Underground Sounds: Isa – The Sky in the Salty Wells

Label: Shadowplay Records (album released independently)
Band: Isa
Origin: Russia

It seems that Russian act Isa has now determinedly started to move away from their black metal sound on ‘Небо в солёных колодцах’, which translates as ‘The Sky in the Salty Wells’. Not only in sound, but also in artwork and track titles. From the first release onward, Isa numbered their tracks in a continuous sequence, stringing the songs on four releases together into one descriptive piece of art detailing the pastoral Russian country life.

Previous releases would feature covers with landscapes. An almost still life of rural life depicted on them. This record shifts to a new dimension, where it seems like the human aspect takes the forefront. The cover features a collage of images of people land and nature, cut and paste together in an odd manner. It feels like a logical next step in the career of this Novosibirsk band, who constantly amaze with their beautiful music.

The result is a shimmering, brooding record full of melancholy. It is as if the winter has covered all the land, all life, and passion submerged by the mercy of a white blanket over its soil. Warm tones creep by, never really taking on any sort of force. The drums sound muffled, buried in the music that flows like a warm bath. Noteworthy is the collaboration with Lesnoy Tanets on the track ‘Poplars’, where hushed vocals speak raspy words over

On ‘Blind Man’ it is as if an accordion is woven into the sound. It feels folky, but also hazy. Almost as if you’re listening to memories of the past in abandoned streets.  Yet, streets where only the ghosts of a better time dwell. The gentle murmurings never feel urgent. The music progresses slowly, which feels a lot like the daydreaming on a winters day, staring out over the frosty landscape. The melancholic sound of Isa is a mellow swamp of keyboards, guitars, and drums, all melting together. As a result, the music  becomes an immersive dream. Melancholic and cold, most noteworthy on ‘Singing Skyline’ with its wonderful intro, is a highlight.

Isa has made a remarkable new album and found a direction to explore musically. I’m keen to hear what new works may come in the future, but this one is a record to keep coming back to.

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