Morwan Svitaye, Palaye cassette

Kyiv-based MORWAN’s third release of post-punk/darkwave was recently made during the most challenging circumstances any band could face (for obvious reasons). This is Alex Ashtaui’s document of life during wartime, and for that reason alone, it should have your full attention. The record pounds an atmospheric, tribal, surf-inflected psych sound into each track, addressing war and the havoc that surrounds it.  The cassette needs to be heard in full, with each song building on the next. It is one of the more impressive pieces of music that I have heard this year. Start with “Полетіли” and “Земля палає,” and it’s hard not to see the importance of this recording.

Morwan Зола-Земля (Zola-Zemlya) LP

MORWAN is the solo project of Kiev-based artist Alex Ashtaui. My worry prior to listening to this was that it was gonna be more ’80s Eastern Bloc post-punk cosplay, Á  la MOLCHAT DOMA (whom I like, but don’t need more of!). This is resoundingly not that! Tonally, it’s not dissimilar—it’s definitely on the gothier end of the punk spectrum, and I can see TikTok teens co-opting snippets to soundtrack their #sovietvibes videos. But the sound here is much more organic and relies on post-punk as a foundation to build atop rather than a sound to emulate. Vocals are multi-tracked chants that echo as though recorded in some imposing brutalist atrium. The guitar and bass lines remind me of the surf/psych instrumentals coming out of Pakistan in the late ’60s (like the MODS or the PANTHERS), and the drum patterns are intricate to the point of sounding programmed (in that respect, it even reminds me of AMON TOBIN’s 2005 album Chaos Theory). All of these elements are extremely rhythmic yet are woven together to create a sound that’s overtly melodic and much warmer than you’d think given its “Eastern European Post-Punk” label. But maybe most strikingly, this album makes me want to move—not necessarily dance—just…move. Really, it’s hard to overstate how original this record sounds and just how impressive it is. Absolutely fantastic!