Russian Tsarlag Open Minimalist Wonderland of ‘This Box’
When he's not drawing epic sci-fi comics or shooting experimental VHS flicks, Carlos Gonzales assumes the identity of Russian Tsarlag, a tape wizard with the uncanny ability to speak volumes without saying much. Armed with a sparse toolkit comprised of piano, guitar, drum machine, occasional FX and little else, the Providence-based artist constructs ambient soundscapes that somehow manage to overwhelm the listener slowly and steadily, like quicksand. Like his fallen idol, Suicide mastermind Alan Vega, Gonzales finds beauty in sonic disaffection, expressing his existentially angst-ridden aesthetic through experiments in drone, folk and, occasionally, oddball pop — most recently on 2013's endearingly dirge-y Gagged in Boonesville LP.
Three years after dropping that album, Gonzales has resurfaced with its follow-up: American Goat, a long-gestating, eight-track release due out one month from today on Wharf Cat. Less a conventional album than a soundtrack for strolling through some barren labyrinth, Russian Tsarlag's latest picks up where the last LP left off, leading us from one cramped, unsettling soundscape to the next. And here's the scary part: It's actually kind of relaxing. Don't believe me? Check out "This Box," a fresh cut from the record that's as alluring as it is (deceptively) abyssal, and just try not to get sucked in. I dare you.
RUSSIAN TSARLAG, AMERICAN GOAT TRACK LIST
1. "House of Souls"
2. "This Box"
4. "Nebraska Girls"
5. "Screaming in a Car"
6. "Open Air"
7. "Unexplained Image"
8. "Along the Way"
RUSSIAN TSARLAG on TOUR
Oct. 7 — Knoxville, TN @ Pilot Light
Oct. 8 — Chattanooga, TN @ Barking Legs Theater
Oct. 9 — Memphis, TN @ TBA
Oct. 11 — Kansas City, MO @ TBA
Oct. 12 — St. Louis, MO @ Kerr Foundation
Oct. 13 — Milwaukee, WI @ Green Gallery
Oct. 14 — Chicago, IL @ TBA
Oct. 15 — Detroit, MI @ TBA
Oct. 16 — Pittsburgh, PA @ TBA
Oct. 17 — Buffalo, NY @ TBA
Oct. 18 — Providence, RI @ Tommy's Place
Oct. 20 — Far Rockaway, NY @ Red Light District
Oct. 21 — Philadelphia, PA @ Heaven's Gate
Oct. 22 — Baltimore, MD @ Floristree
Oct. 23 — Chapel Hill, NC @ TBA
Oct. 24 — Savannah, GA @ Sulphur Studios