Wednesday, 16 November 2016

World Tour

Clockwise from top left: Palms On Fire, Gnoomes, Slow Earth, Possimiste
Week 10 - Eastern Europe

One day, it might be possible to cross the Bering Strait from Alaska into Russia. It has been talked about for more than 100 years, and the Russian government has even said it will contribute a significant sum to the construction of the long-awaited tunnel. Currently though, it is nigh-on impossible. Entering Russia at its easternmost point is fraught with difficulty. This area is known as Chukotka and it remains a closed state more than 20 years since the fall of the Iron Curtain. Permission to travel through Chukotka is rarely given to foreigners and even when it is, you'll have had to not only endure a bureaucratic nightmare to get it, but also agree to a strict travel protocol.

From 2001 and 2008, the Governor of Chukotka was none other than Roman Abramovich, current owner of Chelsea Football Club! He tried to resign his position in 2004, but Vladimir Putin denied his request and reappointed him. You don't argue with Putin!

Anyway, it's a long haul to our destination. We're heading for two cities east of Moscow. We'll have to fly - that much is clear, but we can't go direct from Alaska, we'll have to go via Los Angeles. I'm not sure of the actual route from there. I have a funny feeling we have to go eastwards, flying over the US, the Atlantic and Europe rather than in a westerly direction as I'd planned. But still... We land in Moscow, and have a choice of car, train or plane. A 20-hour train ride sounds like fun, doesn't it, so let's do it. We're going to Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurt Republic in the Volga region. It is also, apparently, known as the capital of Russian electronic music. The band we're here for though aren't electronic, rather they're far more in the twee indiepop mould. If you like stuff from classic British indie labels (Heavenly, Sarah, etc) or Spanish label Elefant, you'll probably love Palms On Fire. I reckon I have a few takers lurking around here... Sword And Shield opens the band's debut full-length album which came out at the start of the year. It's available from their Bandcamp page.

A four-hour drive northeast, takes us to the city of Perm (once known as Molotov). It has a football team in the Russian Premier League who once played Fulham in the first round of the Europa League in the season Fulham shocked everyone by reaching the final. Perm is also home to Gnoomes, a band I think I learned about through Swiss Adam. They are a trio firmly entrenched in psychedelia, and regularly play psych festivals around the world, including Liverpool Psych Fest which they played this year alongside Super Furry Animals, The Horrors, Gwenno and Steve Davis. Yes, THE Steve Davis, former multiple world snooker champion, part-time DJ and full-time prog/psych fan.

Gnoomes released their debut album 'Ngan!' last year. Well, I say album - it only has four tracks on it, but two of them are more than 14 minutes long. I've chosen one of its shorter tracks for you. Moognes kind of sounds a bit like Pale Saints used to, with a bit of My Bloody Valentine thrown in.

Here's the video for the single version of a track from their debut EP 'It's Moonbow-Time, Boy' from 2014.

We're catching a train to our next port of call. We travel north to St. Petersburg where we change and head west into Estonia. Formerly a member of the Soviet Union, Estonians are historically, culturally and linguistically closer to Finland than Russia. It is also the least populous nation in Europe.

Now, some years ago when I was running my old blog From Inside The Pod, I discovered a young lady from Estonia making delicate, ethereal electronic tunes under the name Possimiste. She continues to make music, posting tracks on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, though there's no album to date. Nowadays resident in Iceland, Possimiste is nonetheless my Estonian representative. Here's a track she put out as a 7" in 2013, perhaps her liveliest offering to date. Rather lovely it is, too.

And here's another of her best tracks:

We're going south by train for the final leg of this week's journey. We're taking in the capitals of Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine and it's in the latter of these nations - right down in its south east - that we find our next band Slow Earth. This lot hail from Zaporozhye. A couple of years ago, they witnessed first-hand the horror of the Russian occupation of nearby Crimea: “In our region, Russian militaries are trying to cut some territories we live in. We can see men with shotguns out there. People are dying. Roads are blocked.”

Because of the unrest, they postponed a planned tour of the UK to promote their EP 'Latitude And 023', though they did eventually make it over. Don't confuse this Slow Earth with a band of the same name from Atlanta, GA. Someone at Discogs has made that error...

The band seems to be tagged with such descriptions as 'progressive rock' and 'experimental', but I really don't think that's accurate. See what you think - here's a taste of the EP.

Next week, the hidden delights of southeastern Europe.


  1. Nice trip, Robster. I have been on the Palms on Fire bandwagon from the beginning. Really good stuff. Thanks for the other recommendations. The others are new to me.

  2. Good call on Gnoomes. Try Russian band Polska Radio One - Cosmos inside.

  3. Some great selections here. I'm pretty sure that Brian turned me on to Palms on Fire. The album is pretty good, but 'Sword and Shield' is one of my favourite individual tracks of the year. 'Ngan' fell just outside my top 20 albums of 2015 and I saw the band on excellent form during their brief UK tour a couple of months back.
    (I don't know if it's just me, but I'm not getting an option to play your linked tunes, only to download them.)

    1. I'm trying some new file hosts as Zippy is currently ridden with malware. I came across one some time ago that allowed streaming as well, but it seems to have disappeared now. I'll keep hunting, but I'm open to suggestions.

  4. Let us know if you find any decent new file hosting services.