Sometimes one weird band leads you to an even better, weirder band. That’s what happened this week when we started looking into a Ukrainian band called DakhaBrakha, who have a show in L.A. next week (with Tuvan throat singers Huun Huur Tu, no less). DakhaBrakha describe their music as “ethnic chaos,” which sounded pretty promising — but it turns out that, although they’re a perfectly good band with a cool NPR Tiny Desk concert to their credit, they’re not that weird. Unique? Absolutely. But our minds were not blown — until we stumbled across a another project their cellist, Nina Harenetska, is sometimes part of, called the Dakh Daughters Band. We’ve been binge-watching their videos ever since and we’re still picking pieces of our brains off the keyboard.
Dakh Daughters Band is the product of Dakh Contemporary Art Center, a theater in Kiev. It’s seven actresses who also happen to be fantastic singers and multi-instrumentalists. Each song they perform is a mini-cabaret full of sung-spoken monologues, eerie Ukrainian folk harmonies, percussion, strings, stringed instruments turned into percussion, wailing, weeping, white face paint, moaning and gnashing of teeth. It’s like The Bacchae meets The Tiger Lillies meets Dead Can Dance, except even more awesome than that. Here’s their most famous video:
I mean, holy fucking shit, right? Just when you think, “OK, that one’s clearly the star of the troupe,” another one starts singing and steals the show. And then another. And another. They’re all amazing! How many kick-ass women are in the Ukraine?
As good as the “Rozy/Donbass” video is, clips of Dakh Daughters’ live performances are even more riveting. Prepare to witness the sexiest accordion-fueled murder ballad ever performed:
The Dakh Daughters started their self-described “freak cabaret” in 2012 as a one-night project for a performance in Paris. Apart from a bio on a website called What’s On Kyiv and a short Wikipedia page, very little has been written about them in English, so we don’t know much else about them, except that another of their members, Ruslana Khazipova, is in another Ukrainian band called Perkalaba, who play a sort of Ukrainian-gypsy version of ska-punk. And they’re playing Lyon, France in 2016. And we’re really fucking jealous of Lyon.
The Daughters’ latest music video is actually a cover of a Perkalaba song called “Zozulytsya.” In it, the girls seem to be trapped in some kind of cage in which they’re forced to play their instruments using household objects like wooden spoons and giant keys and whatnot. They’re also not wearing their trademark white facepaint, which I guess makes this their equivalent to KISS’ “Lick It Up,” only way less sucky. Give this one a few minutes; it builds. Oh, how it builds.
How do you say “crowdfunding” in Portuguese? Tribal-futurist electro-rock weirdos Blasted Mechanism have just launched a campaign on a Kickstarter-like Portuguese site called PPT to raise fan funding for their “eighth generation,” or “eighth album” as other, less tribal-futurist bands might call it. They’re hoping to rake in 8,000 Euros by Jan. 7th, 2014, so go visit their campaign page and give generously.
We probably should have figured this out back when we made them our Weird Band of the Week earlier this year, but apparently Blasted Mechanism totally reinvents their look with each album—hence the “generation” term. Past looks, as handily recapped in their PPT project video, include Mind at Large, Namaste and our favorite, the totally bonkers, Japenese-meets-Aztec (Japaztec?) superhero outfits from their fifth generation, Sound in Light. Actually, the costumes from each generation are pretty freaking cool—except maybe generation one, Balayashi, when they kinda looked and sounded like a bad Red Hot Chili Peppers knockoff. But hey, it’s cool. We all made bad style choices in the ’90s.
So what form will the eighth generation of Blasted Mechanism take? We’ll just have to chip in and find out.
This week’s weird band was suggested to us by a Facebook fan named João Nox, who we assume is from Portugal, because his name is João and this band Blasted Mechanism seems to be virtually unknown outside of Portugal. Which is a shame, because these guys fly a freak flag that should really be traveling in international waters. I’m not even sure what that means, but I haven’t had much sleep.
Blasted Mechanism have been around since 1996 and have played a lot of major European festivals alongside more famous band they charmingly misspell on their Facebook page: Pearl Jem, Linking Park. They’re a six-piece sorta electro-jam band with lots of dub/reggae and world music influences; one of the dudes plays djembe and didgeridoo, another plays a double-neck combination guitar/cavaquinho, which is a Portuguese cross between a ukulele and a mandolin. Except I think maybe they call it a Bambuleco or a Kalachakra or who fucking knows—a lot of their instruments are custom made so they can call them whatever they feel like.
Although their music sounds like a lot of fun live, what’s really more interesting about Blasted Mechanism are their costumes, which they’ve changed up many times over the years in an apparent attempt to discover the perfect combination of B-movie space alien, Aztec warrior, Mighty Morphin Power Ranger and Burning Man refugee. Here they are having fun with electroluminescent wire:
And here they are in perhaps their crowning achievement, an insane mix of gypsy-punk and peyote-fueled tribal freakout called “Battle of Tribes.”
Good shit, no? So thanks for introducing us to the weirdness of Portugal, João. Now what’s it gonna take for us to convince these guys to do a U.S. tour?
Mixing music styles is a tricky business. Do it well, and you can inspire entire new genres, i.e. Celtic punk (thank you, Pogues), ska-punk (nice one, Specials), and rap-metal (we forgive you, Rage Against the Machine). Do it badly, and you can sound like an unholy train wreck. Do it badly with world music, and…well, usually the results wind up sounding like something that plays in the background while you shop for dream-catchers and bath salts.
To their credit, no one would ever mistake Delhi 2 Dublin for New Age gift shop background music. That being said, we still can’t decide if they’re actually good or not. Let’s put it this way: They get an “A” for effort, and an “A+” for originality. It would be wacky enough if they just fused traditional Celtic music with Bhangra, a style of folk music from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. But no! These crazy kids—who are from Vancouver, of all places—decided to throw a little hip-hop, rock, reggae, dub and electronica into the mix, too. The results sound sort of the “Lord of the Dance” soundtrack as performed by Asian Dub Foundation and remixed by Fatboy Slim. Did that last sentence make any sense to you at all? Then we may have just found you your new favorite band!
Believe it or not, Delhi 2 Dublin actually isn’t the first band to do this sort of Celtic-flavored, pan-global hodge-podge. Afro Celt Sound System, among others, having been doing something similiar since at least the mid-’90s. But Dehli 2 Dublin earns a spot on our Weird List because there’s something about the way they approach their music that’s equal parts dorky and awesome. The video below, for example, is just crying out for an SNL Digital Short, don’t you think? And we mean that in a good way. They’re like the T-Pain of world music fusion.