have no idea what to expect.
As I’ve mentioned before, when presented with an unknown band and album, I enjoy a little guessing game. I take a look at the cover, and at the band / artist’s name, and take a wild guess at what delights it contains. There are certain signs that point to clear conclusions, such as spiky fonts or oiled Vikings, but there are more obtuse selections that offer up nothing more than a vague shape for a cover and a Countdown conundrum for a name.
Этажи, by Molchat Doma, goes a step further in the incomprehensible stakes by having the album titled in an entirely different alphabet, although using Cyrillic does give us some clues. The cover, depicting a top-heavy Slovakian hotel in greyscale, surrounded by old-fashioned cars and signposted with Cyrillic letters, pulls me towards something bleak and Communist. It’s not album art, it’s pamphlet art. On pamphlets that are handed out by stern and stocky men, at meetings down by the docks. It’s the art for an album that contains gloomy, industrial songs about beetroot, songs called The Means of Production, or Worker and Proletariat.
What I didn’t expect was an album that evokes the early Eighties, full of droning electronica straight from the Joy Division playbook.
Этажи, which translates as Floors, is a slice of new wave synth-pop that cribs heavily from the likes of The Cure and Depeche Mode. The synth sound is perfectly evocative of the era it’s looking to recreate, as is the drum machine that pumps out the high static snare sounds that back it all up. Over the top, the vocalist’s heavily treated and droning delivery touches on such diverse topics as Soviet state censorship, Communism and oppression. In short, the subject matter is exactly what you’d want it to be, and I bet it’d be the bee’s knees if I could speak Russian.
Apparently, Molchat Doma are related to something called “Doomer music”, which is typically atmospherically gloomy and cold, tackling dystopian themes. Floors certainly fits that bill. But while it does display some nostalgic charm, its signature sound is so familiar it’s as though I’m listening to endless covers of Love Will Tear Us Apart by bands that have only had the song described to them. Down a phone line with bad reception. By a man with a sore throat. Wearing a facemask. Who’s also never heard the song either.
For standout songs, it’s tricky to choose. On balance, I think I liked Судно (Борис Рыжий) more than the rest, although when all the songs are slight variations on a singular theme, promoting any one for praise above the rest is hardly the Soviet way. It’s best to collect up all the scores and distribute them amongst every song equally.
Did I enjoy this? I guess. I’m old enough to have enjoyed this music the first time around. Maybe the youth of today would like that opportunity too. I’m an old curmudgeon, more Boomer than Doomer, so Этажи gets a passible 6/10.