Insignificance, the second LP from Brooklyn’s Barbez, bears the heft of a Russian classic with a tragic heroine on vox and allusions to old bloc musical standards, updated with beats from a modified Palm Pilot. Barbez’s Dostoyevscore, dense and dusky, is fit for both Tonic and the public-library reading room. But not even Oprah could make me finish Anna Karenina. Despite its dampened beauty and heroism, Insignificance could stand a little annotation.
Part I: In “As for the Little Grey Rabbit,” the drums hover like cataracts and the guitars squeal in anguish, threatening to overtake the Dynasty. Ksenia Vidyaykina mopes like an heiress who’s just blown her fortune, but she also trills.
Part II: “Fear of Commitment” and “Song of the Moldau” treat Eastern Euro folk with dubplate rhythm. Theremin player Pamelia Kurstin is introduced as new feminine foil. The prodigious sprite—seen in the documentary
Moog—forges a mysterious subplot with woozy tones to soundtrack an elegiac dream sequence. Traditional ballad “The Sea Spread Wide” is pure bildungsroman: a voracious spat and rant that quickly quiets—spiritual growth for a band that switches between Sabbath and Satie.
Part III: “Pain” is 10-plus minutes of ambling, tinkling, and thumping in Sisyphean circles. Vidyay- kina bellows through “Like Snowflakes, Some Sort of Red” before her words bleed beneath unrepentant guitar noise.
Insignificance murmurs to its melancholic conclusion beneath the freeze of Satie’s “Gnossienne #3.” The End.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 13, 2005