First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2008, Volume 15, #4
Written by Douglas Heselgrave
Wed April 23, 2008, 10:30 AM CDT
Girls Sing is not music to be played at a dinner party ó that is unless a picnic at the banks of the River Styx is your idea of a good time. From the opening screech of Profukal to the demented, 11-minute-long, carnival howl of the title track, which brings Girls Sing to a cacophonous halt, itís clear that Auktyonís songs arenít going to be hitting Top 40 radio stations anytime soon.
Auktyonís work recalls an era of European music when the boundaries in art, theater, and composition were blurred. After emerging from within Russiaís underground music scene, the groupís performances became the stuff of legend, and much like the Dadaists that preceded it, Auktyon pushed the boundaries of what was considered possible. Girls Sing, the bandís first outing in 12 years, was sparked by its appearance at New York Cityís GlobalFest, and aided by Yerba Buenaís Andres Levin and the Klezmaticsí Frank London, the ensemble found a more open, improvisational method of recording.
After creating the basic tracks for Girls Sing, Auktyon invited keyboard player John Medeski and guitarist Marc Ribot (a longtime collaborator of Tom Waits) to assist with completing the project. Although the music sounds incredibly complex, none of the songs on Girls Sing contains more than two chords. This left a lot of space for Medeski and Ribot to improvise, which removed any of the uncertainty that Auktyon had about working with their new partners. There is a raw, surrealistic edge to the album, and Medeskiís contributions are joyously free and creative. He not only avoids his jam band tendencies, but he also contributes organ lines that would feel right at home on the soundtrack to a Fellini film.
It is, of course, difficult to assess Girls Sing in any sort of conventional manner because the album isnít a collection of songs. Instead, it is an auditory attack on the senses. The lyrics are screamed, grunted, and howled in one passage, then mumbled and whispered in the next. I asked a Russian friend of mine to explain some of the lyrics. He told me that they were rude and nonsensical and that they eluded any easy kind of translation. However, he also stated that lacking a comprehension of what is sung isnít an impediment to enjoying the music because he "wasnít sure what the hell they are talking about" on most of the tracks anyway.
In other words, fans of Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, Bjork, and latter day John Coltrane ought to find a lot to enjoy about Girls Sing. It is a difficult and challenging disc that is not for the timid. Yet, with some perseverance, it ultimately is a wonderfully rewarding endeavor. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box