What does a song say when it has no lyrics? I had this question on my mind this week as I listened to Russian band Jet Plane’s EP “Pipe Dream.” Hailing from Bryansk, Jet Plane is composed of five members: guitarists Sergey Sapunov and Maxim Berezko, Dmitriy Bulavincev on drums, bass player Konstantin Kiselev, and Igor Zyuzko, who plays violin, bagpipes, piano, and a Swedish string instrument called the nyckelharpa. Zyuzko’s multi-instrumental prowess allows them to combine folk sound with rock, creating the post-rock genre they play in. However, the band doesn’t let lyrics or genres define their songs, but rather they wish for listeners to imagine for themselves what each of their songs mean. They must listen for what the music makes them feel.
This idea is prominent in “Pipe Dream,” the band’s third album to date. In a post on their Bandcamp website concerning this album, they write, “This album’s mood, emotions and imagery have been inspired by events going on around us – in the here and now. Beautiful airy tunes entwine into an atmosphere of tension and dismay, ethereality and featheriness are followed by a vibrant crescendo. Peace and harmony seem a pipe dream; but it has long been considered just as inapproachable for a man to hit the skies and fly. So let us dream.”
I’ll admit this review was challenging to write. I don’t have an extensive musical background outside of a year of band class and a college class I was required to take, so when I started writing for Creative Control, I focused on lyrics and any other traits I could clearly define. This made writing about music easier. Even so, what makes “Pipe Dream” a harder EP to describe is its lack of lyrics and open nature. There’s no single answer to these songs’ meanings—you have to figure those out for yourself. Thus, I decided to talk about some of their songs, explaining how I heard them. I wanted to go over what I imagined and felt as these songs played. My thoughts may not be the same as everyone else’s, but this was Jet Plane’s intention.
The EP opens with an eight-minute piece called “Roots.” It starts with low guitar strums that sound melancholic. Listening to it makes me feel sad and I reminisce on all the times I’ve struggled in my life. Honestly, it’s not a great feeling, even now, but as in the life, the song changes. With each passing minute, there is a rise in pitch that makes me a bit hopeful. Violin joins the mix and increases this hope, generating a magical, uplifting sensation. There’s even a sparkling sound effect. I remember all my struggles, but I also remember how I got out of them. It took hard work and left scars, but I eventually broke free. The song reaches its climax with a loud, energizing feeling that causes me to imagine standing on a mountaintop, watching the stars and colors in the night sky. I see my triumphs, knowing that while struggles will return, I can overcome them just like all the rest. This is such a powerful song, giving you a small taste of Jet Plane’s magnificent, musical ability.
The next song I wanted to discuss is “Voicegame,” which is where I think Zyuzko’s talents shine the most. It opens with what sounds like the band preparing to play, turning on an amplifier and shuffling about. As they set off into the song, however, the background noises continue. I heard the scribbling of a pencil, followed by something spraying from a can. Perhaps it was hairspray or deodorant? The noises are drowned out at some point by hard guitar, but then another strange sound is added to the mix. I hear what seems like a woman’s voice singing, which seems strange as Jet Plane is purely instrumental. Later, I realized this woman was actually a violin, played in such a way it imitated a singing voice. This is extremely clever on Zyuzko’s part because I imagined there was a woman in the recording studio. The life he breathes into his instrument displays how powerful sound is. While some people might see the violin as just a wooden instrument, others hear the dulcet tones of a young woman.
Finally, we come to my personal favorite, “Under an Atomic Sky.” There are several other great songs on this EP I believe everyone should listen to, but this song’s sounds and ending make it stand above the rest. It opens with a techno sound generated from piano keys, soon accompanied by guitar, drumbeat, and violin. The images that filled my head during this song were sad, yet cosmic. At first, I saw stars and comets shooting across the sky, but this didn’t feel right. The space in my head didn’t encompass this song’s sad tones. The song grew sadder, reminding me of a strange, animated music video from the 80s. It was so strange—I just couldn’t determine what this song was saying to me. There was sadness, along with a strange emptiness and dread. Then, I heard a man’s voice speaking. It was an old recording that seemed like it was first said on an old radio broadcast. I couldn’t help but research the quote, and when I found it, my eyes widened, realizing what my brain was trying to imagine.
The quote was by Robert Oppenheimer, an American physicist and the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, and he was speaking about his feelings during the Trinity explosion, the US Army’s first test of a nuclear weapon. I didn’t understand immediately what the music was making me feel, but I imagine those feelings were similar to the ones felt by everyone who watched the detonation. A barrier had been broken and a new path was available. The US had a great chance to take down their enemies and end World War II once and for all. Although, it was clear this was a power not so easily controlled. This weapon had the power to obliterate everything and everyone in its path. This power was terrifying, but there was no turning back.
It’s amazing what music can make a person feel, especially when that feeling is different from everyone else’s. A few keys played on a piano might simply sound like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to one person, but another might imagine the cosmos, the very depths of space. We have the capacity to imagine anything, but music has the power to influence what we imagine, causing us to contemplate the deepest questions about the universe.