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New Weird Russia - #3 St. Petersburg
Richard Foster , March 19th, 2019 09:59

In the third of a series on the current Russian alternative music scene, we call on St Petersburg and find out how past glories still play a part, where club culture and improvised spaces drive scenes and why the city has a #moody reputation. And discover some committed and blockbusting rock-electro hybrids. Disclaimer! No battle rap!

“St.Petersburg. So much to answer for.”
Max Hagen (Journalist)

Much can be written about St.Petersburg / Petrograd / Leningrad. World history really was written here, often in bold capitals. It is a truism that the city’s spirit has been irrevocably moulded by its inhabitants for its inhabitants; whether royals, revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries, the heroically besieged, the staid apparatchiks or culturally rebellious. Being built as the country’s window on the west only adds to this image. Rightly or wrongly, Saint-Petersburg has always been considered the cultural capital of Russia. It boasts a wealth of historical artefacts, a strong intellectual legacy and grand architectural expressions of power to both attract foreign tourists and weather any competition from the flashy Moscow. Consequently, cultural liberalism and autocracy have always walked together, however guardedly. This dichotomy seems to have an effect. As one contact puts it, there is an “everlasting feeling of alarm and ambiguity”.

Moody City

In his brilliant “St Petersburg stories” - especially 'The Overcoat' and 'Nevsky Prospect' - the nineteenth century writer Gogol painted a picture of a ghostly, taciturn city with its inhabitants inhabiting strange, sometimes monstrous dreamworlds. Critic Marc Slonim saw the tales as perfect examples of horror vacui. Time, of course, has moved on since the 1840s and Gogol, it must be remembered, was a slave to wildly changing moods and circumstance. Still, St Petersburg comes to life in these dreamlike, almost disembodied tales of gloom and personal paranoias.

Arriving at the present day (and happily being a more flippant type than Gogol), I have to admit that asking my Russian friends to describe this legendary city is fast becoming a game with me. I have had many answers ranging from: “It’s a city of the mad”; “depressed”; “terrible weather”; “too intellectual”; “more European”; “full of snobs”; to “we are better than Moscow”.

Adopting an entirely patrician attitude for a moment, those who remember the 1980s music scene that sprang up along the UK’s M62 Corridor might feel at home with all of this. The weather has a similarly influential (if more extreme) effect too. The city’s well-known musical entrepreneur, Alexander Ionoff, mentioned the “awful foggy weather with almost arctic night conditions.” Sado Opera’s ‘Katya’ told me her home city has “only 60 sunny days a year [sic]. The weather is nasty and grey. This is said to be the reason why people might seem grumpy or even go crazy and are ‘always depressed’. So the vibe of the city does have a taste of a sorrow and pain.”

There’s a humour here that is also very “scally”. One friend quoted a promoter contact’s quip: “When people get the news of a new band in Moscow, they think, ‘What if the band is good and I miss it? I need to go.’ In St Petersburg people think, ‘What if I go and the band is shit? I’d better stay at home’.” We can maybe see a final connection with the British Northwest through a fairly commonplace lauding of a tradition of an independent popular music scene. From the 1970s onwards “Peter” was known as the country’s rock city, where cultural protest to the Soviet regime was often at its most visible. Although I am not going to talk about the Leningrad Rock Club or the Fontanka club and the early adoption of rave culture in the very early 90s, this legacy is - like those of Manchester and Liverpool - something that still colours elements of the current underground’s modus operandi.

Sample #1 Tema Kresta - Ohlofiliya

Tema Kresta are a straight-faced but subversive duo who - I am told - have a motto that is, “Never miss a lecture." I saw these two inspiring and funny women at Tallinn Music Week in March 2018 and can’t do better than pilfer snippets from my review, where I contrasted their deadpan demeanour with their wildly offbeat content (the rigours of anal sex without lubrication, tracts on ‘scripture socialism’), and mad visuals; one documenting a sex doll conference.

Sample #2 Shortparis - Любовь

It’s fair to say that Shortparis are one of the most essential bands on the Russian alternative circuit. A magnificent and exacting live outfit, and seemingly primed to conquer other shores, they remain a mystery; perfectionists and punks with highbrow-trickster talk of Prokofiev and various coloured “assemblies” of information. Despite being Siberian in origin, St. Petersburg is their base and I personally feel the city has shaped them as a band. Quoting an interview in this very publication, they see their music as being the backdrop for “hysteria, sex, and irony”, a statement which is as “Peter” as it can get. They make bruising, confrontational and melancholy music and this stomper from their last full length long player is a classic example of their unearthly powers.

