Who or what Sobaki Tabaka is, is shrouded in a peculiar air of mystery. Their Bandcamp page says they’re from Lausanne, Switzerland. Their older album and song titles are written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Their name translates to “dog tobacco” in Russian, whatever that means.
Whatever Sobaki Tabaka are, their latest remix album, XX-XXIV is a massive trove of experimental dance/techno/industrial music that at 26 tracks and 145 minutes spans a massive range of post-modern electronic music. Without knowing too many unnecessary details, this feels like a re-imagined career retrospective given a once-over.
After spinning this album a few times, the fact that I don’t really know who or what the hell Sobaki Tabaka are only enhances the appeal. I feel myself constantly drawn into an imagistic world full of damp clubs in dank parts of town that still shows the scarred over signs of wartime ruin. Like the best of their particular blend of genres, a ghoulish air of nihilistic decadence hangs over everything, suggestive that this is the soundtrack for humanity standing at its teetering brink of mutation.
As advertised, XX-XXIV is a remix album. Now, I’ll come right out and say, I’ve never heard any of the source material, so my exposure begins here. The first stretch of tracks is brimming with menace, featuring full on, full-throated, black metal vocals and savage guitar work. There are bleak industrial soundscapes underlying these tracks, and the result tends toward mind bending, or crushing, depending on your disposition.
Sobaki Tabaka have been making music since 1997. In that time, they have crafted a bleak string of full length records. In spite of consistent recording, however, they have managed to remain deeply underground, presumably honing slurries of disillusioned theories and apocalyptic visions in the shadows to throw down on wax.
As XX-XXIV reveals to those of us who have chosen to dwell out here on the surface, Sobaki Tabaka are crafty. Their sound is detailed and very focused. The dance and electronic beats are crisp and satisfying with a mature approach to industrial. There is a sage note struck throughout, drawing comparisons to bands like Depeche Mode, KMFDM, and in places, The Orb. There are moments on this record, albeit few, that spring from a more divine daydream and immersive meditation. Mostly on the second half of the album, the crushing guitars and blood-curdling yawps disappear, replaced by atmosphere and mood that any one of their influencers would swim in.
What the hell is dog tobacco? I don’t know. I don’t care. I am comfortable, happy even, to imagine it pulsing somewhere dark on the border between war-torn reality and the warming hush of a nightmare.