Staraya Derevnya

Inwards Opened The Floor

Recorded live at Cafe Oto, this set from Staraya Derevnya sounds gloriously full of life and energy, finds Tom Bolton

In the long ago days when musicians from Israel and Russia could travel to London for a live gig, Staraya Derevnya spent a week at Cafe Oto. They concocted three quarters of an hour of seething, layered, witchy music, now released as an album. The seven tracks on Inwards opened the floor are heavy with atmosphere. Background hubbub crowds in, courtesy of Lior Leman (on cries and whispers). A double bass and a drummer bounce along, as though accompanying a show across the street. A bass clarinet swirls somewhere in between, and over the top a voice incants in Russian.

Staraya Derevnya, named after a St. Petersburg neighbourhood, are a collective who do not get to play together often, due to their location in separate countries. However, when they do the sound they make is unmistakable. There is a dark cabaret about their music like an outpouring of political resentment and joy heard bursting from a Lviv cellar in the aftermath of the First World War. In the case of Inwards opened the floor the performance element is explicit, with lyrics based on poems by Arthur Molev (a Russian painter, also known for working with St. Petersburg band Auktyon). Their improvised approach sounds like The Tiger Lilies with every hint of sentiment stripped away and replaced with alarming kazoo screeches, the scratching of unidentified objects and, on ‘Chirik is heard from the treetops’, a rattling, fast-approaching cavalcade of tiny demons released from a Hieronymous Bosch painting. Their music is both familiar and dangerous, as though Jacques Brel had drunk so much he’d forgotten how to speak French, and got mixed up

Inwards opened the floor is an irresistible record of what must have been a special evening. It sounds doubly alluring in these plague days, when a small, hot, crowded room full of maniacs giving it their all is a beautiful dream. Fortunately, this album delivers a powerful version of what went on at Cafe Oto, full of heat, light and glory – pure energy expressed by the best buskers you will ever hear.

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