Over ten years have passed since Pussy Riot’s inception, and the Russian activists are still using art and performance to call attention to ongoing oppression. Their new three-track EP PANIC ATTACK is another step towards liberation through expression.

Following the recent arrest of two Pussy Riot members and protests in support of Alexei Navalny, the artist-activist coalition is once again making the amplification of silenced voices their mission. 

PANIC ATTACK consists of three new songs taken from a forthcoming LP that expand on the group’s habitual sound. And it’s Nadya Tolokonnikova––the long-standing driving force of Pussy Riot’s musical wing––who’s leading the charge on this first taste of what’s to come.

‘TOXIC’, the three-way brainchild of Tolokonnikova, producer-extraordinaire Dylan Brady, and pop trailblazer Dorian Electra, sails deep into uncharted territory. The track foregoes the collective’s habit of grounding their art in direct references to political strife. Instead, ‘TOXIC’ veers into an exploration of human relationships, only obliquely addressing systemic repression. The slanted political commentary is somewhat a departure from the straightforward, factual accounts that make up the bulk of the group’s back catalog.

The guttural eruptions of ‘TOXIC’ are part of an act of resistance cemented by cutthroat lyrics. The urgency of “You balls meet my knee / Freedom, I’m craving / Dare to mansplain me” is impossible to ignore––try as one might. The track’s whirlwind is so disorienting it successfully sustains uncertainty as to whether Electra’s melodic pre-chorus and Brady’s schizophrenic production style are meant to soften the blow or, diametrically, to accentuate the beating. 

Far from the oscillation between abrasive saturation and ADHD-prone ecstasy, ‘SEXIST’ is much less reliant on contrast. The track meanders through whimsical chiming hallways without a clear anchoring structure. Discomfort lurks in the whispered delivery, centering a story entirely told in Tolokonnikova’s mother tongue with the help of fellow Russian artist HOFMANNITA. The dark tale of revenge rings like the death knell for sexual assault, deeply unnerving and equally necessary. 

‘PANIC ATTACK’ stretches the sound of Pussy Riot beyond the chills of ‘SEXIST’ and the onslaught of ‘TOXIC’. This guitar-driven 00s pop-rock jam shares ominous chimes with the former while still residing in an entirely different space altogether. Whereas ‘SEXIST’ thrived as an outlandish nightmare, the T.A.t.U.-reminiscent number is both grotesquely dreamy and gloriously haunting. The track reveals layer upon layer, never content with staying at any one place longer than it takes to get used to the surroundings. Ultimately the Aly & AJ-meets-Poppy sound of ‘PANIC ATTACK’ pans out remarkably well alongside the dizzying excesses of the Brady stamp on ‘TOXIC’.

Pussy Riot’s renewed interest in musicality is undoubtedly part of an ongoing effort to reach more and more people. If PANIC ATTACK is any indicator, the upcoming full-length project will double down on conversations the collective’s been having for a decade. The thrilling direction the music seems to be taking is the icing on a very heavy cake.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s