Wharf Cat Records presents underground legend Carlos Gonzalez aka Russian Tsarlag's Unexplained American Goat, his first full-length release since 2013's Gagged in Boonesville (Not Not Fun) and the Russian Tsarlag/Secret Boyfriend split (Hot Releases) from the same year. Over the past few years, Gonzalez has been touring the United States and New Zealand, refining the songs that comprise this new release.
Constructed of single-note guitar lines, unadorned vocals, simple drum-machine patterns and the occasional flourish of noise or keyboard melody, the eight songs on this record are a study in minimalist song craft. And while these arrangements might not surprise fans of past Russian Tsarlag live shows and recordings, there is undoubtedly a new focus on clarity with Unexplained American Goat. For one, Gonzalez's vocals are starkly recorded and laid bare for the listener in a way they have not been in the past.
The B-side even opens with the arresting a cappella "Screaming in a Car." And the closer, "On The Way," features Gonzalez's vocals accompanied only by single-string guitar line fluttering with echo. "Along the Way" in particular feels like Gonzalez's most accomplished anti-anthem yet - the narrator describes existence as a lowlife gambler and resolves to pull the ripcord on a life where "each moment seems to bring more pain."
Heavily detailed and stripped down to their bare essentials, these eight tracks reward repeated listens and are sure to satisfy rabid Tsarlag fans and new listeners alike. Mastered by Carl Saff.