The Great Escape is the main UK’s showcase festival for emerging musicians, taking place every year in Brighton. This year it will gather more than 500 artists from around the world, and included in this will be a selection of the best in emerging Russian bands, performing within the framework of the UK-Russia Year of Music.
For the second time, The Great Escape will include a RUSH Initiative showcase, featuring four Russian groups: Shortparis, Chkbns, Fogh Depot and Lucidvox.
RUSH is the first non-commercial non-state music export initiative in Russia, having first brought together music experts in 2017 with the aim of promoting the most promising Russian musicians outside the country and establishing an international cultural dialogue.
After getting together in 2012, Shortparis quickly became the most outstanding representative of the Russian underground scene, performing at high-capacity concert venues as well as weird and wonderful places like abandoned factories and even supermarkets. The band, who have already recorded two albums, have also performed at flagship Eastern European showcase festivals such as Tallinn Music Week and MENT. These appearances attracted significant numbers of exuberant reviews and write-ups. The highly performative concerts of Shortparis are known for squeezing the emotion and energy out of their audiences. They are hard to analyse – you have to see Shorparis live to experience the shamanistic ritual-like mystical adventure they take you on. Witnessing the audaciously energetic delivery of vocalist Nikolai Komyagin and his colleagues, you can’t help but admire the creativity of this electronic noir-art-punk quintet from St. Petersburg, recalling their sources of inspiration – Ian Curtis, Sexy Sue, Peter Murphy, Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld, and Jamie Stewart from Xiu Xiu. Although Shortparis perform in English and French as well as in Russian, the band’s origins are apparent right away, demonstrating affiliation with the culture of the Russian people – a people whose inexplicable strangeness is best attributed to the ‘mysterious Russian soul’.
Growing up in Russia’s southern city of Stavropol, sisters Aneliya and Emily listened to bootleg Nirvana and dreamt of faraway Seattle. Recently, this dream became reality in a way they could have never imagined: the band Chkbns – for which Aneliya writes the lyrics, sings and plays guitar, Emily is the drummer and their friend Slava practices a kind of witchcraft on synthesizers – has not only visited the so-called Rain City, but also recorded their new album there as well as being broadcast live on the cult indie radio station KEXP. Prior to this, the trio – which was formed in St. Petersburg in 2012 – performed in Sweden, England, Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong, China and Vietnam. Harmonically combining haunting female vocals, romantic synthesizer, resonant guitar and explosive drums, the music of Chkbns is wholly accessible and requires no translation, no matter where it is performed. Their songs speak the universal language of indomitable idealism and utopian love.
Fogh Depot is a unique band rising in fast ascent over the Russian musical landscape. Combining elements of dark jazz, neoclassical minimalism and intelligent electronica, the trio Fogh Depot was established in 2014. The band, which performs intriguing instrumental music on classical instruments – e.g. saxophone and piano – combined with technological innovations, mixes eloquently traced melodies and unusual sound textures, energetic beat and intricate, unpredictable polyrhythmic improvisations, and austere composition. Each and every performance by Fogh Depot is akin to experiencing something like a filmic thriller, the smooth tempo and melancholic mood of which creates explicit tension and accentuates the obligatory climax. The Moscow-based trio has released two albums on the German label Denovali: their debut S/T was followed by Turmalinturm, released at the end of 2017. Tourmaline – a gemstone found in a wide variety of colours in nature, which also changes colour depending on the angle of the light – is an excellent metaphor to describe the multilayered and shapeshifting music of Fogh Depot, which reveals itself in new light in each performance.
Moscow-based rock band Lucidvox is made up of four girls – Alina (vocals), Galla (guitar), Nadya (drums) and Anya (bass) – but gestures at nothing that could be associated with typical gender stereotypes. Inspired by traditional Russian singing and contemporary garage bands such as Goat and Flamingods, Lucidvox perform powerful and assertive psychedelic rock, based on folk melodies and the imagery of Slavic myths. Following their performance at Tallinn Music Week 2017, the quartet caught the eye of the English-language media. ‘Lucidvox are a revelation’, well-known British journalist and leader of punk band The Membrances, John Robb, enthused in the authoritative music blog Louder Than War. Robb is not alone in being impressed by how this band of musicians from Moscow are stretching the boundaries of Anglo-American alt-rock. In 2018, Lucidvox performed at the biggest festival of their professional career, the Slovak open-air Pohoda Festival – with headliners that included The Chemical Brothers, Ride and St. Vincent. There is little doubt that this is only the start of what is set to be a magnificent musical career.