Staraya Derevnya has many different meanings, it’s Russian for old village, it’s a neighbourhood/metro stop (on the Frunzensko-Primorskaya line) in northern Saint Petersburg and more significantly it’s a band, or should that read collective, that hails predominantly from Israel and the UK that started as a studio project back in 1994.
There are up to twelve musicians performing on Inwards Opened The Floor, the band’s fourth release, but their long-term mainstay is Gosha Hniu who’s listed as playing ‘objects, toys, percussion, cries and whispers, marching band kazoo’. The band’s promo notes state that all the instruments featured on the album are homemade/modified, the lyrics are a combination of Russian and a made up language while the artwork, by Danil Gertman, is of an enigmatic character running through the snow under a blood red sky. Also being released on the same day by the band is the Oto/Tusk live album from two October 2017 gigs and Still Life With Apples, a collaboration with Californians Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinetm, a live/studio hybrid effort.
Inwards Opened The Floor starts with the longest track on the album, On How The Thorny Orbs Got Here, a mellow jazz influenced post-rock tune that recalls Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock. It is a rather beautiful piece that sets you up for the rest of the album. ‘Chirik’ Is Heard From The Treetops has a vocal style that is reminiscent of Damo Suzuki era Can, while the music has a dark early 80s post-punk feel. Albeit along the lines of This Heat, a band that took the spirit of post-punk and expanded it with their avid experimentation, this is seemingly what Staraya Derevnya are trying to achieve.
Flicked The Ash In Kefir is a piece that starts as a quiet affair until some Captain Beefheart-esque vocals kick in from Gosha that soon put a swift end to the serenity…
Flicked The Ash In Kefir is a piece that starts as a quiet affair until some Captain Beefheart-esque vocals kick in from Gosha that soon put a swift end to the serenity. The music itself is a demented mish-mash of free jazz and music concrète. Reminding one a little of Sly And The Family Drone, whose latest album I’ve reviewed. Hogweed Is Done With Buckweed, has a shamanic feel, with some meditative style vocals and new age folk music accompanying it, I’m surprised that Gosha didn’t start chanting ‘om’ at any point during its five minute run time. Burning Bush And Apple Saucer features some pretty lovely cello and an insistent bass, while Gosha’s serene vocals blend effectively in the background. The track may feel like an interlude at times, there wasn’t a whole load going on, but it was an enjoyable enough listen nonetheless.
Penultimate and title track Inwards Opens the Floor, is a creepy Tom Waits styled tune in the vein of What’s He Building? from the Mule Variations album. The music has an ominous and foreboding tone so I would recommend skipping this one if you live on your own and are playing the album late at night. Forgot What Was Important concludes the album and is the most overtly electronic track by far, synths layered throughout in the style of Four Tet and Popol Vuh, albeit in a far more subtle fashion.
This was an intriguing listen, especially if like me you are a fan of the Cardinal Fuzz roster and bands such as Sunburned Hand Of The Man and Waterless Hills, (both of whom have featured on The Sleeping Shaman). It’s an album that may be challenging to some and I must admit it did take me several listens to fully gage with. However seeing as we’re presently on lockdown, it may be worth investing some of that free time to doing just that.
Scribed by: Reza Mills