Molchat Doma - Monument
Belarusian trio Molchat Doma bring punk back to the nightclub with their latest album Monument, as they toy between cold wave dancefloor fillers and minimalist guitar anthems that won’t stop until they get under your skin.
Unearthed and re-issued by the uncompromising record label Sacred Bones earlier this year, 2018’s Etazhi (Floors) was a breakout hit for the band, which saw them emerge from the Minsk underground as one of the few Eastern European bands to cross over to the West.
There’s a hell of a lot of cold wave coming from Belarus and their neighbours right now. We just don't know about it. Fueled by a climate of political unrest and protests, as the country’s people are repeatedly betrayed by their government; set in a landscape of abandoned architecture, lingering Soviet history and lockdown, their sound feels like a razor’s edge representation of a time and place.
Monument opens with a bleak warning, as we pan across concrete wastelands and take in the view. It’s not long before the drums kick in and the keyboards give us everything we need to wash away the dark memories of recent times.
The Russian lyrics roll off the tongue in a brooding romance, as they hover over sparse guitar lines in tracks like ‘Obrechen / Doomed’ and ‘Otveta Net / Answer No’, Morrissey-esque hymns broadcast across the waves of a dusty radio transmitter. The drum machines are equally dusty, homemade and relentless, as the band fully embrace the DIY aesthetic that defined a classic era of punk.
Elsewhere the guitars are swapped out for synths and sequencers in the cold wave classics that everyone’s here for. ‘Utonut / Drown’ and ‘Discoteque / Disco’ are faultless synth-pop constructions, compact vehicles to deliver their desperate energy with nothing wasted.
Out of the left field, ‘Udalil Tvoy Numer / Deleted Your Number’ is a dead ringer for Future Island’s ‘City Face’ – for about 30 seconds - until the chomping bass line devours everything in its wake.
It’s hard to imagine anyone doing any form of new wave better than Molchat Doma right now. They may be cut from the same cloth as the gothy 4AD movement of the 80s, harnessing retro tech, burying the vocals in gloom-laden reverb. But rather than wearing nostalgia as a cloak, here it’s an absolute necessity, and their intent couldn’t be any clearer.
Monument is dark, driven by the machine-like rhythm of industry, terraced with musical structures that hold the passions, aspirations and hope of a nation screaming to escape. Their name translates to Houses Are Silent, and through their music they give a voice to the deserted. Lighting the way with a cold flame, Molchat Doma are here for us when the streets are empty and the skies are black.