The steam and clang of old-time industry haunts UK/Israli-based Staraya Derevnya’s latest album. With rhythms plodding forth like an ogre pulling a plow through the mud, metallic percussive textures, and chanting lyrics, Tom Waits and his similarly greasy, low-down and hulking paces instantly comes to mind. But Staraya Derevnya take things a bit further toward sculpting their own sound, incorporating a wealth of really unique instruments (berimbau, vargan, a variety of winds, percussion, toys and even—get this—”objects,” according to the liner notes) with standard guitars and drums. The band also keeps its roots strangely close to its Middle-Eastern origins (melodically, rhythmically) making for an interesting example of East-meets-West. In fact, being in somewhat of a gray area as it is, Staraya Derevnya ends up sounding like some form of pop music from a country that doesn’t exist yet, but has its own distinctive style created from familiar elements and instruments. Even the unexpected and wildly fun bluesy rock’n’roller “Tribute” (the only track on the album sung in English) sounds like that mystery country’s warped version of a specifically American style.
Staraya Dervenya is also wildly noisy and frenetic at times—the entire record opens with “Guests,” a track that sounds like the entire band letting all of its demons out simultaneously before dropping into something more structured and a bit easier on the ears. Their fearless qualities are what make the band uncommonly enchanting, that they take bold and adventurous chances in blending the recognizable with that quintessential element of “weird.” The album’s production and mixing also deserves some mention with this in mind as well. Because there’s simply so much going on at once in many of the record’s tracks, the band’s sense of stereo economy is a bit in your face, placing instruments like Tetris blocks across the sonic field, filtering voices and tones through megaphonic effects and constantly shifting volumes, sometimes roughly. These tactics show the band definitely using the recording medium in creative and artistic ways, although the overt audibility of it all can sometimes get distracting.
The term “bricolage” comes to mind here—Staraya Derevnya is a band about connecting the disconnects with what is available to them, mostly their impressive range of skill on a variety of different instruments and sounds. They make abstract associations wholly functional and concrete, and (the best part) harness and train these strange combinations of textures (that no other band on the planet would likely even dream of, by the way) to work exceptionally well musically.