Providence’s Russian Tsarlag (alias Carlos Gonzalez) writes festering, cinematic swathes of synth pop. Indeed, with its cavernous drum machine loops, chorusy two string guitar sway, and detached mumble-singing, the title track of Gagged in Boonesville could easily score the denouement of an 80s teen movie (if, as the girl turns to kiss the boy, his face is dripping off and his voice is a tongueless choke).
The entire record hovers in murky lower registers at vapid tempos, a soft but constant weight pressing down. Gonzales fixates on shifting two chord progressions like dragging footsteps, full of common tone drones, as if “Heroin” was written in withdrawal during the Glasgow epidemic. The record “tells the sordid tale of a tenement apartment building whose residents are mentally poisoned by an ancient poster of Medusa haunting the basement,” and the pace and tonal color provide the perfect setting for these inner-voice ruminations. Gagged in Boonesville is the mind in a vacuum, endlessly spiraling in on itself; the time warp separating closed eyes from sleep.
But the record, despite these dark overtones, does show some warmth. The synth in “This Waltz” opens out like an 8-bit church organ, Gonzales leading the even chanting of an invisible congregation. The warm synth strings on “Become Solid” break the streak of two chord cycles (by adding a third!), a candle-lit meditation while smashed sentient electronics repeat the title mantra. The analog breaths are a welcome sonic respite, especially the tinny upright piano in “The Island of Lost Souls” and the flashes of found sounds at the seams of songs.
Gagged in Boonesville is immediately non-threatening in its near stasis, but it slowly grows and smothers you, a sinkhole into the vastness of the earth. Stream the first track below, and then buy the LP from Not Not Fun.