Max Bell prefers snuff.
Apart from Alchemist’s Russian Roulette, my knowledge of Russian music is little to none. My knowledge of all things Russian really only includes Russian lit and conversation I had with one of my old editors, who just happened to be from Russia. I have no idea what’s going on over there musically, politically, etc. But after a long lackluster day of seeing the same posts all over every rap “blog” on the internet, I’ve come across what has to be my favorite piece of music composed by a Russian musician since…
It’s called “Cosmic Tobacco,” and it’s off of Russian composer, musician, and multi-instrumentalist Nienvox’s (Alexander Efimov) first solo record, Space Castles, Love Songs, released on Alpha Pup imprint Fuselab back in early January. “Cosmic Tobacco, now official slang for the best spliff you’ve ever had, is a smooth bluesy piece that glides along like some of the best RJD2 cuts off of Deadringer (this is related). It’s not exactly background music, but it can be if you so choose. Either way, it sounds good. It’s not mind blowing, but it’s not meant to be. The guitar is soothing and the snyths are funky. Along with the crackle of the cassette this record sounds like it was made for/recorded on, “Cosmic Tobacco” is nice and warm, or something. My advice: throw it on before or after some Dam-Funk and your blunted cruise down PCH will be complete.
The album is short—most tracks are around three minutes or so—with no long twelve or fifteen minute ever-changing and amorphous soundscapes that leave you lost and looking for the acid you left in the freezer. And while Nienvox’s record is most certainly psychedelic—the last track is called “The End“—it is more distilled psychedelia with innumerable twists and layers of technologic funk. “Mushroom Rain” feels like a sped up Galaxie 500 record with added synths and a glitch influence. “Takeru” has a solid bass line and some very solid bongos, and definitely takes cues from Bonobo. “Hairs” is a rainy day set to hip-hop drums, just as “Colorful Objects” is Nienvox’s slightly brighter, yet more chaotic interpretation of ’90s Nas and Mobb Deep records. And “Space Love Kaleidoscope” is the punk rock version of Dilla, in that it’s a quick (under two minutes) and aggressive assemblage of Indian and R&B samples with a ton of vocals that might be saying something. Yeah, that works.
In sum, the record is definitely lo-fi, and, given the duration of most tracks, it can be a bit claustrophobic at times. But despite the fact that lo-fi is now somehow a genre instead of an aesthetic choice, both choices work here. Some might call Space Castles, Love Songs IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), but I have no idea what that means. I’m for good music, in the broadest sense of the word. If it happens to been intelligent, fantastic. Is this part of the IDM camp? Decide on your own. But I’m guessing Nienvox is much like myself and Woody Allen in that he wouldn’t want to be part of any club that would have someone like him for a member. Whatever you decide, even if you don’t dig the record, I still advise the cosmic tobacco and mushrooms.