Asphalt Tango CD ATR 1407
Full Price (44 mins)
From Asphalt Tango, the German label known for its gypsy and Romanian records comes a new release from Berlin via the former Soviet Union. With a sound aiming at Russendisko meets Manu Chao, singer songwriter Irina Dubrovskaya has assembled a first-rate band of local émigrés for this project of ‘vocal postcards’ – evocative stories and poems filled with fragments of memory that constitute a new kind of post-Soviet urban folk music, half village and half tower block. Well that’s what the press blurb says anyway: despite the moments of beauty that certainly exist, this is an album that will have trouble winning over new non-Russian speaking fans. All three stars above are for the sound: delicate and dream-like with swirling organs, music boxes, toy xylophones and classy lo-fi electric guitar from Leonid Soybelman, ex-frontman of Estonian avant-gardistes Ne Zhdali. But where Ersatz Musika convinces in the quality of its sound, it fails to excite overall. As you open the CD there is an immediate hint why: the poem on the first page - lyrics from one of the songs perhaps? – seems not plaintive and evocative but badly translated and downright pretentious. The overall impression is one of extreme seriousness devoid of wit: press releases talking about ‘the sound of the Slavic soul’ hardly help matters. But the main downfall is the singing: Dubrovskaya’s voice struggles to carry the songs, and while the curious sound world might spark your interest, the singer – sad to say – won’t keep it.