|1||They Are Looking At Us From Above|
|4||Splendor Of Wasteland|
|5||Purer Than Love|
What is the sound of the Russian dub? There is a storied history of attempts to adapt roots music to Russian soil, but most of them can be attributed to reggae (the so-called ‘northern’ variety) rather than dub. Gost has a history with the town of Smolensk. It’s home to Gamayun, whose great album Filterealism was released on our label last year. Now Anton, one of Gamayun’s members, presents his new duo Dubovaya Kolesnitsa (The Oaken Chariot). In his words, it has no connection to his other band at all and is an attempt to go back to the roots of a genre that doesn’t truly exist.
The Russian word for oak, ‘dub,’ looks exactly like the genre, and the chariot emerged from the name for the group’s jams – ‘telega’ – which can be translated as a cart. All the music here is the result of live improvisations: no samples, just instruments (notably Vasiliy Shilov's bass). These recordings have been slightly edited, and even the almost indecipherable texts are freestyle. There’s no place for real riddims in Russian dub: sometimes this record sounds like something akin to dub variations on underground Russian hip hop (and we mean that in the best possible way).
We should also remember that dub and reggae (and hip hop as well) all started as the voice of people. The voice of those who are always in the minority and try not to be silent. The most prominent dub producers and reggae performers were against hierarchy, imperialism, and colonialism — and their music was born out of the desire to protest against it. As Anton puts it, Oaken Chariot, the “Russian mutation of dub,” is an attempt of voicing the concern. And he links this attempt to a historic Russian tradition of Foolishness for Christ, also known as yurodstvo. The “fool” in question is not naïve at all; he’s trying to seem lunatic on purpose. For Anton, the music of Oaken Chariot is a rebellion with a cut-off tongue. Here, illegible speech, full of inarticulate sounds, is a sign of the inability of the statement. But this inability represents a statement itself that is inevitable.
Yet, the music of Oaken Chariot is genuinely fun, free, and mesmerizing (like the happenings of holy “fools”), but we could also approach it more conceptually. Theoretician Michael E. Veal describes dub as a ‘postsong’, taking the form of “linguistic, formal and symbolic indeterminacy.” The duo’s faintly eerie compositions call back to the notion of musical hauntology. There is an attempt, without any direct references, to reconstruct the feeling of something that was never there at all. A little nostalgic and very forward-thinking at the same time, the music of Oaken Chariot is best described in its own words. In the opening track, a voice can be heard saying “eto delo v lob,” which means something like “it’s a straight-on thing.” This is very direct, almost in the vein of folk music. This is a great – and, it must be said, successful – experiment in searching for the soul of Russian dub. Simple as that.