Astma are the Russian duo who, I have recently decided, can do no wrong for me. The combination of Alexei Borisov’s fierce electronic shrieks with Olga Nosova’s drumming noise is something I regard as essential, often giving one a dose of “reality” when losing one’s way in today’s crazy mixed-up world. I ought to own more Astma records, but I can make do with the ones I have been sent. One recent favourite was released on Moozak, where the pair teamed up with Helsinki genius Anton Nikkilä to produce the Dom Sessions album. Although unheard by millions, it’s a key release holding the secrets that can solve a hundred societal problems which the combined forces of politics, capitalism and law enforcement cannot.
Today’s release, Raw Volumes (AUT RECORDS AUT035), promises much with its title alone. To say nothing of its cover, a strange geometric shape on a foreboding black background. On it, the Astma duo team up with an Italian fellow named Michele Pedrazzi – except here, he’s going under his Bob Meanza pseudonym, a credit also appearing on his earlier records, such as Three Diamond Ohms, and OU. Well, Bob Meanza is proud of his “nerdy approach” to music generation, and unlike the noisy Astma he has a taste for melodies and polished productions; I imagine he likes to tinker for hours with his workstations and digital editing suites. He contributes electronics and synth playing to the sessions, recorded in a Berlin studio, and spontaneity was the word of the day.
On one level, it may appear that the Russians prevailed – grit, distortion, and free-form blat are mostly what you will hear, and the press notes make it clear there was little in the way of post-production, so Meanza’s proclivities for “digital shininess” were denied a chance to thrive. Yet the clash of personalities and world-views seems to have produced a strong tension which gives this music its distinctive taste. In places, you can even hear the Russians treading water and giving Bob Meanza a chance to slot himself in alongside some plodding, straightforward rhythms – in contrast to their usual madcap beats and synth patterns, speaking in a language only they can understand. While I personally would have liked to hear more of Olga’s vocals – she only appears on one track, I think, the harrowing ‘Rhombohedral’ where she sounds like a hungry Harpy in flight – in the main you can’t go far wrong with this lively set of growlers. From 14th June 2015.