Penza Penza :: Neanderthal Rock

At a quick glance, Penza Penza might seem like a lost 70s Zamrock situation, and perhaps that’s exactly as Misha Panfilov would have it. The Estonian composer and multi-instrumentalist has proven tireless over the past few years—we took his 2021 earthy jazz masterpiece, Days as Echoes, recorded with the Misha Panfilov Sound Combo, for several spins around the orbit and have since savored his recordings with Gloria Ann Taylor, various one-offs and collaborations, as well as his forthcoming score for the animated film Sierra, the tastes from which have been a symphony of synth fantasias.

But Neanderthal Rock, the latest from Panfilov’s Penza Penza ensemble, is all dubbed-out funk and psychedelic fuzz. Raucous and slightly sinister, it flirts ever so slightly with his trademark library and space-age sounds, but more likely than not chooses instead to bury a synth under a lo-fi muddle of guitars, phasers, drums, and weird voodoo atmospherics. The album’s opening title track starts taking names right out of the gate and rarely lets up over its near seven-minute runtime. Elsewhere, “Stompin’ & Motorik’n” does just as advertised and does it on a technicolor dancefloor of no-fucking-around funk. And dig “Merman”—with its lion roar intro, pitched down evil laugh, and scorching sepia-toned guitar, it’s the biggest, baddest boogie in town and it’s looking for a fight. | c depasquale

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