Sample #3 Delicate Features - Sky Of Earth

A weird-pop electronic duo that cite Latvian folk, Muslimgauze AND Sade, and manage to combine it all in an ever-so-slightly-sinister ambient New Age Goth gloss. Despite the surface sweetness, some of the vocal tracks - like this sample - are unnerving.

Sample #4 The Mysterious Town Of Oak Hill - 'Hope'

Moody soundtracks criss-crossed with death metal played on a Sony Walkman? Why not. If I was writing in the 1960s I would take off my thick rimmed specs and give them a wipe, puff on my smouldering briar and type, “This mysterious outfit cover a wide range of styles and incorporate the latest electronic technology to appeal to a broad audience, daddy-o." All MTOOH’s music is intriguing and informed by huge vats of post-post-modern irony.

Legacies + Club Kultur: Ionoteka, Sound Museum and SKIF

So reputations and legacies do count for more in this city; maybe informing creative policy. Certainly more so than in the more restless Moscow scene. This trait can be seen with three sometimes very different organisations who use myth, or legacy, to experiment in the now.

Mr Ionoff And Ionoteka

We begin with the pretender to the city’s musical throne. It’s almost impossible to talk of St. Petersburg’s alternative scene not mention Alexander Ionoff. A label owner, club promoter and founder of Ионосфера (‘Ionosfear’) festival, the controversial Ionoff returned from the US in the 2000s and started up the “dark, grimy” Ionoteka club almost a decade ago as “a rough equivalent” to the Haçienda. Ionoteka is notorious for its underground raves, rock concerts and festivals; the wild excesses during which have brought, according to Ionoff, “tons of criticism and flame from conservative minded music lovers and mass media, for low quality sound and often underage teen-musicians getting ‘too wild’ at the parties.” However, he believes that “only youth can save the independent music movement in Russia and the club often gives a green light to bands that literally cannot play, yet are willing to go nuts on stage expressing themselves in any way possible without really breaking the law.”

Many others see Ionoteka as a remarkable, unusual space, albeit this view is often laced with a large dose of criticism. One musician friend described Ionoteka’s “unusual parties” as being held up by the pillars of “cheap food and alcohol, new wave and shoegaze music and pacific nihilism”. Regardless of the many criticisms of the label - (and here I quote some of them) a “junkyard” with a “cheapness” of production, “provocatively bad artwork” and “over-promoting” of fly-by-night acts that cobble together one release - others also speak of the almost saviour-like attraction of the Ionoteka club and label for the city’s young. It seems many teens see both label and club as spaces where they can feel - or express - their difference; regardless of the provenance of the many criticisms of Alexander Ionoff himself. To end on another, mitigating quote: “Demonstrative simplicity annoys many people, but a lot of teens in Russia find this aesthetic cool."

Sample #5 Валентин Флуоксетин (Valentine Fluoxetine) - 'Вьетнам' (Vietnam)

There are so many acts to listen to on Ionoff’s label it’s difficult to know where to start. Though mention should first be made of the rising pop star, Grechka, who was discovered by and cut her teeth on the imprint. Elsewhere, you can wade through many proudly amateur, Cure-obsessed releases, some outright weird, or eccentric (including some corking tracks apparently about the Kabbalah for example), or maudlin numbers, usually dealing with youth problems. The brilliance of some of these bands’ names (Virginity), Utility Soap and Funeral Services) often gives their own music a run for its money; but somehow, taken as a whole, it doesn’t matter. This is a scene that kicks out an awful lot of restless energy. And this particular track from local punks Валентин Флуоксетин is a hysterical slice of lofi no wave; a post-punk take on Gogol even, brought to us by a band with a typically sarky, trashy Petersburg name.

Sample #6 Merzota (Girl Scum) - 'Папа/Верните' (Daddy / Return)

A classic example of the here-today-gone-tomorrow opportunities afforded to some teens by the label. The uptempo beat and xylophone intro on the second track clash strongly with the irreparably sad subject matter. The singer is apparently 16 years old.

(Video) Sample #7 Electroforez - 'Ikea'

Electroforez - ikea from Koshka.neon on Vimeo.

