Live Review: Molchat Doma + Static Palm at Scala, Kings Cross

Towards the end of last year, a friend shared a YouTube link with me. ‘You absolutely have to check out this band. I think you’d really like them.’ Trusting his consistently excellent taste in music, I clicked and found myself looking at a fuzzy image of a Soviet style building and the words Молчат Дома – Этажи staring back at me. I hit play and thirty minutes later found myself reeling.

Who were these guys? Where had they come from? How had I only just heard it?

It seemed I wasn’t the only person asking these questions. The YouTube comments were full of similarly confused reactions. All essentially said words to the effect of:

Absolutely no idea how this got recommended to me

– don’t speak russian/search in cyrillic

– haven’t been listening to synth-like stuff in over a year

– probably not in a region of interest for a video like this

but I’m tearing up because of how good this is, thank you

You see, Molchat Doma seem to have found fame off the back of YouTube’s very confusing and difficult to understand algorithms. The album itself now sits at over two million views. I shouldn’t even be seeing them tonight at the Scala – the show was originally booked in at the considerably smaller Moth Club. On the back of the popularity of the show, it was upgraded to Studio 9294. Still not enough room and eventually they found their London venue at Scala. For a band on their first European tour, coming out of a part of the world that regularly finds difficulty breaking through the Eurocentric fixation, this is quite the achievement. On stage tonight at the Scala, they proved without a doubt to be worthy of the upgrades, spending an hour dousing their audience in gorgeously infectious post-punk sounds. It was hard to imagine them in smaller conditions – they rose to the occasion with aplomb, never seeming out of place. I would bet that most, if not all of the crowd, came across them in a similar way to myself – a word of mouth suggestion on the back of a random YouTube video recommendation.

Preceding the main event were Static Palm, brainchild of ex-Bonyards frontman James Burgess, who having grown tired of the Wavves-esque simplicity of his earlier band has instead turned his musical endeavours to darker influences, Static Palm sounding like early Joy Division if Joy Division had access to high quality drum machines and sweltering synthesizers. He’s a captivating frontman, the kind that seems perennially lost within the confines of his own creations. Single ‘Streetlight’ is noticeably the strongest song within the set, a nostalgic effort that is simultaneously bleak and uplifting. The sold-out crowd lap it up and indeed there is a feeling, throughout the evening, that this is a crowd that wish only for the clocks to start running backwards, coming to a halt at some point in 1980. The music plays into their fantasy and it’s only the dull glow of the mobile phones that remind you that this in fact forty years after the fact.

By the time Molchat Doma reach the stage the crowd is nearly at a frenzy. This is, after all, the physical manifestation of potentially many evenings spent hitting the reload button on YouTube. The set is a journey through their current catalogue, the songs delivered masterfully – Этажи standout ‘Тоска’ cuts through the crowd, with the bopping starting almost immediately. All around me, bodies bouncing in time with the rhythm as frontman Egor Shkutko delivers his dulcet messages in a sea of Russian – whilst the crowds may not know the words they surely know the rhythms and inflections. At points, they simply sing along with the synthesizer sounds themselves – particularly noticeable in album opener ‘На дне’, which if there’s one song you go away and listen to should be this one. It’s so perfectly constructed it’s nigh-on impossible to resist moving along to. It’s a cut from a past transported to the modern day. It’s likely the reason why the album itself got so popular around the back alleys of YouTube. Opening the song with a riff from The Cure’s ‘A Forest’, the band wears its influences loudly and proudly. This is an act paying homage to the forefathers of their sound whilst also dragging it into the modern era.

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I leave Scala to the sound of compliments – every individual that evening knew they had seen a rather remarkable set, not just sonically, but within the context of the way in which the internet has transformed the way in which we consume music. In any era prior, Molchat Doma would likely never have reached the ears of over two million people let alone sold out one of London’s most iconic music venues the first time of asking.

Thankfully, they did.

Review by Alexander Sarychkin
Photography by Aaron Jolly

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