They hail from two ends of Eurasia — Novosibirsk and London — bringing a breath of fresh air. We will surely hear much more about them in the coming years, and we have no doubt they’ll visit us again.
There has always been a generation gap between older, younger, and “middle-aged” music consumers. However, it now seems to be the widest it’s been since the ’50s and ’60s, the times of “Elvis’ shockingly sensual hips” and the “mop tops from Liverpool.” Simply put, the older generation truly despises what the youth adores, and vice versa. Creating music with broader appeal is a formidable challenge. Yet genre scenes have never been more vibrant. Take metal or the darkwave-goth, for instance, so rich, encompassing both old and young, 60-year-olds and 17-year-olds, and all those in between, drawn to the same genre. It’s often best to follow your heart, make music that you love, and fall into a “niche” of passionate fans.
This is precisely what’s happening with the rapidly growing darkwave scene, where the latest stars, following the global breakthrough of Turkish She Past Away, Belarusian Molchat Doma (both bands performed at EXIT 2022), and German Lebanon Hanover, are Novosibirsk’s Ploho, which loosely translates as “Bad.” Led by the energetic and gloomy bard Viktor Uzhakov, they dominated Visa Fusion stage on the first day of EXIT Festival, guiding us through dark hits from “Gorod ustal“ to “Ne budem proshchatsya“ and compelling us to dance with tears in our eyes, as Ultravox once said. The deep darkness of the Siberian wilderness, combined with long winters and the urban alienation of a true metropolis, permeates each song, and Viktor’s voice seems to come “from beyond.”
As I’ve always said, there’s no excuse for lack of melody; Radiohead, Nirvana, The Doors, and Joy Division managed to create great ones, and so should everyone starting in music who aspires to “make it big.” Ploho are here to stay, increasingly mastering the art of writing catchy tunes that emanate genuine pain yet are technically polished to perfection. As their latest single says, “ne budem proshchatsya” – we won’t say goodbye. We are just getting to know each other.
Whatever Florence Shaw and her crew meant by “dry cleaning,” they’ve succeeded after only two albums. The British soul might experience and “cleanse” urban melancholy differently: no long winters with snow, just rain. There are no vast empty expanses once you leave the city; it’s one town after another, one village before the next — no place away from people: a true cacophony, the exact opposite of Siberian silence.
This is how we could describe the music of Dry Cleaning: controlled cacophony. Florence’s existential angst-driven depression is conveyed by her showing up dressed like a diva, striking a pose that somehow emulates both Lana Del Rey and Ian Curtis from Joy Division, and beginning her narration as if it’s all just a tad too tedious to recount, yet she speaks tirelessly. A very British attitude, upon reflection. Deep melancholy and sorrow conveyed through the grumbling of a beautiful woman who wonders, “What’s the point of all this everyday life?” But that’s just Florence.
The rest of the band delves into post-punk and shoegaze, creating a raucous dynamism reminiscent of Ride or the early Arctic Monkeys. Britain’s latest “musical prodigy” managed to close EXIT 2023 in the same way Ploho opened it, attracting fans of indie sound who aren’t afraid to say – there’s silence, grayness, and darkness within me, but I make noise so you can find me, and we can all embrace in this peculiar night of mixed emotions, ending this year’s program at the ever-magical Visa Fusion stage.
Written by: Žikica Milošević