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Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Sound of Melting Plastics: Russian Tsarlag

I had no idea who Russian Tsarlag was before attending this show and I had never been to Romeo House before.  I thought I knew where it was, but ended up getting lost and having to ask some guys with a truck full of liquid nitrogen where to go.  I finally got there, but had missed Super Mohawk, a combination of Last Supper (Michael Sibenac) and John Kasunic from Pay the Rent, both of whom were supposed to play separately.


Trogpite started playing soon after I got there.  He seemed very at home in the darkened living room and sang into a microphone housed in a stick and, as always, looked really cool.  Lots of sounds: the chanting of satanic cults, endlessly broken synthesizer loops, cool computer sounds, buzzings of a fly, squeaks from broken doors, watery voices, etc.  Trogpite had some killer backing tracks at this and added his standard moans over top, sometimes echoing into near feedback.  It was awesome.


Jeff Zagers played afterwards, music that sounded like it could come from St. Basil's Cathedral.  He started off with a spooky Trogpite groove, but added metallic synth sounds on top.  His voice was like a controlled krautrock singer's.  There were horns and very gothic songs and more krautrock.  Most of his stuff had a classical European music flavor with hints of middle eastern drones at the sides.  At the end he played a very Kraftwerk-sounding song followed by a doo wop cover(?).  Jeff Zagers keeps it together even when being all over the place.


When Russian Tsarlag was about to play I felt very ill at ease.  It seemed as if anything could and would happen.  We started off watching trailers of horror movies and then the TV changed to present a monologue about Russian Tsarlag presented by himself.  He entered the room in high heels, covered in what appeared to be melted plastic, and wearing a plastic bag for a helmet.  After doing a seemingly choreographed performance with golf clubs to spooky music that started off very dark, but transformed into an Ariel Pink-type of pop song with radio static in the background, Russian Tsarlag removed his "helmet" and spoke.  "You may wanna come in here, have a seat, get comfortable, uh, there's no need to be afraid.  As daunting as things my look this is actually a very flaccid performance you're about to see."  I was still not relieved, but whatever; he must have had a kind of ESP.


The mysterious visitor then told us of how he would present the Americana of Pittsburgh to us for his set and played another demented pop song, "Plastic Shock", a darker song with semi-buried vocals.  He played a frightening a capella version of "Poor Little Fool" by Ricky Nelson with some sort of octave effect and reverb afterward, sounding like a space alien.  Then we watched more TV, perhaps the method that he had studied our culture from his flying saucer (he claims to be from Florida, but who knows).  It wasn't real TV of course, but a tape to which Russian Tsarlag provided humorous comedy.  Bill Stevens, a friend of his with a face like a smashed, flesh-colored, deer skull, appeared and had a weird conversation with him.  The final song of Russian Tsarlag's set was another dark-pop masterpiece, "Down That Road".  Afterwards Russian Tsarlag disappeared into the night and flew away on the wings of a silent craft.

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