February 6, 2015

Art by USMC Archives

Chris Daly is about four five seconds from Boris Spassky.

Like most Americans who lived through the Cold War, I was under the impression that Mother Russia tapes beat listeners*. First Word Records’ own Fulgeance and DJ Scientist have proven just how wrong I was on their latest, “The Soviet Tape.” The project was culled from the embarrassingly impressive collection of vintage Soviet-era records by Scientist, one of Germany’s most obsessive crate diggers, and mixed by Fulgeance — MPC virtuoso and Souleance member.


Scientist chose samples and collaborators well. The source material mixes orchestral, symphonic soundtracks that theoretically sound perfect for older James Bond flicks. There’s documentary dialogue, the occasional news report and actual, but infrequent Russian. Fulgeance douses the entire thing in his signature “low club groove,” meaning the kick drums are present, but subdued, the crackle of the vinyl is left intact, the BPMs are kept to a minimum and laid back. To break things up, the duo enlist a handful of MCs, with DistantStarr on the R-Funk (that’s right, I coined it) special, “You Know,” and Blu and Open Mike Eagle swapping verses on the vodka-lethal “From Lithuania with Love.”

By and large, these are excellent mellow jams, never intended to inspire annexation of a neighboring party, but perfect to deal with frigid Siberian nights. First single, “Moscow Nightlife” is a wild Crimean concoction of manipulated strings, pianos and horns. Propaganda leanings aside, “Youth Brigade” is a keyboard workout that would do mid- to late-career Ray Charles proud. “Imperialist Monsters” stays with the pianos, but ups the paranoid vibe along with the boom bap percussion. Your head will nod, and your ass will shake, but in a State-approved manner.

Surprisingly, not once did I feel the urge to conspire with my fellow proletariat to overthrow my Capitalist oppressors while listening to “The Soviet Tape.” I will admit to a growing desire to wear small, furry hats, but I’ve felt that way for years.

First Word has been kind enough to share the first six tracks from the album, which we now gladly share with you. What a label!

*Readers born 1990 or later, go Google Yakov Smirnoff and realize how much funnier this review is than you originally thought.

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