Momentum is so crucial. It’s so easy to just stop and stick to the ground and become overwhelmed with futility in all its senses. When Russian Tsarlag (a.k.a. Carlos Gonzalez) first hits the ears, it’s like a slow, thick, boggy lap that barely registers, until it recedes and leaves its indelibly mucky trace. It paints your head with globs of disaffection and stagnancy, but patiently drips down the brain, tickling out a dim yet potent sort of rapture. Much like Harmony Korine’s Gummo, Tsarlag’s Gagged in Boonesville is a sour, depleted place to spend one’s time. But both environs have their worth in a broad, vexing landscape such as ours.
As opposed to the adroit shock of watching a car wreck, sometimes we can’t help but mindlessly oogle half-flattened roadkill tire-grafted to a discarded Icee cup. There’s something to be said for disaffection when it’s this lucid. Boonesville, though made up, is almost aromatically real when you listen to these songs. The lyrics aren’t always discernible, but the fetid setting is nonetheless vividly rendered. It’s the rare concept album where the melodies take a back seat to the themes presented. As on other albums, Gonzalez seems to use notes like plastic icicles on barbed wire. They don’t engage so much as logily tote you along through garbage-strewn corridors, infecting your bloodstream as you pass. The horror is generally muted, and the hooks only dangle lifelessly as you pad around the dilapidated locale.
Fifteen or so albums into a long sojourn with these dreary spells, Russian Tsarlag has remained resolutely hermetic in vibe. There is very little crossover potential for the music he makes, but its intensely lived-in quality alone can overwhelm one into submission. The peculiar numbness elicited is not unwelcome, especially when accompanied by goosebump-inducing found sounds (check the end of “Green Woman”). This stuff is well beyond haunted. It is firmly ensconced in its tattered purgatorial carousel, dolefully glomming onto whoever enters its sensory field. Gagged in Boonesville is a particular kind of summer record, one that embodies ants on discarded ice cream, sweating profusely in endless amusement park queues and swamp ass. It’s more festering than festive, but luckily it’s still worth celebrating.