Chernaya Lentochka’s album Primus provides hopeful post-punk energy without feeling overwhelming. Maybe the language barrier is preventing me from hearing the true meaning of these songs, but sonically Primus feels like a positive record. Granted, positive by my standards is Count Vronsky and Anna Karenina’s relationship, so I’m a little biased.
I’m admittedly unfamiliar with Russian musicians besides the rock band Kino whose music I have enjoyed on the occasions I’ve had the pleasure of listening to them. I would imagine Kino is an influence on Chernaya Lentochka just by virtue of Kino being so legendary in Russia, but I don’t hear Viktor Tsoi’s ghost in this music. If anything, a lot of the melodies and progressions sound more traditionally Russian than what I’ve heard previously of Russian rock music.
Primus is atmospheric, but it’s not abrasive. There’s just the right amount of noise on these tracks to complement the instruments. Riffs? They’re here too. Most importantly though for me? I really enjoy Chernaya Lentochka’s vocals. The lead singer has a nice baritone voice which I feel like in an older generation would have gone perfectly with an accordion and a bottle of homemade vodka. Again, I’ve read way too much Tolstoy, Gogol, and Lermontov for my own good. It’s nice to hear Russian art that doesn’t sound immediately bleak, even if it’s rooted in the post-punk tradition.
Sure, the usual post-punk suspects are influences on this record, but it sounds a lot fresher than the post-punk revival records that came out in the early 2000s. I think other countries have a much better chance and more potential to resurrect older sounds that initially developed in America and England than bands in America and England today. It’s a combination of the language barrier, and the influence of the traditional music of that band’s country. In Chernaya Lentochka’s case, that country is Russia, and they do a great job of evoking the traditional melodic tropes of that culture, seamlessly incorporating them into the framework of alternative rock music. The tracks flow into each other until the record reaches a beautiful peak with the vocal harmonies on “Ne Budi Menya.”
Rock n’ roll music is a distinctly Western institution, and Russia has always struggled with its identity as to whether it’s a Western or Eastern entity. Primus feels both Western and Eastern, and that’s why I think it succeeds so well as an album. There’s the melody and sweetness that regular Western music listeners are used to, but it’s interspersed with bends, traditional instruments, and sounds that come across as totally foreign and Eastern. You should really give Primus a listen. Chernaya Lentochka put out a fresh rock album, an increasing rarity in a musical environment where every genre is becoming intertwined and losing their distinct flavors.
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