When we were admitted to the venue, the mere five tables arranged in the sizeable room made it clear some dancing was expected. The audience was only small, about thirty, but ten of these were up dancing for most of the show and that’s a decent ratio. This duo from St Petersburg performed almost non-stop for an hour and twenty minutes and the entire performance was impressively orchestrated. This wasn’t exactly show-business and apart from a brief greeting at the beginning and a quick mention of merchandise at the end, the performers didn’t address the audience at all.
The line-up consisted of tightly-played drums (Evgenii Bugaev) and synthesizer (Victor Volcovic). Victor also added added percussion on many pieces with particular emphasis on a booming tom-tom. There was a great deal of pre-recorded material and this covered many aspects of Russian history and culture, including snatches of religious choral work, ballads and opera, Swan Lake, a Russian version of ‘Stranger in Paradise’ as well as numerous spoken passages, none in English. The overall effect was often sombre but with those booming drums and the addition of a powerful bass track things got very funky at times. There were definite echoes of Basement Jaxx and this got those feet moving onto the dance-floor.
The backdrop to their performance was a non-stop series of seemingly random film-clips, courtesy of VJ Anton Chichenok and mostly in black and white, including images of traditional Russian dancers, fairy-tales and even Boris Yeltsin. The only apparent confluence between imagery and music was a series of ballerinas as Swan Lake played. There was a decent ripple of applause from the sparse audience in the very short gaps between sections of the performance and a good ovation at the end. And who could argue with that?
Oligarkh’s album Анатолий is available on iTunes, priced £7.11. Oligarkh played as Rich Mix as part of the ongoing cultural programme of concerts, performances, dance nights and talks at Dash Arts, Rich Mix, Bethnal Green.