A band eulogising a trip to furniture overlords Ikea as a transcendental experience that numbs the pain of a violent, modern day existence? Believe. The Pain Generation’s existential melancholy, and fantasising over a pre-sanctions, pre-War on Terror Russia is all here. Electroforez are an increasingly popular and powerful synth-rock duo from “Peter” who have close links to Ionoteka’s scene.

SKIF Festival

Turning away from the saturnine fancies of Gilded Youth, it’s time to look at the ongoing legacy of another of the city’s controversial music figures. If one name has capital in this city, it’s that of Sergey Kuryokhin: a man “addicted to strange new ideas and philosophies”. There are a couple of reasons to mention this brilliant, cussed artist here. One is the influence he may (or may not) have on acts like Shortparis, who are often linked with his name. The other is that Kuryokhin’s name, Western links and fiercely avant-garde reputation live on in the prestigious SKIF (Sergey Kuryokhin International Festival), first set up in 1996 in New York by Boris Raiskin. Since 1998 the festival - continued by Kuryokhin’s widow Anastasia Kuryokhina - is held in St Petersburg and currently housed in The New Stage of Alexandrunsky Theatre. SKIF, and the two ‘offshoot’ festivals, Electro-Mechanica and Ethnomechanica, play a vital role in bringing the best names in the international underground to St Petersburg. And since 2005, under the guidance of redoubtable programme director Natasha Padabed, SKIF has acted as a creative glue between Russia and the West; giving names such as Chelsea Wolfe, Anna von Hausswolff and Christoph Hann, Oneohtrix Point Never, Swans, and Chrome Hoof their first Russian shows. SKIF also books the new and as yet undiscovered in Russia, looking to the local scene to leaven out the foreign names. Shortparis played way back in 2012. Edition XXIII (May 2019) boasts Claudio Simonnetti's GOBLIN, BLURT, Belarus’s Yegor Zabelov and Russian names such as Marzahn and Seven Knives.

(Video) Sample #8 ПОЕХАЛИ live at SKIF

A great feel of SKIF’s intellectual freedom and humour can be seen by the performance last year of Moscow tricksters, ПОЕХАЛИ.

Sound Museum And Dmitry Shubin

The Will of the People isn’t this writer’s favourite phrase but exception can be made for the remarkable non-profit venue Sound Museum whose owner, despite wanting to close the space down, continually bends to the wishes of the public and musicians who play there frequently. Politicians, take note.

Alexey from local ‘Dark Jazz’ band [sic! See New Weird Russia columns passim] Yojo described this remarkable space to me. “In the centre of the city, you pass through several backstreets, find a big wall covered with graffiti, find a small door, and make your way to the fifth floor via an unpleasantly narrow staircase. Then you pull another door open, walk down corridor, open one more door, and finally, you appear in a small room; which is Sound Museum. On the walls there are graphic notations inspired by John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Earl Brown, etc. The authors of these pieces are modern St. Petersburg avant-garde composers, or free improv artists who wanted to experiment with unconventional notations. All these music pieces were performed in Sound Museum at least once. Besides these notations on the walls, there are different self-made musical instruments in this room. All of them were made by several SPb musicians who play in Sound Museum. On the ceiling, there is a quadraphonic sound system. At the far corner of the room, there's a stage with a drum kit, and some speakers and mixers. There are rows of chairs behind the stage. Yes, in Sound Museum people peacefully sleep right amidst the concerts (but only if it's not a loud free jazz gig).” A fantastic prospect, I am sure you agree.

The space - which boasts a good sound - hosts lectures, (sound) theatre, documentaries and live gigs. A resident core of a dozen or so musicians combine and experiment in “pop up” gigs. Reports talk of a married couple recruiting their small kids as an avant-garde backing band. Or an orchestra playing on all kinds of old mobile phones. The curator of all this madness is the inspiring Dmitry Shubin, a 50-something, smokin’, drinkin’, black-wearin’ Beat who is also leader and a conductor of Saint-Petersburg Orchestra of Improvisation and founder of the [local] School Of Improvisational Music.

Sample #9 Dmitry Shubin - June 28

A good feel for the sort of ‘high wire’ experimental scene Shubin nurtures at Sound Museum is heard on this inspirational and exacting improv piece; which conjures up the caustic ghost of Conrad Schnitzler and a heap of Fluxus activity with some aplomb. His other release on Bandcamp, Emphasis, is mellower in texture but also well worth your time.

