Theodor Bastard, a group from St. Petersburg, Russia released their eleven-track album, Volch’ya Yagoda, on April 20th. Full of various influences they have said their music “works between genres that can be defined as world music, folk, and trip-hop.” They utilize many traditional instruments, and themes from folk music, fused with modern production techniques and electronic sounds.
Creating music that is ambient and ethereal in its mood, but also mixed with some modern production, industrial sounds, and lots of reverb. Which gives the feeling of being in the wilderness in the cold of winter. A sort of primal feeling that is reinforced with rhythmic pulsing and simple yet elegant vocal melodies.
Theodor Bastard – “The special northern atmosphere of the album is created with Nordic nyckelharpa, jouhikko, and primeval flutes created from tree roots and shamanic percussion.”
You get a taste of the primeval tone the album takes on the first track Flute Song, which features a primitive flute. It begins with some soft ambient noise and wind sounds that creates a sonic place for a freeform somber flute solo to play slow-moving melodic lines in a minor key. Each song flows into the next with similar ambient textures, and within each track are a number of interesting sounds and untypical instrumentation combinations, like metallic springs, electronic synths, natural and synthetic drums, vocal harmonies, and breathing sounds, all combined on an ambient reverby backdrop.
The ambient textures are evocative of deep emotions, which visually comes to life in their music video for the track Les. The song is crafted with delicate vocal melodies, constant rhythmic pulsing, and plucked strings, beneath a pad of reverby minor chords. Electronic sounding drums and industrial ticks and bumps provide a dance-like pulse to support the ambient textures throughout.
The song progresses with emotional and somber vocals giving a sensation of longing, the rhythmic and harmonic pads continue undulating as it surrounds you in its ambiance. The visuals in the video place you exactly where I would imagine from just listening to the music, in the wilderness entrenched in fog and cold winter air.
Each song continues to create an atmosphere of ambiance and longing, but also with cool grooves. The song Pozhato creates an oddly cool groove with layered low bass wubs, high bells, strings, shakers, ominous whispering vocals, and creepy laughter. Layered vocals surround you on all sides of the mix echoing in the left and then the right, this song plays a lot with the use space in a way that is very effective.
You get the feeling of being surrounded by a peal of maniacal laughter, which is combined with a very familiar simple beat composed of unusual sounds. This is my favorite track on the album as it stands out with all the creative use of sound and production.
Some songs err more on the side of traditional song structures and with strong folk influence while others have a more modern production influence while utilizing traditional instruments. The track Volchok is one with more traditional influence as it appears to be structured around one traditional Russian melody with some variation.
The track begins with just the vocal melody on its own then repeats, each repetition varying the instrumentation and adding harmonies, then at the final repetition returning to solo voice.
The overall tone of the album creates a somber mood drowned in reverb, with industrial sounds and electronic synth noise sprinkled in. The composition of the songs flow naturally throughout producing a meditative, primal, sound experience. Creating a tribal feeling at times, with tracks that create an eerie mood with a groove beat that moves your inner rhythm, and ambient entrancing moods at others with simple lullabies.
Producing a soundscape that is evocative of images of the wilderness, Russian winter, industrial buildings, churches, thick fogg and tribes. It is a well-crafted album and deserves a listen if you are a fan of folk, and or trip-hop electronic music.