Retro Russian Electronica

EU are the somewhat funky side of globalism: two Russian musicians — Ilya Baramiya and Sasha Zaitsev (or Baramia and Zaicev, depending on your transliterator) — with a trunk full of hip-hop and prog rock, and a contract with a record label in Bristol, England (Pause 2). The opening cut on Warm Math, the duo’s second full-length album, opens with the appropriately titled “Retro”: five minutes of the truly old-school — not the lo-fi constructions of early Def Jam hip-hop, but gooey, slow-jam grooves that would have made sense with an R&B team like DeBarge emoting on top. The song’s thick, glossy synth lines won’t sit comfortably with everyone. They may signal down-low, all foreboding and street-wise, but they actually sound more Jolly Rancher than they do DJ Premier, more polished than seasoned. “Gerp” has that slightly goofy quality, exactly what made the X-Files theme song, for all its pop dread, sound like something that director Dario Argento would have used in a horror film back before Ronald Reagan had ever uttered the term “Evil Empire.”

It’s highly unlikely any of this is intended to be campy, even the sci-fi psychedelia of “Said.” The frequent keyboard solos are often mawkish, and the occasional attempts at rhythmic variation are forced (just listen to gears shifting inelegantly through both “Secret Track” and “Eusday”). Perhaps there’s some comfort to be taken in Warm Math; after all the feverish energy of glitch music — all those songs built, like dust mites, from little more than static — it’s nice to hear a sound as thick as your arm. Now, if the histrionics of a band like, say, Goblin (Dawn of the Dead, Profondo Rosso) are your thing, then EU will be a good excuse to get reacquainted with your local import record store.

This album review appeared, in slightly different form, in the autumn 2003 issue of e|i magazine.

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