New York’s Soviet was definite dark horse at this year’s Cornerstone Festival, and I just happened to catch them. I had my ideas about what they might sound like, since they’re signed to Ronnie Martin’s Plastiq Musiq label. However, I don’t think anyone expected such a show, which explained the large amount of latecomers that packed the tent. It wasn’t as if there weren’t quality bands playing elsewhere. Scientific was playing a few tents over, but it was Soviet that had the kids dancing and screaming between songs.
Dressed in red shirts with white ties and matching belts, they resembled a mixture of Flock of Seagulls and the Thompson Twins. With only a mixer and two keyboards, they entertained a growing crowd with 40 minutes of beautiful, catchy electronic tunes. Their stage presence captured the kids just as much as the music. Keith Ruggiero pranced around during songs, his voice and actions resembling Prince at times. The other two musicians danced around with keyboards and haircuts straight from the salon. I felt as if I was watching an early ‘80s video filmed live. The only thing missing was a pissy British accent and attitude.
The problem with seeing a band before listening to their album is the fact that the album’s usually not as intense as the live show. Soviet doesn’t seem to have this problem. The only difference between the two is the more serious feel of the vocals on the album. This by no means is a bad thing, but not as entertaining as his howls and Prince-like shouts. The vocals sound a bit similar to David Gahan (Depeche Mode). As a matter of fact, my first impression of Soviet’s sound was a mixture of Depeche Mode and Devo. Thankfully, they separated themselves from Joy Electric’s sound, something that seems to pop up in much of Plastiq Musiq’s output. I can tell they’re on Plastiq, but I don’t feel they’re trying to spit out Martin’s trademark sound.
The songs have the pop quality of a Joy Electric song, but simmer down with the almost melancholy voice. “Commute,” “Marbleyezed,” and “Lonely Days” are a few of the more prevalent pop songs with driving Teutonic beats and gasping synth melodies, but with the House of Wires/Gahan-esque vocals. A couple of the tracks (“Breakdown” and “L’Objectif”) even remind me a bit of Professor Small or the theme song to “Revenge Of The Nerds.” “Soviet Bot” is probably my favorite with its Pet Shop Boys-ish feel and melodious, magnificent keyboard lines.
I’m sure some will compare the sounds to those of a video game, but the Mario Brothers soundtrack is nowhere near as danceable. Soviet’s taking dance/electronic into a more interesting area than, say, the monotony of Daft Punk. If you’ve heard the new Daft Punk, you know what I mean. Overall, a refreshing moment in electronic music.
Written by Nolan Shigley.