Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Gulag Tunes - Surf Instro Versions Of Russian Traditional Jailhouse Songsdotdotdotdot
artworkWhat a cool concept. Ever since I heard The Fat man and Team Fat cover the "Volga Boatman," I thought Russian prisoner and work songs would be great to cover in the surf idiom. Gulag Tunes prove the point. Superb!
Picks: Free Flying Birds, Stop That Train (I Wanna Get Off), Tagunca (Old Moscow Jailhouse), 'Vurkuta - Leningrad' Express, Uncle Ivan's Cherry Garden, Kolyme, Limunchiki, Kyev and Varanezh, New Pub On Deribasovskaya, Cigarette Stub (From White Kulyme Hell), Two Punks Escape From Prison In Odessa, Bublichki, Night Lights, Gop-So-Smykom (Natural Born Thief), Pigeons Flying Over Our Jail, Night Lights

Track by Track Review


Free Flying Birds dotdotdotdot
Surf Surf (Instrumental)

Pulsing rhythms and reverb play a sad song with that uniquely durable Russian fatalism. The song is quite lovely, and the the arrangement very charming.

Stop That Train (I Wanna Get Off) dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This song has a wonderful warmth, a heart with deep soul. The panned guitar drama bridges are very cool, and the overall production very complimentary. The rockabilly beat adds a sense of travel.

Tagunca (Old Moscow Jailhouse) dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

the warmth of the surf idiom contrasts well to the theme of the song. There's a kind of imaginary hope in the sound, and a haunting in the arrangement. Very soothing.

'Vurkuta - Leningrad' Express dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

With an eastern European rock sound via the shimmer of tremolo and echo delivers a sad melody with a very memorable riff. Wonderful richness and crisp production.

Uncle Ivan's Cherry Garden dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

With a touch of "Secret Agent Man," this song has a happy infectious sound, even though it's a bit fatalistic. Really nice!

Kolyme dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Kolyme" employs dark surf rhythms, whammified danger, and moody ambiance very effectively. It's very pretty in a profoundly sad way. I like this a lot.

Limunchiki dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Echoed guitar and a very cool backtrack are well synced in a highly rhythmic way. This is an extremely lovely and infectious track, somewhat reminiscent of a few of the Ventures Japanese instros, only more emotional.

Kyev and Varanezh dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Kyev and Varanezh" is a pretty and gently moving track. I'm not sure why, but it doesn't grab me like the rest of the tracks here.

New Pub On Deribasovskaya dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Murky double picking a la balalaika gentle introduces this sad song with a quiet drama. Once the song arrives, it becomes rhythmic and infectious, while also being somewhat apathetic about any improvement in life's lot.

Cigarette Stub (From White Kulyme Hell) dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

With a spy rhythm and ringing chords, "Cigarette Stub (From White Kulyme Hell)" is a gentle and passive song with a very haunting guitar line. The round soft tone of the guitar adds to the sense of subtlety, and the melody is sad, yet very comfortable.

Two Punks Escape From Prison In Odessa dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

An infectious near-ska rhythm and a very nicely echoed guitar combine in a romping adventure. "Two Punks Escape From Prison In Odessa" is an optimistic song of freedom's flight. It captures your soul and makes you empathize with the escapees. Very cool.

Bublichki dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Dark drama is conveyed via the guitar's tone, and the glissandos add a sense of danger more than surf. "Bublichki" is a string track with a cohesive emotional sense.

Night Lights dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A gentle flow and rhythm capture your imagination as "Night Lights" plays. Its infectious rhythm and the melancholy nature of the melody are well paired, creating a well crafted arrangement that keeps your attention. Very nice.

Gop-So-Smykom (Natural Born Thief) dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Gop-So-Smykom (Natural Born Thief)" is a bouncy almost rockabilly instro with a rolling beat and gypsy heart. melancholy for sure, yet somewhat happy for the moment.

Pigeons Flying Over Our Jail dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This song has a great dark rhythm and beat, and haunting guitar with rich tone and perfectly suited echo. The rhythmic nature of the backtrack keeps you moving forward with the advancing melody line. "Pigeons Flying Over Our Jail" captures and keeps your attention. Soothing and open road cool.

Night Lights dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Well, this version of "Night Lights" is very well named. Its lumbering gate and old world rhythm portray Vodka soaked closing time. Too fun.