This elegantly European-looking collection of four pieces from five piece Khopek comes cloaked in pale blue mystery. The sleeve design and band name suggest a review in Wire. The presence of band member Mr. Zhelev from Vyborg, (Hanseatic City of Finnish/Karelian/Russian lineage), reinforces my assumption of exotic seriousness. Messrs Chisholm, Ovi, Lawton and Ambrose make up the full complement.
In the centre, there's a conventional guitar, bass and drums playing sweet tunes in a direct and industrious manner. On top and around this humdrum core, voices, constructed noises and found noises are added in productive and satisfying ways. It isn't leading edge, but it is commendably off-on-an-adventure to the more enticing places of pop creativity.
Others have done these experiments since at least the 1930s (granted, not with electric guitars). Khopek are doing them on their own behalf, and perhaps on behalf of cautious friends and audiences who feel that Radiohead have become a bit too avant garde for comfort.
The most successful departure from radio normality is "my soul" at track 2. A slightly out of tune piano is always a prelude to something interesting. And so it turns out - with some distant echoey voices intoning "save my soul" like cultish physicists in a dawn raid of on the BBC's radiophonic workshop. A big bass riff holds it together and there are plenty of other interesting noises.
The opening guitar phrase on the brief opener "dead in the morning" is a five note delight. This one will help to draw in the anxious seeker of familiarity's comfort. The sudden announcement of "within twenty minutes there are sirens" and a preliminary burst of noisological subversion shouldn't upset too much, and the lovely riff comes back to calm it down, albeit with the addition of a sudden noise like my virus checker swallowing iWorm again. I like this.
"Howl" at track three has overmuch recorded speech. It's significance doesn't obviously add more than a slightly alienated experience of edginess and alertness. In 2004 this is now too easy to achieve. It is becoming (if it hasn't already become) the leftfield version of the lead guitarist foot on the wedge monitor - an emblem, a mark of identity, rather than an achievement. The rising curve of the guitar/bass/drums tune is a little bit too pedestrian to compensate and we have something a little like a pale Constellation Records offshoot. So not quite as European as I had hoped. If you like the thoughtful dryness of bands like Last Night's TV or iLiKETRAiNS you are likely to find Khopek of interest too I should think.