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Russian Tsarlag Premieres "Open Air"

We chat with the Providence musician about his new record of lo-fi, droney folk.

by Noisey Staff
Sep 21 2016, 3:20pm

​This article originally appeared on Noisey Australia.​

Underground film maker, comic artist and musician Carlos Gonzalez, aka Russian Tsarlag, has returned with Unexplained American Goat, a new record of his unique lo-fi, droney folk and pop. Having released a car boot worth of cassette and vinyl records over his career, the Providence-based musician's last vinyl album was back in 2013 with Gagged In Boonesville on Not Not Fun. 

Whereas other releases have drifted in and out of a blunted haze, Unexplained American Goat, released on Brooklyn label Wharf Cat Record​s, sees Gonzalez recording with a lot more clarity. 

Made up of single-note guitar lines, bare vocals, simple drum-machine patterns and the occasional flourish of noise or keyboard melody, the eight songs on are a study in minimalist song craft. Listen to the song "Open Air," which, compared to previous Russian Tsarlag releases, almost sounds like a high end Beyonce production.

Noisey: "Open Air" is a really pretty song.
Carlos Gonzales: It's about a trip to a local drive-in that I took with a special person last year.

'Unexplained American Goat' is an interesting title. GOAT is often used as a sports acronym for 'Greatest Of All Time.'
The album is a collection of songs from three self released cassettes. The tapes are American Wipe Out, Unexplained Image, and Goat Man. The title is just a crude combination of those titles.

You came to Australia and New Zealand earlier this year. What was that experience like?
It was wonderful. We did a lot of camping and hiking. We played with some great bands like The Futurians, File Folder, Pumice, and the Breaking World Records family. Walking around a city like Christchurch at night, that looks so surreal after their earthquake five years ago, left a lot of strange images in my head.

What bands were you in while living in Bloomington?
Crotch Council, Bread Fangs, Hepatitis B Youth and DKG Sleep Trio

Why the moves from Tampa, to Bloomington and then Providence?
It's all just meeting people and feeling in touch with little communities. Tampa can be a pretty isolating place so going to these other places was just a way to see the other side.

Do you listen much to your back catalgoue?
No, I don't listen to too much or any of my early stuff. I don't hate it, but I guess I'd rather be listening to some of my friends' music or Royal Trux or something. I have a fond memory of a tape I released in 2010 called There's a Snake in My Cash Register. Maybe it holds up.


​'Unexplained American Goat' is available Oct14 via Wharf Cat.

Catch Russian Tsarlag with Jeff Zagers and Justin Clifford Rhody at these shows:
Oct 7 - Knoxville, TN at Pilot Light
Oct 8 - Chattanooga at Barking Legs Theater
Oct 9 - Memphis at Spottswood
Oct 11- Kansas City at Night Blooms Darkroom and Book Store
Oct 12 - St. Louis at Kerr Foundation
Oct 13 - Milwaukee at Green Gallery
Oct 14 - Chicago at The Archer Beach Haus
Oct 15 - Detroit at TBA
Oct 16 - Pittsburgh at TBA
Oct 17 - Buffalo at BA
Oct 18 - Providence at Tommy's Place
Oct 20 - Far Rockaway at Red Light District
Oct 21 - Philadelphia at Heaven's Gate
Oct 22 - Baltimore at Floristree
Oct 23 - Chapel Hill at TBA
Oct 24 - Savannah at Sulphur Studios

Tagged:
Music
DRONE
Noisey
punk
POP
Premiere
Folk
providence
Wharf Cat Records
Not Not Fun
Russian Tsarlag