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The Moscow trio A Rifle Surprise are allegedly named after a magazine article found by one of the band members. It tells of two soldiers, close to death from constant, bloody combat. Each has a single bullet left in his rifle; in a final moment of desperation, the two men shoot at each other - simultaneously. The bullets meet in midair, canceling each other out. Both soldiers survive; hence the surprise!

Were we looking (really hard…) for a segue from that story into a brief outline of the band and their initial discography, no doubt metaphorical parallels could be drawn between the “similarly dramatic” generic or structural “confrontations” in the work of A Rifle Surprise, namely their attempts to bring the angular forms of math rock to Russian shores - in English.

These attempts to push the envelope of Russian rock have been ongoing for almost three years - together with rigorous daily rehearsals - all in the name of some elusive, contrary style that the band calls “something between post-hardcore and the mazes of prog-rock…” Getting breakfast airtime will not be easy. Asymmetrical time signatures do not sit well with the simple rhythms of “cornflakes-into-mouth-while-still-hungover.”

Elsewhere, when directly confronted on the issue of whether they see themselves as exponents of math rock in the classic sense, the trio reply: “Math rock tries to express simple ideas in complex forms… or, in a much more banal sense, it’s rock that uses difficult meters.” The daily rehearsals are designed to employ these signatures in the name of stylistic brinkmanship, bringing incompatible elements together. Day after day, attempting increasingly bizarre chord changes as they go, ARS are the embodiment of brave novelty at the expense of one’s bank balance. First-hand experience of these valiant efforts can be garnered for free. The band’s debut EP, “Trine,” can be downloaded, it’s currently being given away at concerts, too. Whatever money is made from people who’d rather pay for the EP on a nicely-decorated disc goes straight back into pressing more CDs. Profit is non-existent.

The rewards they reap are therefore critical, so to speak, rather than fiscal. “The recordings,” claim the band with justifiable pride and accuracy, “are getting some pretty good reviews from overseas listeners. So far we’ve been able to share a stage with outfits like Silence Kit, Foojitsu, Plokk, Explosions in the Sky and others. ”

Hence the resulting conservatism of Russian mainstream, playing exclusively and endlessly for the same audience - and, as a consequence - the increasingly complex, “mathematical” efforts to break free. Ne’er the twain shall meet.


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