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What You Talkin' bout, Sergei? - 87%

severzhavnost, December 18th, 2015

Let's reduce this album's obnoxiously long full title down to O.K.4, then we can get a handle on talking about it. Maybe. There is not one single aspect of O.K.4 that is in any way normal at all. It is a mesmerizingly confused romp that doesn't give a crap if you can keep up or not. Vocals, keys, guitars and drums all offer a bewildering variety of sounds and atmospheres not really like anything else.

Oleg Rautkin, the drummer/singer - an odd combination in itself - performs both his roles in very unique ways. His vocals vary from a crass peasant character on "Русская народная", to exaggerated 80s heavy metal high pitched wailing on "Любовь к жизни"; to a deep and clear, almost hymnal chant that reminds me of P. Noir's voice with Temnozor. This latter style is used for "Заздравная" and to a less dramatic extent for "Пни". Oleg will even jump seamlessly between the first and third options within the song "Члены коллекций". 

As for Rautkin's drumming contributions, I'm pretty sure he's actually caught on tape dropping his sticks multiple times during "Члены коллекций". But I must assume he does this intentionally, to fit the song's overall unhinged feeling. There's just no way the magnificent marching beat of "Пни" could have been accomplished by an honestly half-assed drummer.

What really helps to make O.K.4 so friggin' weird, is the cold, clear, almost spacey recording job given to Bogaev's guitar and especially the keys of Nicolay Liskovksiy. These keys sound nothing like the prevalent synth sound of the 1980s. Instead, they're eerily reminiscent of a theremin; and the melodies produced are miles different from what you'd expect of a keyboard tune. Check out the beginning to "Любовь" to really weird yourself out; as well as the epic, albeit unimaginatively named, closer "Финал (final)". I could see that futuristic, yet strangely relatable song played over the credits of a Russian version of Star Wars.

But don't worry about oddball keyboard effects taking away from the heaviness of this album. Like everyone else on O.K.4 Bogaev takes every opportunity to bring a new vibe to the table. The last two minutes of "Члены" are almost completely taken up by two ass-kicking guitar solos, connected by a rhythmic bridge that coolly reprises the song's simple yet mind-bending keyboard lead. "Заздравная" (an unexpectedly introspective song for one whose title is a traditional drinking salutation akin to the Gaelic "slàinte mhath"), sees Bogaev at the high point his slower, evocative capability. And of course the crude folksy riff of "Русская народная" - you won't soon forget that wild ride!

Облачный край's fourth album is a masterpiece. Whether that is despite, or because of, its off-the-wall incoherence, I'll leave that up to you to decide. One thing I'm certain of is that you won't be bored listening to this.