Nevsky Prospectuses: Making do And Mending In “Peter”

Despite such institutions, many musicians find it difficult to get away from the grind of getting heard in, or outside of the local ecosystem. Local journalist Max Hagen was forthright in his personal deconstruction of St Petersburg, citing a smaller population, crappier weather and a lower income in comparison to Moscow as a driver of poor conditions for local bands. This was exacerbated by a reluctance to pay for tickets and, concomitantly, barren prospects for widely dispersed venues. There is also a crucial lack of spaces with a 300-400 capacity. A new initiative on the outskirts on Vasilyevsky island seems in Hagen’s eyes to only enforce the notion of a fragmented musical network. Hagen also noted the lack of a music media as opposed to Moscow, which fed into a “lack of proper and continuous support for the bands”: a “very, very bad thing”.

Musicians, then, often fall back on their own close-knit communities for support. But this can mean a continuous circle of recording and playing for each other, or friends. The lack of a suitable alternative to this situation has creative pitfalls. To mangle a magnificent tirade sent to me from one anonymous musician, those in the alternative scene often “look back towards the perverted nostalgia of the youth for the past they didn’t actually have [...] both in ideas, instruments and venues.”

Yet the city draws on its combative, survivor history and fights back from the bottom ground. Abandoned, half ruined plants and factories now house artists and musicians of all kinds. One such hot spot is located within the territory of Nevsky Plant; where a community of alternative musicians has sprung up. Two recording studios (analog, digital and tape-recording), and several rehearsal rooms, serve a host of acts, the pick of which are listed below.

Sample #10 Weezdüm - 'Godless'

Apparently insanely loud live this duo (singer drummer, plus bassist with an army of pedals) describe themselves as a “primitive painting of blood and stone.” And they are not wrong.

Sample #11 Drö)))me - New Rising Sunn Demo

A musician friend described this act as “The Sounds of Death herself”. Imagine an outfit run by drone-mad Russalkas then, utilising a huge pile of speakers and guitar cabinets, and feeding honied drones extracted from a custom-bass with a bow. Apparently the guitarist is “mad”. (To fall into an old St Petersburg affectation by using French), quelle surprise.

Sample #12 Zhertvoprinosheniya (Sacrifices) - 'Ешь тьму' (Eat The Darkness)

Members of something called the “Party of the Dead”, making “new funeral music”; they have been described to me as “inventors and classicists, and extreme-avant-gardistic dwellers of the Plant”. This frenzied slice of anti-metal has something of The Butthole Surfers about it. Other releases sometimes sound like Faust.

Sample #13 Super Collection Orchestra - Pink Punk Pt 2

Super Collection Orchestra are a large, omnivorous bunch of multi-instrumentalists. I’ve seen them live in Moscow and their vibe can best be described as alternative pop with some very weird angles. Their music acts an all-encompassing entity; from Soft Machine and Pretty Things to high gloss shoulder pads 1980s pop. For instance the intro on this track is a very clever rip of the Bunnymen’s ‘Rescue’, I am sure you will agree. Despite their accessible music they are a very strange bunch.

Sample #14 SPTNK - Behind The Door EP

A deceptively simple and really moreish, wide-eyed soul act propelled by a minimal, quietly cosmic bedsit techno. They seem to draw early OMD or Erasure, or those weird early 90s post-rave tracks found on those lovely old Trance-Europe Express compilations into their orbit, too.

Other Free Spaces And Questioning Minds

Plenty has recently been written elsewhere about Russia’s relatively well-known clubbing scene. And Petersburg, in relation to hectic Moscow, is often painted as more established, maybe even staid in some quarters. But that is certainly not the full story. For a quick appraisal of the flipside of the doomy-serious-highbrow image I have thus far painted of the city, and searching for some of the wilder music generated by some clubbing scenes, I contacted Katya and The Colonel, of Sado Opera. I must say that Sado Opera’s music is the antithesis of underground or weird. It is straightforward seduction music with a fizz and a snap; a sort of Babycham boogie nodding to Erasure and Prince. Now based in Berlin, the two Petersburgians are still in love with their “romantic” home city and also well-placed to give an informed overview of the more colourful movers and shakers.

