Poostosh: Herbarium
Untime Records

Poostosh's latest outing is a wide-ranging, sometimes rag-tag collection by a Russian quartet (Mikhail Salnikov, Andrey Gavrilov, Andrey Kovalenko, Vitaliy Chaplin) that takes its music seriously while still leaving room for an occasional moment of cheekiness and mischief (cf. the tongue-in-cheek opener “Overjoyed to Hear the New Poostosh Album”). Issued on the band's own Untime Records label, Herbarium is so named to reflect the heterogeneity of the album's fourteen songs, the idea being that the tracks are like leaves, all sharing in certain qualities yet subtly different too (translated from the Russian, Poostosh itself means “uncultivated plot”); certainly there is no shortage of styles on offer, with the material drawing upon post-rock, ambient, electronica, dub, improv, and psychedelia genres. That difference applies to the group's production approach too, with some pieces coming to life as explorative jams and others meticulously assembled layer by layer.

There is some good material here. Pensive and dream-like, “Life As We Forgot It” documents the group's more serious side with a piano-centered meditation accompanied by guitar atmospheres, chiming bell melodies, and wind-like whooshes. Worthy too are the bucolic folktronic setting “Sasha,” “Birthnight,” a brooding electro-inflected meditation replete with e-bow, and “Swallowed by Untime, Vol.2 (live),” a soothing setting for pealing electric guitar and melodica. “La storia di un ragazzo che trovo' l'amore ma perse la testa” offers a refreshing change of pace in presenting a charming, light-spirited folk song performed by an imaginary busking trio of acoustic guitar, melodica, and accordion players. Predictably wistful and nostalgic in spirit, “The Meadow of My Infancy” stands out as a nice synth-heavy setting that evokes the carefree summer days of childhood, while “We'll Be Back” caps the album with a pretty piano-and-synth outro.

The album sometimes opts for a loose feel—too loose, some may feel—in its incorporation of free-floating improvs, such as the post-rock-styled “Leprechauns' Gang,” the meandering dub-rooted “Dreamers Who Are Brooders (Almost Live),” and “Rain Autumn DPRSSN,” a sleepy mini-jam rooted in laid-back funk and hip-hop rhythms, and the inclusion of a mildly interesting noise experiment such as “Corneal Abrasion” can render the hour-long album a hit-and-miss affair. It's a diverse and pretty good collection, then, if one whose impact is diminished on occasion by that somewhat loose feel.

October 2009