By Faith Vara
The post-punk scene of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s is one I often find myself indulging in. Recently, I’ve been on the search for more modernized post-punk groups that aren’t the same revivalist bands I’ve been listening to for years. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Strokes and Interpol as much as the next person, but it was time for something new. And luckily, I found just what I was looking for. The post-punk scene in Russia is booming with bands producing arguably some of the most attractive, inventive and ecstatic music anyone has made since the genre first became popular. It’s almost like finding a part of the world where it’s always 1980, and I’m here to show you all that Russia has to offer.
“Корень Имбиря” – Буерак (“Ginger Root” – Buerak)
The first song that introduced me to the Russian post-punk scene is by a band known as Buerak. Although this song is entirely sung in Russian, it offers all the same musical elements that made the early post-punk scene great. With machine-like drumming and a driving bassline, “Ginger Root” is guaranteed to get your head bobbing. The vocals in this song are what I found most interesting, as they tend to abruptly punch through the musical line, but in the best way possible. The vocal structure can even be compared to those by Joy Division in tracks such as “Ice Age” and “She’s Lost Control.” This track, when translated into English, talks about not needing alcohol or drugs in order to have a good time. Instead, this “Ginger Root” tears his soul into a dance, which oddly enough describes the sound of this song perfectly.
Motorama is one of the more well-known bands in the scene, and “Ghost” is another track I instantly fell in love with. This was the first song I found that’s entirely sung in English, so I was curious to see how it compared to the songs sung in Russian. Upon first listen, the drum intro of the track heavily reminded me of “PDA” by Interpol. However, as I continued listening, I found that this track offers more of a soft indie-style sound, similar to that of The Drums and DIIV. Both the instrumentation and lyrics are simple, yet catchy, which automatically makes for a solid track. While it might be softer and less aggressive than the previous track, “Ghost” still offers the fast-paced tempo and melancholy tone that’s heard in many post-punk classics.
“Дом” – Увула, Cherry Candy (“House” – Uvula, Cherry Candy)
While the first two tracks draw similarities to the traditional post-punk sound, “House” draws more similarities to the shoegaze and dream pop sounds that developed throughout the ‘80s and into the ‘90s. Groups such as Cocteau Twins and Dream, Ivory come to mind while listening to this track, as the breathy vocals and guitar effects create a dreamy atmosphere. Just like many other Russian bands I’ve encountered, the vocalist manages to encapsulate the low-register sorrowful tone. However, the addition of a female vocalist adds to the ambiance of the song, with both vocalists talking about how someone can feel like home, but knowing that person doesn’t feel the same.
While drums usually aren’t the main focus of a post-punk track, Human Tetris disregards the norm and lets the drums shine on “Things I Don’t Need.” Complicated drum rhythms fill the entire track, while jangly guitar sounds and a Peter Hook-inspired bassline balance out the rest of the instrumentation. Monotone vocals, minimal lyrics and fast-paced drumming all come together to make Human Tetris sound almost like a modern-day, amped up version of Joy Division. This track alone shows that the musicality in the Russian post-punk scene is a force to be reckoned with.
“Лето” – Pasosh (“Summer” – Pasosh)
As another track that strays away from traditional post-punk sounds, “Summer” is one that implements the alt-rock sounds of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. This carefree track sounds heavily influenced by bands such as R.E.M. and Modern English, almost sounding like the soundtrack to a coming-of-age movie. To further prove this point, the lyrics of the song talk about the longing for warm summer days and eventful summer nights under the stars. While post-punk songs usually aren’t as cheerful and upbeat as “Summer,” Pasosh shows that even the darkest of music could use some light sometimes.
While listening to music in different languages or from different parts of the world can seem intimidating, there’s something special about being able to break that language barrier. Trust me, never in my life did I expect to see myself listening to underground post-punk music from Russia. However, it was a bit of a miracle to stumble across this refreshing group of bands, even if I don’t really know what they’re saying. Even if this style of music isn’t your thing, I encourage you to find what you love and step outside of the box to see what the rest of the world has to offer. You never know what you might stumble upon.