If the last six years of Cheap Tunes Tuesday entries have taught us anything, it’s that there is no shortage of music to learn about and listen to in America. But there’s a whole rest of the globe out there making tunes that we also may enjoy. Let’s go international today and hear what’s big elsewhere on the map.
Egor Shkutko, Roman Komogortsev, and Pavel Kozlov formed a band in 2017 in Minsk, Belarus. They focused on vocals, guitar and bass respectively, and the trio were most heavily influenced by 1980s Russian rock music and called themselves Molchat Doma (which translates to Houses are Silent). What is that exactly? Apparently, it’s often compared to new wave or synth-pop in the U.S.
My knowledge of the release process in Belarus is limited, but they self-released their debut album just a few months after formation. It caught enough steam that a German independent label called Detriti Records spotted the group and picked them up. A second record was released in September of 2018 and, over time, began gaining popularity through streaming sites like YouTube and Bandcamp. Molchat Doma didn’t upload their music themselves—a user did who simply enjoyed their sound and similar types of music.
After over two million hits, the group felt the had a solid core following. Oddly, they weren’t as popular in Belarus as they were in the rest of Europe—playing sold out arenas across the continent, but never one in their home country. Today I’m listening to their album Этажи, which is Romanized into Etazhi, and in English translates to “Floors”. It is the aforementioned Sept of 2018 release, but because it became so popular was rereleased in January of 2020 after signing with a larger label—it’s also the first time Molchat Doma, and this album, were shipped to America.
Right away when you toss on the album, you hear what they describe as their “lo-fi” sound, but it rockets you right back to the synth rock that is the signature of ‘80s culture. It’s all backed by drum machine, which has a familiar-to-the-era sound and also gets your toes tapping. When you first get to a beat with a vocal, the first comparison I had was some classic Duran Duran—but as you go on, there are elements of a variety of bands you could make comps to, with The Cure being another highly regarded one.
While I personally don’t speak the language, the major themes of the record are about living under communistic oppression and Belarus running their country like a business. The album name and cover art are in reference to Stalinist apartment blocks that still paint the landscape of many former Soviet cities to this day. The structure itself is an actual hotel in present day Slovakia, considered an icon of socialist-realist architecture.
Whether intended or not I’m unsure, but Egor’s vocal comes across as almost disembodied, like a ghost that’s haunting the background tunes. You can easily associate this music with darkness and gloom, which apparently has a following of people called “doomers”. It’s very dystopian sounding, and because of that categorization, many playlists are created on platforms like Spotify that include Molchat Doma and get them in front of new audiences from various countries.
Since I know all of you loyal readers were beyond curious about the comings and goings of popular music coming out of Belarus, I’m positive you’ll all give this one a try today. But in all seriousness, it’s a pretty fun listen. It’s atmospheric and a throwback—and has so many elements that will make you feel like you’re in an ‘80s movie. For that alone, Molchat Doma’s Etazhi is worth a shot. Happy Tuesday!
Top 3 Tracks:
- Судно (Vessel)
- Танцевать (Dance)
- Клетка (Cage)