Music

Zulya and The Children of The Underground: The Waltz

Zulya's voice is as silvery as ever, but now she has a better band, and racier, more multilayered tunes.


Zulya and The Children of The Underground

The Waltz of Emptiness (and Other Songs on Russian Themes)

Label: Westpark
US Release Date: 2005-12-01
UK Release Date: 2005-04-18
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

On the cover of her last album, elusive, Zulya Kamalova sat with a black towel wrapped around her chest, regarding the onlooker with the wary, haggard expression of a woman who has just been rescued, after delicate negotiations, from a hostile Turkish bath. On the cover of The Waltz of Emptiness (and Other Songs on Russian Themes) she's looking hip, she's standing on the platform of a railway station, and the wrap-around has been replaced with a leather jacket. Her blonde hair is groomed; she gazes thoughtfully off to the left. She has plans, she's deciding where to go next, she may have just missed her train.

Surely The Waltz of Emptiness must be fiercer than elusive, and more modern, to go with the leather jacket, the newly confident attitude, and the railway? Well, yes and no. The Children of The Underground are warmer and more exciting than her last band, and there are more fast-paced songs on this new release than there were on the old one, but at heart the music is the same. Her voice, while capable of going quickly when it wants to, still likes to move with the cradle-rocking lilt of a lullaby. It's no surprise that Putumayo put her on their Dreamland compilation for sleepy children. She can be simultaneously dreamy and meticulous, shaping each note with care and then drawing it out like a jeweller with a ball of ductile metal, leaving it firm from beginning to end.

Born in Tatarstan, a Russian republic at the junction of the Volga and Kama rivers, she migrated to Australia in 1991 and made a name for herself as a singer, winning a number of world music awards and releasing four albums: Journey of Voice, Aloukie, elusive, and now The Waltz of Emptiness. "She has traded in her trusty horse and is now travelling … on the incredible Moscow Metro," says the press release. "It is an album about home and homelessness; belonging and freedom; difference and indifference; public transport and walking alone." This is all in the lyrics, though, and if you don't speak Russian then you're not going to understand it without the printed translation in front of you. The music on its own doesn't say 'homelessness' or 'freedom,' or 'now I am walking alone,' although an introductory recording of an announcement from the Moscow Metro does make the point about public transport. The announcement leads, rather cleverly, into the sound of a door sliding shut, which then turns into an instrumental opening that mimics the clickety-click clickety-click beat of a train.

The music is sweet and loungey and quotes tunes that will easily be recognised as Russian -- there's a kind of Cossack-kick moment at the end of the first song, "Leaving," for example, and a circle dance coils and uncoils through "Does It Matter?" shrugging as it goes. "Green Storm" takes melodies from all kinds of places, sounding jazzy at one stage, then country, then like a tango. (The lyrics to this one are so engagingly nonsensical that I wish I could hear it in English: "A green blizzard was blowing - / Things were not good. / It covered us up completely. / We became green.") The second-last song, "No(t) Home" brings in a nine-man choir and rouses itself into the album's most stirring moment, a turbid roll of male voices. "Nevechernyaya" ends on a wistful note that floats and departs.

With each album her arrangements have grown more complicated and dramatic without ever completely straying from the territory she established on Journey of Voice, the simple spot of land that lies around her silvery, flexible tone. The band here is excellent, but, really, your enjoyment of this album will depend on your enjoyment of that voice. If you've heard it before and liked it then you should like this as well. If you haven't, then The Waltz of Emptiness (and Other Songs on Russian Themes) would make a good introduction.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image