Rather than being ‘real’ Russians per se, Actual Russian Brides are in fact a Sydney-based electronic pop duo who first formed in Berlin back in 2009 whilst working on a Severed Heads cover for an upcoming Clan Analogue tribute collection, composed of Elena Knox (vocals / lyrics) and Lindsay Webb (electronics / production). The twelve tracks that comprise this debut album ‘Miss Sled’ on Berlin label Brigade Music see ACB pursuing a moody, noirish take on stripped-back electronic pop that draws just as much upon glitchy IDM influences as it does more mainstream synth-pop. Throughout, there’s a curiously unsettling cinematic atmosphere in place on many of the tracks here, with opener ‘Puppet’s weaving cut-up vocal elements and drum textures into a spidery broken rhythmic bed, the sparse snares tracing a path beneath Knox’s obsession / possession-themed vocals as distant icy synth pads murmur in the foreground, adding to the sense of coldly gliding motion.
‘Oscillating’ meanwhile sees Knox’s detached-sounding multitracked vocals wandering through a forest of clicking, stripped-down beats and eerie ambient hums, as almost clinical-sounding analogue synth keys flicker like ghosts at the very edges of the mix. Elsewhere, ‘The Shackup’ sees Knox dropping a more hiphop-influenced vocal style that’s no less icy during the chorus sections as gauzy-sounding synth pads and clicking drum machines glide airlessly beneath the twinkling melodic elements that float throughout, before ‘Blame It On The Rain’ sees the Milli Vanilli song reworked into a creepy downbeat electronic ballad complete with gothy synth-ambient overtones, that’s easily one of the most unexpected moments to be found here. While I couldn’t help but feel that some of the more spoken word-oriented vocals occasionally sat slightly awkwardly amidst the more stripped-back electronic production, ‘Miss Sled’ is a strong debut album from Actual Russian Brides that’s well worth investigation.