Lucidvox - We Are

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Firmly established as an influential voice in the burgeoning Russian DIY rock scene, Lucidvox’s incendiary mixture of atmospheric psych-rock, heavy riffs and Russian folk mystery has already gained them both critical attention and audience loyalty outside of their hometown of Moscow. We Are (мы есть) is their first international album release and the next element in their rapid rise.

Bands in which all or most of the members learn how to play their instruments just to be in the band are something of a special category in the history of popular music. British avant-gardists Wire and American roots hit-makers Creedence Clearwater Revival come to mind, as do, in varying degrees, post-punk legends like The Raincoats and The Slits. From such beginnings, the results can be quite compelling. The individual player’s inexperience becomes an asset―they are free to create without the burden of past prejudices―and the sound attains a mysterious balance. The sum becomes greater than its parts and a unique musical vocabulary is stitched together piece by piece. Musical skills are developed specifically for their usefulness in creating that collective sound. The Russian quartet Lucidvox are another one of these bands. And a great one at that.

Lucidvox comprises four women based in Moscow: Alina (vocals/flute), Nadezhda (drums), Galla (guitar) and Anna (bass). Formed in 2013, according to Galla their inception was “a bit like a joke. Because only Anna had had a band before. Me and Nadezhda hadn’t played our instruments before that.” Anna picks up the story: “We were all kind of friends, because we have a lot of mutual friends who play in other bands. That’s how we started to know each other, and slowly we got to the idea of creating our own band.”

The band’s original repertoire consisted of cover versions of songs by Sonic Youth, Pixies, White Stripes and Warpaint. While Lucidvox make it clear that none of these bands are an inspiration for their current sound, lead singer Alina does point out that “when we started, I think Warpaint was one of our influences because we went to see their concert in Moscow. And they are a girl band and we are a girl band … We share that experience.” Being in a ‘girl band’ was, from the beginning, an essential and empowering concept for Lucidvox. Alina continues: “This was a very big idea for us, because we have boyfriends in bands. And it was like, Hey, we want to make music also. But we couldn’t have imagined then that we would become a very serious band and be able to play in Europe and the UK. It’s like a dream.” Lucidvox quickly became a tight circle that encouraged musical experimentation, emotional honesty and future plans. Anna adds: “When we just started, we felt more safe and comfortable to play together―like a girls’ community―because we had just started playing.”
After a year or so of playing covers, the band began to assemble original material, which had its own sonic footprint. And like everything else in Lucidvox, the songwriting process was highly democratic from the start. There is no central songwriter in the band. The songs take shape both from contributions brought into the rehearsal space by any one of the members, and from subsequent collective improvisation and discussion. Anna describes it this way: “One of us will bring a certain riff on the guitar or something on the drums, and then we start to think altogether how to develop it into a song: what parts we can add, what type of lyrics will be there, what emotions we want to show.”

Unlike the majority of bands, this process allows all of them to contribute lyrics. According to Galla, the only requirement is that “when you have a text, you need to discuss with the other girls what you are trying to say.” The lyrics for the most part revolve around intense personal experiences. “Runaway”, the second single from We Are, is a good example, with Alina writing about her troubled brother, who eventually ended up in prison: “Where you run / There is only darkness and heat / What drives you are fear and pain / Believe.” The music for the track is epic, dream-like and widescreen, incorporating electric piano and trumpet, instruments that are new to the Lucidvox sonic palette. This deft, textured arrangement brings alive the complex dynamic between despair and hope found in the lyrics.

While Galla notes that the overall sound of the new album is “more powerful, more rock,” the band’s trademark post-Siouxsie-and-the-Banshees squall is now more nuanced than ever. There is more depth and space, and more sense of the majestic rumble that the band conjures up in a live setting―an experience in which the ensemble lays down an interlocked, almost Krautrock-like groove. Each element is perfectly in place, but is played with a savage intensity. “We really wanted to make an album that sounded how we really sound live,” says Anna, “and it seems like we did it.”

Along with the band’s growing confidence and heft of sound, more than ever they are committed to making music that directly reflects both who they are and where they are from. Even as their international reputation has grown, they have never considered singing songs in English. “Since we live here and speak this language,” Anna notes, “the most true way to express ourselves is with the Russian language. If we did it in English, we wouldn’t feel as honest as we do in Russian.” But this commitment to place doesn’t start and stop just with language. In the band’s sonic explorations, there has always been a subtle nod to Russian traditional music and folklore. As Alina says: “We have one song which is a traditional Russian folk song with Russian folk lyrics. But that sort of feeling is also there in other songs.” Galla adds: “I am interested in Russian folk tales, not only the music. We never consciously said ‘let’s play folk music.’ But it is in our music because some of us are interested or have been interested in it.”

Over the last five years or so, new exponents of the Russian underground rock and electronic scenes have slowly begun to be heard outside their home country. Lucidvox is at the front of this growing wave, along with Moscow’s Glintshake and the fast-rising St Petersburg band Shortparis. This generation of artists “understands you can play in other countries when you show your own country and your own culture,” says Galla, ‘and that makes the music more interesting, not only in Russia.”

Which brings us to the title of the new Lucidvox album, We Are, as in this is who we are. Both the album, and the ongoing trajectory of this powerful band, are linked to the search for identity: as a person, as a musician, as a member of a tightly knit group of creative women. Anna puts it this way: “The reason we called our album We Are is that now we feel like we can be ourselves. Very strong. Both in our personalities and in the band. We also at this point have some sort of place in the musical world.” With an album as uncompromising and exhilarating as this, Lucidvox’s place in the world is only going to get bigger and bigger.

1. My Little Star (Звездочка) 05:52
2. Knife (Нож) 03:20
3. Amok (Амок) 04:47
4. You Are (Ты есть) 04:59
5. Body (Тело) 03:54
6. Sever (Север) 04:10
7. Runaway (Беглец) 05:20
8. Around (Вокруг) 04:46
9. Sirin (Сирин) 05:26