Review: Voland – With Us Music!

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Okay, I have to say something up front: I can’t read Russian. I can’t even phonetically pronounce any of the words, except maybe for "moo-see-ka”. Oh, yeah, also the word "Hey!”. But beyond that I am basically at a total loss for what the words in these songs mean, beyond my rather weak at translation of the titles via Google and Babelfish.

I also did attempt a translation of the bands profile, and of their website. However both attempts have yielded a very weak understanding of this band at best, and a complete mis-communication about them at worst.

Still, given these limitations, and being somewhat unencumbered by the thought process I will forge forward to present a mostly impressionistic review of this release.

What I Think I Know

There are three major things that I know, or at least, I’ve pieced together and seem somewhat reasonable:

First: The translator programs were pretty emphatic that the translation of the bands name into english would be Voland (or Woland). Voland is a fictional character in the novel The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This character is likely based on a demon that appears in Goethe’s Faust. The Bulgakov character is portrayed as the devil or Satan. It’s Woland’s actions that form the background for the dramatic action of the novel.

Second: It appears that Voland is the successor to another band. This part is extremely sketchy (translation wasn’t very good), but it appeared that several of the members of Voland were in another band that was popular, but broke up. Several of the members of that band formed Voland, and are carrying on in a similar tradition to the first band.

Third: There is something about them that has to do with community or social issues. That would appear to be born out by the translated titles of the some of the songs on this release. For example "Nail, The Horseshoe” I get a feeling (again, completely unencumbered by any real or even anecdotal evidence for this) to be similar to the saying/proverb "For the want of a nail…And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

So, that’s about all I know, or at least think I know about this band. From here on out, I will refer to the songs by the translated titles, with track number references.
The Music

The first track "Hay!” or "Hey!” is a high energy, fun song. It sounds as if it were written to grab your attention, pull you into the the performance and energy level the group is capable of generating. I suspect this doesn’t have much, if any, real meaning or message. This song really serves it’s purpose. I was grabbed by it immediately. I was immediately impressed with the bass players skill, the energy of the band, and the overall impression that it was something like a RedHot Chili Peppers type of sound.

Moving on to the second track, I was immediately impressed with what I thought was a very bluesy style opening that moved into a rock style. By the time the song moves into it’s heavier rock / metal style refrain, I was ready to start head-banging. I have no idea what the title "Pipes” could mean – but that’s the title translation that came up.

And, by the third track: "Music” I was being totally mesmerized by the ability of this band to mix and merge many styles: a little rap, blues, funk, punk, metal. I no longer was interested in wanting to know what the lyrics meant – I knew that I was listening to a band that was skilled in not just imitating forms and styles they have heard other places, but using them to convey some kind of context and meaning.

I suspect the fifth track "Fly” is a song that mixes both extremely entertaining passages of music, with a muttered / chanted vocal line that carries some significant meaning. But it’s the high energy music that carries the track for me.

On the sixth track, "The One Who”, I found another influence… To me, the break line sounds reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine’s "Killing in the Name Of”. But, note that the opening section I feel is uniquely Russian.

As I mentioned above, the eighth track "Nail, The Horseshoe” I suspect to be related to the proverb "For the Want of a Nail”. But I doubt that anyone would have ever thought that it could be set to such an intense thrash / noise style.

Honestly, at this point, I can honestly say that if you’ve enjoyed this much of the release, you won’t be disappointed in the rest of it. Of the eighteen tracks represented here only "R-N-R” (track 12) might be a slight disappointment in terms of not having the same intenisty level. But to me, it wasn’t a let down, more like a little break or segue, forming a bridge between the more heavy and intense pieces.

On Voland’s Website

I was so intrigued by Voland, that I tried to read their website. It was between their profile, website, and a little web search that I found most of the information that I presented in the What I Think I know section.

But, there was something else that I found on their website: a statement that all of their music from a specific date forward would be released through their website for no charge. In fact, the contribution of their music to Jamendo is under a CC-BY (attribution) license, forgoing the NC and ND licenses completely, and even the SA license. Quite a surprise in these days.

Based on what I saw on their website the band appears to be quite popular: performing at festivals, and bringing in a fairly good sized audience. Hopefully this means that they are being compensated well for their work through their shows and merchandise. I hope we will be hearing more releases from this group for a long time to come. Even more than that, I hope someone who can translate Russian will work with them in the future to provide a translation of their lyrics into English.

Title Translations

This is a list of the titles as I was able to translate them:

1 Hay!
2 Pipes
3 Music
4 To the east
5 Fly
6 The one who
7 Motive
8 Nail, the horseshoe
9 On the curb
10 Man goes
11 History
12 R `N `R
13 Depressive of # 13
14 Solitude
15 Silent RAPPP
16 On the roller
17 Everything on [DZHAMP]!
18 S[tep] by s[tep] around

This is another release that I won’t fault. It’s quirky, it unusual, I don’t understand the lyrics, and isn’t something that I would typically listen to. However, it is a case in point for me: while it’s not my normal choice musically speaking, this is a group that accelerates to a level that transcends their musical style. It is a recording that I feel a compulsion to listen to over and over. I love each of the tracks. I love the blending of so many styles into unique forms. I love that there are uniquely Russian elements to the music. I was initially attracted to the bass player’s performance (which is rock-solid on all of these tracks), but found that he wasn’t the only extremely capable player in this group.

So, that’s it: this is a really solid listen. Give it a chance and be entertained.
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