First, mention should be given to the city’s open-minded and tasteful Клуб (“Club”), a space that looks to avoid (inter)national and local stereotypes and keep on fighting the culture wars in their own way. This is done through alternative techno nights such as GRAN, a monthly night run by Nastya Riegel and Roman Gunt. GRAN is dedicated to “total liberalisation” and “celebrating certain values”. Allies in this aspect are the mighty activist-cum-deejays, Bella Rapoport and Lölja Nordic, and Haute Dance; an “eclectic electronic performance project” set up by Marina Bibik & Kirill Shapovalov. Artist and promoter Shapovalov is a resident deejay of Popoff Kitchen, a Moscow-based initiative that will crank out its noise for the first time in St Petersburg this March (2019). Shapovalov's great DJ mixes can be heard here. And Haute Dance’s blazing debut track is well worth your time. A last note should be given to the splendid Techno Poezia, who are a hip-hop-rap-poetry collective commenting on the interface between “the barbarism of feelings and the criticism of the logos.” Their latest track, the brilliantly named, ‘Hands Off Culture's Vulva’ should be listened to.

What, MORE Dark Jazz That’s Not Dark Jazz?

To quote Bongwater’s Ann Magnuson in one of her most enlightened moments, “that’s right”. It’s time for more Dark Jazz that’s ‘probably not’ Dark Jazz.

St. Petersburg’s recent jazz and post-rock/psych scenes initially revolved around acts like the aforementioned Dmitry Shubin's Saint-Petersburg Improvisation Orchestra, Arriereguarden, Shaking Manas, the mental Союз космического авангарда (The Union of the Cosmic Avant-Garde), and some prominent instrumental psych-rock bands. Of these latter; the fabulously tripped-out and internationally popular Матушка Гусыня (Matushka) and sadly defunct “experimental fusion rock” Trio Iris are of real note. Another act that leans more towards pysch than jazz is Transnadežnost; whose sublimely trippy music flirts with doomy, jazz-oriented elements in and amongst the classic free rock workouts.

But in terms of defining St Petersburg’s Dark Jazz scene as a ‘thing’, existing or not, we should turn first to Yojo, who have been ploughing their own singular furrow since 2011. A bunch of Radiohead fans irritated by the fact that the use of a trumpet (now gone, replaced by a Rhodes piano) meant ‘Instant Jazz’ status to many, Yojo nevertheless stuck with a ‘dark jazz’ label just because they “needed some words to seduce the audience”. Alongside Yojo, Dark Jazz is represented in the city by Foreheads, Fugu Quintet (an outfit who have made a startling switch from instrumental metal with saxophone to a gloomy jazz), and the truly brilliant Low Kick Collective. Things aren’t all rosy at the moment, despite some incredible talent on show. According to a couple of on-the-ground sources, the current scene has to combat closing venues, poor fees, a lack of good manager and proficient musicians and - because of these factors - an increasing disinclination of those who can, to get together to play. Despite these disadvantages, people (in true Petersburgian spirit), soldier on.

Sample #15 Yojo - 'Contact'

Yojo make a sublimely patient and refined sound that’s not far off Dakota Suite at times. The band build up smooth textures informed by the twinkle of the Rhodes and sort of guitar / sax stand off or big band-informed statements that often flare up out of nowhere. This second track on their last LP is a splendid case in point.

(Video) Sample #16 Low Kick Collective - Live at DOM, Moscow

A superb live illustration of the talents of this sprawling group, who trade effortlessly in crepuscular jazz workouts and folksy quietly psyched-out drones. The band sometimes have something reminiscent of very early 70s psych or prog rock; think Phallus Dei-era Amon Düül II. Maybe it’s the “collective” thing triggering fusty corners of my memory.

Punk And Garage/Lofi, Loners, And Other Singular Sounds

Given this city’s pop history (argh!) we can’t not mention the established - and regularly updated - garage and punk scenes; ones that sometimes dovetail (in terms of attitude and output) with the Ionoteka scene. On the whole, though, these microgroups and shifting alliances resolutely follow their own star. In terms of sampling sounds, it’s always worth having a laugh along to feisty, preppy, mayfly garage acts like Отстой (Crap) or Рука Дочери (Daughter’s Hand). Or meandering and sometimes trashy experiments courtesy of Architecture Vigilante Orchestra. Another band worth a nod is Castletroy who describe themselves as avant-punk, though this writer can’t hear that at all. They sound like Sugar, or melodious post-rock, or *shels. Enjoyably heavy nonetheless.

