When a soul producer and a schoolteacher combine to form a Russian-influenced electronic album, the results are bound to be interesting. But in the case of the Polyamorous Affair, the results are actually good, channeling not only their Russian inspiration. Comprised of husband-and-wife Eddie Chacon and Sissy Sainte-Marie, the duo has now issued their second release, Bolshevik Disco.
While the concept of a Bolshevik Disco may carry certain expectations, the Polyamorous Affair has clearly been flirting with influences from many cultures. The interplay between Chacon’s subtly glam voice and Sainte-Marie’s frosty, spacey one often evokes Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s collaborations. There are other glam elements as well, such as the cover of “Satellite of Love.” Never mind that it’s stripped of its glamour and has become a distant, alienated version of the song; Sainte-Marie’s delivery brings out much of the alterity often buried in the original version.
The album kicks off with a distorted countdown “The Interrogation (Intro)” and then launches into “Face Control”, a reference to the generally Russian practice of screening nightclub patrons for their attractiveness. The lyrics reveal as much: “When you’re in Moscow / You have to pass face control to get into the nightclub”, intones Sainte-Marie, sounding like a nondescript telephone operator as otherworldly swirls form the bed of music behind her.
“White Hot Magic” is a special highlight, namely for its skillful Vocoder usage and for Sainte-Marie’s breathy vocals. This song also has a deliciously retro feel that recalls the glory days of synthpop. Another clear highlight is “New York City”, a perfect sonic capsule of loneliness. Somehow Chacon sounds a bit like Marianne Faithfull on this song, lamenting of various cities “They’re just hollow / Without you around”. Sainte-Marie provides a counterpoint as she details her own loneliness, sounding bored with traveling the world. The penultimate track, “You Are”, is one of the most distinctive tracks on the album, again featuring the duo trading off on vocals. Exquisite rhymes take hold here (“You are my rag doll / My favorite place to fall / You are my wrecking ball”) as the song manages to perfectly encapsulate the tumultuous, fickle nature of love.
There’s plenty of variety among the other tracks as well. “Fashion” is a fantastic tongue-in-cheek dance anthem, Chacon singing, “Push your fashion to the limit” while background girls harmonize “It feels good / It feels right”. “In Love” is not the strongest track, but it works hard for the album and helps underscore one of the album’s many themes: the ambivalence of love. Most of this is accomplished by Sainte-Marie’s delivery; even when she proclaims love as liberator, she doesn’t sound free from her own internal strife. “Eastern” is a fine dance number, but adds little to the album conceptually. The final track, “The Fader” has a bubbly sound not heard anywhere else on the album, and it’s plenty catchy. Chacon takes on the heavy breathing that Sainte-Marie dishes out on “Eastern”, the rhythmic sighs working overtime to craft this song.
Bolshevik Disco is a fun album that’s well worth listening to, not only for the quality of the individual elements, but for the way they come together in perfect synergy.
// Notes from the Road
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