My Woshin Mashin - Evil Must Die
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Record Label: Tame Corbie Records
I don’t often dabble in the musical realms of electronica or EDM as standalone genres. The core components of those musical forms—the pounding beats, the cascades of synthesizers, the flickers of auxiliary sounds all combined into a hurricane of slick production—are ingredients I love to see injected into other types of music, from mainstream pop to explosive hip hop. But for the most part, full albums featuring nothing but those feasts of dirty rhythmic sound are hard for me to stomach as cohesive structures. I can only handle so many minutes of pounding bass and fractured vocals before I long for something a bit more...conventional.
However, leaving aside the fact that I will always be more at home in a small bar with a lone acoustic troubadour than at a teeming club dominated by the sounds of a particularly diverse DJ, there’s something ridiculously enjoyable to me about the new album from My Woshin Mashin (yes, that’s a real band name), a German/Russian trio of talented musicians. On their second full-length, titled Evil Must Die, My Woshin Mashin cultivate everything from synthesized techno landscapes (opener “Riders on the Storm,” not a Doors cover) to jazz-injected pop (“Eli”). Vocal duties are shared by Bibi Tomlin (who sounds almost like a more exotic version of No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani) and Hugo Simons (who may or may not spend most of his time with a collection of Rammstein records). The combination may sound bizarre (after all, it does call to mind thoughts of both straight, female-fronted pop and German industrial metal), but it usually works. Tomlin gives the record its gravitational pull, slinging catchy melodies on nearly every track and giving the band's complex and ambitious musical arrangements a nice home base around which to revolve. Simons, meanwhile, bursts out of nowhere when you least expect him to, barking like Tom Waits here, roaring like a heavy metal singer there, and giving Evil Must Die a bizarre carnivalesque feel that boosts its overall personality significantly.
Tomlin’s blissful synth-pop opuses are the highlights of the album, as on “Babylon,” which radiates with laser-burst synths, a groaning, guttural guitar part, and atmospheric spoken word sections. While you won’t be able to understand her most of the time—even when she is singing in English—on this record, that doesn’t matter. Tomlin’s voice floats angelically above the expansive textures, expressing feelings and sentiments as an instrument that we don’t need lyrics or explanations to understand. The band has gone on record to classify Evil Must Die as an album about the breakdown of the modern world, and you can hear both mournful strains and a hope for better days in Tomlin’s voice, whether she’s aided and abetted by electronic vocal layering (see the Muse-esque “Smell of Love”) or belting her way through the purest pop song on the record (the Caribbean-tinged, horn-laced “Betelgeuse"). The instrumental hook of the latter even goes as far as to recall "Dancing Queen"; how much more hopeful can you get?
Simons is a nice foil for Tomlin, his raucous bellows punctuating and paralleling her angelic croons with poetic intensity. When the two team up—as on the pulsing “We Are What We Eat”—he mirrors her angelic purity with underbelly filth, and we’re given a glimpse into the expanse of the human condition that this record so wants to illuminate. When Tomlin and Simons collaborate this closely, there's a terrific balance between the evil of unbridled greed and the perfection of selfless love. But when Simons gets a track to himself—as with the late album misfire “Vodka”—it doesn’t work. Alone, Simons’ vocals are grating and punishing, and they derail the album’s dance-floor luminescence with generic swings toward something more “hardcore.” Luckily, the rest of the record doesn’t make the same mistake. Tomlin is My Woshin Mashin’s secret weapon, and on Evil Must Die, the band seems to recognize that, from the album’s first moments right to the haunting, percussive, bell-laden finale that is “Bradbury.”