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Culture Reviews
Krizis Janra 
By Alex Meredith
As Ipods, Kylie lingerie and the Novy Bolshoi prove, sometimes, less can indeed be more. The latest evidence in support of that ancient proposition arrived at Krizis Janra on Friday night in the form of UK hip-hop collective One-Self. Appearing without their main attraction, lead Yarah Brava, this relatively unknown group still managed to send the packed crowd into orbit with a sumptuous set of inventive tunes and an MC master class from Blu Rum 13.

Starting in the unfamiliar role upfront as a result of the group’s injury crisis 13 made it clear from the start that this was not going to be just a face-showing exercise. “What’s up Maaascaaaaw?!” he asked as if someone had dropped a speaker on his foot as he took the stage. Judging by the ecstatic roars back from the crowd, the only thing up was that they had been starved of One-Life for a little too long. Now they were baying for music like an angry mob.

The unruly audience were certainly not what you would get at Club XIII, and I guessed from the Ladas drawing up outside that Krisis Janra was going to be unfamiliar territory. For a man who has spent the majority of his Moscow nights surrounded by posturing and pretension, this Pokrovka cafe was the antidote to elitny Moscow that I needed. Admittedly there is face control, but they appear to be checking nothing more than the length of your stubble, allowing enough patchy beards inside to make up a Kurt Cobain convention. Stranger still, labels were being worn on the inside of clothes and try as I might I could only see one pair of sunglasses. When I resorted to the bar to gather my thoughts in these new surroundings, what did a find but Baltika on tap! Strange times indeed, and though the crowd was young and bouncing the shock of finding a group of revellers who had not simply come to check each other out took a little time to get over. The Student Union must have been having a quiet night, or perhaps the snow had got too much for the tree-huggers of Baikal. Either way, I was glad to be amongst them. Unlike the fashionistas, these clubbers knew there music and as One-Life burst into their opening rhymes they got on with what they had come to do – they moshed.

Thanks to the high quality of the stage output, on this occasion moshing came easily. Blu Rum 13’s voice combines the smooth reggae feel of Arrested Development’s Speech with an aggressive rapid-fire delivery of an early Eminem. Somewhat confusingly he also bears a visual resemblance to Snoop Dogg that almost demands a double take. Using these core virtues the American filled the gap left by his co-singer’s absence so comprehensively that had he not mentioned her absence, I would have presumed he ran the show. With frequent resort to the fans, the front man played the crowd, drinking in the atmosphere as enthusiastically as the inter-song cognac. It was a pleasure to behold.

When he did step aside, there were occasional musical interludes from DJ Woody. Woody’s adolescent looks were unfortunately matched by some amateur mixes but the change in tempo did at least keep the set varied. Hitting the decks also allowed One-Self’s trademark ragga and world music flavours to the fore. Subtly woven into the general hip-hop vibe, these fresh sounds were lapped up by the crowd adding an infectious quality to the music. Some bounced from the balcony, others swayed on the stairs whilst a full contact sport ensued down in the mosh pit. Whatever your viewpoint, One-Self was hitting the spot.

Behind the group, both on stage and off, is Russian born DJ Vadim who’s polished production gives the project an unusual feeling of consistency. Given the local connection, he could have perhaps expected the warm reception his band received. However, by the end of the gig I was in no doubt this reaction was richly deserved for One-Self are not the Friday night journeymen I had been expecting. Their sound is original, their performance exciting and even without the silky, seduction of usual lead Yarah Bravo’s voice then they are a truly high quality outfit. Next time they are in Moscow I recommend you ditch the razor, follow the beards and make sure you check them out.

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