Ciolkowska – Психоделия (Psychedelia)

Ciolkowska – Психоделия

As we get further into 2021, somehow I’m still stuck in 2020. Well, that’s not entirely true, as I have been listening to a lot of music from this year, but I continue to find gems I missed from last year, and this short album from Russians Ciolkowska, Психоделия, is certainly one of those gems. A brightly shining psychedelic gem in the sky for Lucy to gaze upon, with many facets sparkling with different colours. A little space rock here, some avant there, and maybe even a little hint of post rock at times. It must be post something, though, because it definitely delivers! And despite Germany and Russia not having had a particularly cordial history, the eastern tinged Russian psychedelia at times appears to take influence from the West German bands of the original Krautrock scene. The music sounds at the same time both ancient and modern, retro and contemporary.

One of the first things you’ll hear is that the ukulele is a prominent highlight in Ciolkowska’s sound, and it’s an absolute delight. The use of staccato picking on ukulele and guitar gives both a folky and post-rock feeling to much of the music. It’s often – somehow – both delicate and dissonant, the way a lot of folk music from Russia and surrounding countries is. A lot of folk music from this part of the world makes use of microtones, which can sometimes sound off-key to Western ears. One of my favourite albums from last year was Giorgi Mikadze’s Georgian Microjamz which put a modern spin on traditional Georgian folk, highlighting the microtonality in all its glory. Психоделия is nowhere near as challenging as Mikadze’s album, and it’s almost poppy in its own off-kilter manner. As poppy as it might be, though, the sense of the strange and foreign is ever-present.

Ciolkowska’s sound is quite unique, not just by its instrumentation and composition, but its structure. The rhythm section often seems to be working independently from the ukulele and guitar, coming together through synchronicity rather than design. The vocals float in and out as if they are yet another coincidental occurrence. This description may give the impression that I’m not a fan, but I actually mean the opposite. I love the way the band makes music in this disparate manner. It makes the music feel very fresh and spontaneous, even if has been meticulously composed, rather than improvised. And actually, when it comes down to it, I’m not sure how much the music is composed, and how much is improvised. The band’s origins are in improvisational jams, so it’s easy to believe they still do this – but Психоделия seems too concise and succinct to contain much improvisation.

Психоделия is the first album I’d heard from Ciolkowska, so I made sure to explore their back catalogue. And in comparison to what precedes it, Психоделия is remarkably restrained and delicate – yet somehow still manages to take all they have done in the past and make it into a perfectly packaged, and potentially more palatable product. It has all the eccentricity, innovation, dynamics and experimentation, but in a more listener-friendly format. Unfortunately, for me, that just leaves me wanting more. I usually say there is no right or wrong length for an album, and that a good album is as long as it needs to be – whether that be half an hour, or two hours. But this is a good album that would be better if it were longer, and almost leaves me frustrated when I realise I’ve reached the end and there is no more. I can’t remember the last time I said that, and in a way I guess it’s more of a compliment than a criticism.

As a taster for Ciolkowska’s sound, Психоделия provides a convenient entry point. It packs a lot of variety into its short time span, and has a quite immediate and accessible sound. In a way, its short length works to its advantage, as it is incredibly hard not to put it straight back on again once it’s finished. The repeated listens definitely pay off, because for all the immediacy, there is a lot more to the music than one might notice after just one play through. The music of Ciolkowska is subtle, and packs a lot of depth and heaviness into what might initially seem fairly sparse and simple. There is so much expression in all the instrumentation – perhaps more so than in the vocals. I find myself carried away by it, without realising it. Психоделия is a multi-layered psychedelic delight, and if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play it again.

01. Клей (Glue) (5:00)
02. Коврижки (Gingerbreads) (4:55)
03. Махавишну (Mohavishnu) (3:45)
04. Ангелина (Angelina) (7:20)
05. Комната (часть 1) (Room Part 1) (2:19)
06. Тапки (часть 2) (Slippers Part 2) (5:48)
07. Психоделия (Psychedelia) (3:52)

Total Time – 32:59

Egor Svysokihgor — Vocals, Guitars
Alesya Izlesa — Ukulele
Alexandr Monah — Bass
David Aaronson — Drums

Record Label: Addicted/No Name
Country of Origin: Russia
Date of Release: 15th May 2020

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