We should also mention the Raw Pop Syndicate imprint which, from this distance, looks to have a similar release policy to Ionoff’s label; namely dose acts up, record them cheap and get them out into the world. If you see they’ve also made a (very entertaining and probably copyright infringing) homegrown tribute to Guided By Voices you know what territory you are in! Be aware then that Raw Pop… has a plethora of releases to wade through; from the angry, heavy pop thumps of АкупунктурА (Acupuncture) to the pocket guide post-rock abstractions of Евроспорт (Eurosport).

Sample #17 Sonic Death - 'Extremism'

Duo Sonic Death make a great scuzzy, mid-tempo Gen X/ Speed Glue & Shinki noise that’s in keeping with their own description; “amateur punk nihilism”. The songs are simple and sarcastic and trundle along like some well serviced tractor ploughing through a field. Serious titles abound, seemingly slagging off indie rock frat types and the Mafia (good luck on that one, lads).

Sample #18 Petlya - 'Депрессия' (Depression)

A more angry proposition is Petlya who style themselves as a “garbage band in a garbage land.” This band trades in quick, slashes of metal-informed guitar topped with furious punk howls of rage. There’s a squat heaviness in their sound, too. Angry wools.

Singular Sounds

Another grouping doing their own thing is Bastard Boogie Tunes; a record label set up by the synthpop band Barto. Launched on Halloween in 2014, and boasting some notable names (Shortparis), BBT was initially focused on electronic music, but now releases a range of brings together a diverse range of artists such as the weird Nosua and BITYJ SEKTOR. Who are probably all the same people under different aliases.

Sample #19 Office Passenger - 'Interface'

One of the weird electronic acts that BBT seems to attract is the mysterious Office Passenger, who have made a record of stentorian electronic beats that gets increasingly harebrained as it progresses. This track, and the one immediately following on the LP, ‘Oh! Please No!’, are strangely comforting dystopian workouts. The LP has got a very strange vibe that is wholly in keeping with the rest of this label’s output.

Sample #20 Die Konfekte - 'Local Rock Star'

Another left-field bunch that have recorded on Alexander Ionoff’s label, this high booted and weirdly camp stomper is a good example of their loose, funny electro pop-as-social commentary. One of the highlights of the last Moscow Music Week, Die Konfekte’s high energy show involved a relentless HIT training sequence (which in turn generated a lot of gurning), and some very winning cabaret pop as a sonic side salad.

Sample #21 Supernova 1006 - 'Gravity'

This bunch make a determined, sometimes thrilling electro judder that, in true Russian fashion, pilfers ideas from all over the place without really worrying whether the ingredients mix. Supernova’s sound is reminiscent of a lot of old Cold Wave and glossy 90s pop. Samples and beats find a way to live with each other, nevertheless. Suuns and This Heat, too pop their heads up from time to time. It’s a very enjoyable listen.

Sample #22 Голландский штурвал (Dutch Rudder) - 'Морфин' (Morphine)

A singular talent comes in the form of cult band Голландский штурвал (Dutch Rudder). Around for a decade or so, this seemingly morose duo have been compared to Arab Strap. Although this take has some credence in terms of initial impressions, the longer you spend listening in, their hypnotic music it feels like a stripped down slowcore or a sort of chamber music. The spoken-word singer, Nikita often sings about loneliness and heartbreak, alongside regular dreams of sex, love and beer. Their latest fourth full-length album, Наше Общение Без Твоего Присутствия (Our Communication Without Your Presence), revolves around Nikita’s way to God through a girl he’s in love with. They aren’t famous, but those who know them love them and regularly cite their lyrics.

(Video) Sample #23 Chkbns - 'Animal'

We end on a surprisingly poppy note. Chkbns (Cheekbones) display all the ingredients that would confuse any (patronising) implicit Western gaze in an article describing scenes outside the “Anglo-American market”: namely a very accessible and moreish international sound and English lyrics. Despite all this some of their singles - like this magnificent slice of doom pop, shot on the city’s waterfront - are drenched in the ghostly introspection conjured up by Gogol. Contacts tell me they are a romantics determined on laying down a “Utopian love” Bring it on.

Once again I am indebted to my St. Petersburg friends for their help. So take a bow, Alexey, Max, Katya, The Colonel, Alexandria, Sergey, Sophie, Natasha and Alex and those who prefer the shadows to the limelight. And the odd M**w and elsewhere-based mate for listening to my entreaties, such as Dmitry, Veronika, Tanya and Stepan. And InRussia for being a great place for further reading. I salute you all!