Fans of the 1980s on the other side of the iron curtain will probably be familiar with Baran Records, which has been delving into Russian synthpop for a few years now. It’s a lonely and obscure task that involves adventures in pioneering aesthetics and long-gone musical appetites, and the will to make peace with kitsch while also listening closely for the whimpers of a certain avant-garde. Having put out big and small archival wonders – notably forgotten gems such as Biokonstruktor’s techno-romantic “Biokonstruktor” and Olga Voskonyan’s delightful ode to the car, “Avtomobili” – Baran now reissues a 2009 album from Nesmeyana. The band hail from Voronezh and took it upon themselves to pick up the sonic threads of the Soviet genres of “cooperative disco” and “orphan pop”.
Sonically wedded to the small-town, rough-and-ready production of cheap Eurodisco-infused melodies, which they pair with lyrics about the existential anguish of post-Soviet living (drugs, crime, war in Afghanistan), Nesmeyana made a squalid, steroid-pumped and unrelentingly sad form of provincial dance, a place where bleakness and mindless tackiness are totally co-dependent. A cheap affair that reveals itself as a very melancholy one, that in turn reveals itself as some twisted post-modern post-Soviet form of electronic protest song, with something akin to sad folk melodies thrown in there as well. The band’s Alexandr Seleznev puts it this way: “Pop music in Russia always smelt of death”. Death here blazes like a technicolour fire from the stereo of an abandoned car in the countryside.