VOLGA: Pomol (Lumberton Trading Company)
Lumberton Trading Company 2007
13 Tracks. 63mins35secs
Volga | Lumberton Trading Company
Moscow-based quartet Volga finely balance archaic overtones sourced from traditional Russian folklore and hypnotic rhythms with modern textures expressed through dense post-industrial electronics and processed acoustic instruments. This singular outlook gives the band a totally unique sound as they link past and present together with oriental and occidental musical forms. Formed in the later part of the nineties, Volga released their eponymous debut album in 1999, and have since delivered three albums and a number of live recordings and remix projects.
The voice of lead singer Anjela Manukian evokes the soft tones of Kate Bush and the many incarnations of Liz Fraser or Lisa Gerrard, yet there is a particular grain in her voice that is reminiscent of the spellbinding power of Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares. Tearing through hypnotic percussions and post-industrial electronic experimentations, she apposes ancient Russian texts, sung in a variety of dialects, that she has collected during years of researching Russian folklore. She is backed by multi-instrumentists Alexei Borisov, Roman Lebedev and Uri Balashov.
Pomol opens and closes in similar fashion, with Angela Manukian’s voice set very much as the main focal point of each song. Elsewhere, it is framed with tribal drums and harsh post-industrial electronic formations that are only softened by the addition of processed traditional instrumentation. All throughout, the music is deeply rooted in tradition, but the treatment applied on every single aspect of these thirteen songs places them at the heart of the contemporary experimental electronic scene. Tracks such as Corn, Sonnaja, Svaha, Tausen or Rubaha betray very little of their origins, but others, such as the title track, Kruchu or Detinushka, appear to bear the weight of centuries of history. The latter, with its exquisite guitar motifs and enthralling beauty, is undoubtedly the highlight of the album, but pieces such as the wonderful Pomol, the high octane Tausen and Ropes or Volga Mother, with its crystalised dub, all convey a great deal of emotions and prove very interesting offerings. The album closes with Manukian’s most beguiling vocal performance on the atmospheric and mysterious Sufi.
The album may originally be let down by the rather rigid and martial aspect of the arrangements, but the post-industrial approach adopted by the band, which contrasts greatly with the highly ornate vocals, actually serves to emphasise the sheer beauty and complexity of the melodies. Volga negotiate the difficult amalgamation of tradition and modernism very well here and manage to create a rather impressive collection of emotional electronic music.