~review by Mick Mercer
Voices chitter and laugh as elegant music waltzes around them and the percussion sounds like swordplay, but seeing as this is Russian enigmas DVAR I am not entirely surprised. A band who has no website is an unusual thing, and it’s also virtually impossible to find any photographs of them anywhere. They have been recording since the early 90’s and no-one knows bugger all about them which must be something of a record.
It has the plausible drama of a children’s story. Think Narnian wastelands and intrigues and light dementia. Think of gently insidious piping keyboards and wheezing synths and strolling, martial drums. Think of imps and old professors with round wire glasses. Think of Xmases where toys come to life, think of Santa taking a shit on the end of your bed. (It could happen.) Then look up and see the stars whirl and fizz until just one big circle of smeared crystal and you realise you don’t know what’s going on. This could be Goth (think Gobins reinterpreting Alien Sex Fiend), it could be wily Indie, it could be some Ambient daytrip.
You’ll have to search hard for any noticeable Russian ingredients, that’s for sure. There are no Cossacks dances or dour, angular vowels, no real vocals at all, come to that! Sometimes it appears voices have been recorded and the tuned into birdsong, which is a start, and the more you play it the more you will be smitten by their insane take on electronic drama. I think I almost overheard The Clangers forming a Kate Bush tribute band.
At their plainest, in ‘Yar Yar’, they’re willowy and keep a crisp electro beat same as anyone, although the twinkling and synth refuse to appear dogmatic, terse or arty. When they do the conventional thing they’re a cross between Virgin Prunes and Alice In Wonderland, which I assure you is a scarily accurate comparison, especially as DVAR is two men. Sometimes they purr like pop animals and then your toes curl with love for them. You’ll even have ‘Ya Raii Ta Hirrih’ played at the wedding.
You could be walking the tightrope across ravines to their twinkle-toed xylophone accompaniment. You could be riding ghostly carriages on skis across snow-swept fjords, or lugging secret weapons through rancid meadows. Your hair could be full of treacle, you shows alive with termites. With DVAR music playing in your head you’d be too inanely happy to be concerned. You would volunteer to cross the Andes dressed only in a nun’s habit, with a sign saying ‘Caress Me’ on your back.
It is hard to think concrete thoughts when the music plays because it intrudes on any lapse in concentration, so forget about playful background music, as this has a way of demanding your involvement, albeit politely. It is dramatic in a highly stylish manner, and also silly without ever being remotely close to comedy.
It‘s unlike anything else I have heard, that’s for sure, and I am delighted to make its acquaintance.
Taii Liira (Irond)
~review by Mick Mercer
Your psychic perception is all too accurate. This album does indeed highlight tracks from 1997 – 2001, from ‘Piirrah’ and ‘Rail’, with a few unreleased items. Naturally it starts with water, violins and clock chimes, blended together in a scary beast of a tune, like they’re stirring the sounds inside your very ears with a vast ladle. The vocals, like old crones that scared Macbeth, cavort merrily as usual but the synth or strings have more weight that on earlier records. There is a sense of depth here and an inscrutable countenance. So ‘al hilaji’ sets you up for a new adventure, which ‘iina tamiira’ continues with vocals from someone gnarled who sounds highly agitated, and musically it is conventional electronic indie! Streuth!
Luckily ‘taai liira’ (they’re all lower case) is quicker, trying to get away from the voices. It sounds like a funeral march with a propensity for bpm and this time the voices match the music, going with the rhythm rather then being engaging human litter. They’re getting organised, and become positively listener-friendly with concerted chirruping through ‘vo rah arrah iill’ which is deceptively pretty and builds to an ecstatic end. Along comes the spry and deeply simple ‘hissen raii’, proving the music is slipping into more recognisable shapes even if the vocal still come from the underworld. The synths and piano here work together like with a conventional ethereal band. Every so slowly they are going to take people over by seducing slowly. It’s a grim and frightening thought. That said, this songs also sounds like it’s ripping your throat out.
