Album Review: “Make Up” by Dakh Daughters

// Image courtesy of "Dakh Daughters-43" by Oscar Anjewierden is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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If you’ve never heard of Dakh Daughters, you’ve been missing out. They are a Ukrainian musical group, mixing many styles of music with theatrical, cabaret-like performances and political activism. Earlier this year, they released their newest album, Make Up, which is at times haunting, at times furious, but always surprising.

Make Up was not written as albums usually are though, with individual tracks. It was released as a piece of its own, published as a show with all the songs together as a suite. Then the album was released, like a soundtrack. So although the songs vary, they are sequential. While most of their lyrics are in Ukrainian, and it can be very difficult to find translations on the internet, the recording of the show includes English subtitles for those intrigued.

The album showcases Dakh Daughters’ unique sound. Through many of the songs, we get their characteristic combination of traditional background vocals with spoken-word or rap-like lyrics over top. The contrast is striking, especially in tracks like the first, “I Want,” or “Khtila Tila,” where softer verses are almost whispered, but the chorus is loud and strident.

The songs on this album are each around three minutes long, with the notable exception of “Nemaye Chasu” that sits at 10 minutes and 35 seconds. This song takes its sweet time in the buildup, working off wingbeat reminiscent accordion strokes and more of those haunting vocals. It makes you feel like you’re moving through water. Though it could seem too long, or too repetitive, if you can immerse yourself in the music, the experience is worth it. In the last two minutes, the pace rises and the layers of voices overlap for a soft yet disquieting ending. If anything, this song reminds you of echoes you would hear in a large cavern, eerie but beautiful.

There is another song I have to mention, because it is so different from the rest of the album. “The Artist” lacks the instrumental and vocal complexity of the rest of the album. It is simplified and minimalistic, with one voice dominant and the instruments primarily contained to guitar strums. Its repetitive lyrics build on each other. The simplicity of this song may make it overlooked in such a dramatic album, but it should be appreciated for all of its moderation.

The last two songs on the album, title track “Make Up” and the finale “Rozy” are also noteworthy. “Make Up” makes use of odd assortments of dissonant piano notes and creepy laughs to build the vibe of a haunted circus coming to life in a Cirque-du-Soleil type performance. They sound progressively more out of control, and slightly deranged, in a way that makes for absolutely fantastic music. “Rozy” is a more classic Dakh Daughters song, with vocals that only grow in pace until the music is racing and so is your heart, and the fierceness with which they sing is all around you. It’s a great song if you’re feeling upset, I only wish I could sing along.

However, in “Rozy” and the entire masterpiece that is Make Up, one thing is not lost in translation. Dakh Daughters is a band that produces music unlike anything else.

// Estela Millan ‘25 is a guest writer for Record Hospital. Listen to Make Up - Album by Dakh Daughters.