Belarusian cold wave trio Molchat Doma had a breakthrough year in 2020, as their first two albums were reissued by Sacred Bones and their song "Sudno (Boris Ryzhy)" became a surprise hit through the power of social media. They were set to make their North American touring debut when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing them to stay in Minsk, their hometown, and finish working on their third album. Just as second album Etazhi was a step up from the band's murky debut S Krysh Nashikh Domov, in terms of both recording fidelity and songwriting, Monument sounds much brighter and more polished, and contains some of their most hook-filled songs to date. It's also more overtly danceable than their earlier records. Etazhi flirted with dark new wave funk and contained a song about dancing to escape one's troubles, and the best tracks on Monument go further in this vein. The album opens with "Utonut'," a dramatic disco tune that almost sounds like the band's attempt at making Latin freestyle, complete with orchestra stabs, busy drum programming, and glittery yet aching synth melodies. The nearly Hi-NRG "Discoteque" is about dancing rapturously and not caring about what happens later. After a vibrant instrumental bridge with a trace of vocoder, the track ascends to a higher level during the final chorus. A more spiffed-up version of their 2019 single "Zvezdy" appears, upgrading from rough, demo-like sound quality to clearer, less reverb-saturated production, and with a more emotive performance by lead vocalist Egor Shkutko. The late-night sophistication of "Ne Smeshno" (with its bitter, nearly howled chorus) and "Leningradskiy Blues" (containing the album's most haunting guitar lines) leans a bit closer to David Sylvian's group Japan. As with the band's other albums, Shkutko's poetic Russian lyrics describe disenchantment and profound emptiness, and the music brilliantly illustrates this despondency in a spirited, even assuring way.
by Paul Simpson