Manchester-inspired Russians impress with these 10 tracks.
Martin Aston 2012
Very little is known about the music scene in Russia. Wikipedia only links to 11 of the country’s ‘alternative rock’ bands, for example – one being Zvuki Mu, introduced to the UK by Brian Eno 25 years go. Despite Pussy Riot’s notoriety, reports routinely leave out their commercial or critical context.
Where Rostov-on-Don quintet Motorama fit in is hard to quantify as well, though musically it’s a cinch. The world is a much smaller place than a quarter of a century ago, and while Zvuki Mu’s art-rock mutation illustrated their isolation, Motorama’s second album (following their self-released CDR debut Alps) is the sound of a world with internet access and passport visas.
Uncannily, for a band from a southern port near the Ukraine border, Motorama resemble a bunch of New Yorkers emulating the sound of 80s Manchester. It would be preposterous if the result didn’t sound so sublime.
The New York influence is essentially The Drums, minus their surf-pop leanings, with a milder version of stentorian Interpol singer Paul Banks up front. Both bands’ predilection for the lead bass guitar and hypnotic melancholy of Joy Division and New Order rules Calendar, not to mention their peers Stockholm Monsters and also Glasgow’s The Wake, Dutch outfit Minny Pops and Belgium’s The Names, empathic Factory acolytes too back in the day.
Calendar is not an album of any breadth; often the difference between the songs is determined by tempo, and even those don’t vary much. But that doesn’t matter, what with Vladislav Parshin’s beautifully poised vocal and Maxim Polivanov’s guitars weaving and thrumming around bassist Irene Parshina.
Parshina capably fulfils the Peter Hook role as drummer Roman Belenkiy fills Stephen Morris’ boots, while Alexander Norets’ keyboards fill in the gaps with sad, thin drifts. To the South is the best indie-disco candidate and Rose in the Vase and In Your Arms compete for best alone-in-your-bedroom soundtrack honours.
Calendar’s cover photos are more Alpine than, say, the Moors or the Hacienda; but over 10 songs Motorama will transport you to a city and a time far away from their own. Ah, Manchester, so much to answer for.