They have hardly softened up, they’re just managed to merge the two realities and make it more attractive to people who wouldn’t find the most obscure style tantalising. They're still demented. 'iih rah' is like a Bedlam souvenir, 'abisser' must be the assassination of a piano and ‘itiir’ is like hearing Prince turning slowly in someone else’s maggot-strewn grave, crossed with a Bond movie soundtrack with music when you’re leading up to the big fight sequence. ‘vaii han’? Yes, that’s included, and quite cute it is too, with a mad rhythm on drums, as though a real band was pissing all over Slipknot. Ha! They’d snap them in half and toss them over their shoulders. It is stomping mayhem that anyone would love, like what Alien Sex Fiend will evolve into in a few centuries, when man and creature are at one. ‘schraii’ is another plainly compelling tune, and ‘ud rah’ seems pert, putrid punk with keyboard sparkle, and the previously unreleased content is thicker, fully charged thrusting electro with demented demonic singing, bordering on techno-thrash but with occasional hypnotic violin and African rhythms!
You genuinely need a bit of Dvar in your world, so this would be the easiest way to begin.
I was debating the mania at work in their RAKHILIM album earlier this month, and I hope I was able to convince you that here are a duo creating music that is genuinely unique. Well this album shows less of the musical quality and more of their unusual approach. I played it to Lynda and she was in fits, but still agreed that yes, there was music here. And magic, simple as that.
It doesn’t matter if you can recognise that they are the musical equivalent of the Goons, and equally brilliant, or see the childlike glee involved in much of their work, or that here are a band equally capable at electro noodling, or seriously catchy moments from various genres as other greats. The main fact is that they make albums you cannot accurately compare to anything else and the impact of each short track is instant. They shock you with their audacity and calm you with their evocative charms.
On the childlike front I have mentioned the Clangers and Teletubbies, and Lynda mentioned Michael Bentine and the Diddymen. There is in this strange world any number of warped and surreal antecedents you care to invoke. There is also the astounding fact that this doesn’t matter. The music stands up on its own, and after a few tracks the fact that the vocal input is otherworldy doesn’t matter either. You stop believing humans are in control fairly quickly.
Giving a whistle-stop tour of this set of early 90’s recordings, we find ‘hwhy’ is like Middle-eastern wailing, only ten years before everyone else started doing it, but with for more imaginative ‘vocals’, and ‘laali’ is very persuasive electropop, ‘hiri noai’is actually vocal-led, and guides us through a sleazy waltz, whereas ‘taranah’ is watery electronic madness conducted by the Clangers again. ‘iill’ is simply fast swirls, ‘ya kah tya kah’ has brilliant keyboards circles almost moving in a medieval style, ‘arraheem’ has music box sweetness and seriously delightful giggling, because the vocals genuinely fit the moods of these pieces.
When I say vocals, let me try this on you. Imagine a studio where tapes lay unguarded. Remember the Gremlins films? Imagine if some of those characters have broken in and started doing vocal mixes of their own over the music that falls into their little mitts. That is what it is like. It has a totally sensible vocal structure, as with any other kind of music, but it simply isn’t recognisable. Natural songs, unnatural end result. And it is fantastic.
‘khela baash’ brings up fairground creepiness and ends on an ominous drum roll instead of the other way round, ‘madegirah’ is a piping synth instrumental which is odd, ‘teremiah k’ruun’ is a reflective, dawdling tune, and ‘iakhuut !’ is synthesised woodwind, close in feel to those programmes they make for kids which try and interest you in classical music by having the instruments ape birdsong and the like.
‘kaah’ is friendly parakeet-esque chatter over decorous synth, and then the keys whirl through ‘arvakh’ like some mushed up morse code. ‘lilk’ is my favourite, because the music is utterly hypnotic and the vocal utterances make me laugh out loud they are so wonderfully woven into the texture, then it’s witchy incantations throughout ‘ud rah’, Kurt Weill is trapped in the goblin underworld for ‘kiam kaah’, ‘linah’ and ‘ya nar’ just pop by fast, ‘ airim’ actually has a grand, silky feel and ‘herrah kiyar’ is like Chas & Dave in an alien dimension.
Honestly, you have to hear it to believe it, and once you’ve heard it you want more, more, more.