These 6 Berlin-based musicians spent a large proportion of their lives in the USSR - that mythical and legendary place beyond the iron stage curtain where Gypsies sing of woollen boots, worshippers of Mammon decry broken hearts and glasses sing paeans to lost love. And where, what's more, the troubadour is an outlaw. Several band members have already caused a sensation in the Moscow underground scene. They immigrated to Berlin at the beginning of the nineties and have been enriching the Russian diaspora with various musical projects ever since. The multifaceted artist Irina Doubrovskaja founded ErsatzMusika in 2006, also writing the songs and lyrics for their debut album. Despite the remove from dub, urban folk, world, minimalism and balladeering at which ErsatzMusika stays, the group's music proves strangely familiar to audiences of these musical strains. Yet their music is not an eclectic lucky dip, but rather a collection of acoustic letters in a strange vernacular, a human-made-for-human ersatz for the sounds of information-age intercourse. It goes out with love...
"A very subtle yet striking album, wintry in colour yet warm and human in affection."
"Berlin based but Russian in soul, Ersatzmusika's Voice Letter is one of the most remarkable debut albums of recent years. The six piece band are fronted by Irina Dubrovskaja, a Ukrainian singer-composer-conceptual artist, and it is her warm, weary vocal that sets the tone for an album which reflects on life in the Soviet Union. Not that this is a nostalgia trip – anything but! – instead Ersatzmusika (named after the ersatz coffee they had to drink under communism) look at a fractured empire and its secret history: Considering they sing of the Gulags this is a history that Putin and co. are now trying to bury.
Ersatzmusika's distinctive, droning sound recalls Francoise Hardy’s finest 60s recordings. If Hardy had grown up on the Black Sea . . . The band operate on an off kilter tempo, often conjuring a Felliniesque fairground waltz tempo, never rushing songs, instead aiming for atmosphere while letting the lyrically beautiful songs drift past. Although all songs are sung in Russian the album’s sleeve carries translations of a few lyrics and as several appear to be adapted from poems they are quite mesmerizing.
Opening track, "Beside Myself To You I Came" finds Irina singing to friends who have left the former Soviet Union and resettled across the world (thus the Voice Letter of the album's title) while "Cranes" is based on a poem written by an anonymous Gulag prisoner who looks at the cranes flying past and attempts to send them mental messages.
Voice Letter is a very subtle yet striking album, wintry in colour yet warm and human in affection. It is also beautiful and haunting – and I don't speak a word of Russian."
01. Beside myself to you I came
02. He4y, Gngway!
03. The gold prospector
04. Still waters
06. Bevelled glasses
07. And why
09. Upon the earth
10. Tsaritsino station
11. The mushroom hunter
12. Eh, Kalina
13. Went and drank
14. How here's how
Irina Doubrovskaja - Keyboards, Accordion, Vocal
Leonid Soybelman - Guitar
Mikhail Zhukov - Percussion
Sergey Vorontsov - Bass, Guitar, Vocal
Igor Vdovchenko - Bass, Harmonica
Roman Bushuev - Drums