As post-Communist Russia lurches towards a radical redefinition of free enterprise, the nation's popular music is the last commodity to be exploited. It comes of being left to its own devices and fermenting in an isolated crucible for 60 years.

Now Canada is about to get its first taste of St. Petersburg-based band Auktyon. They arrive fresh from jaw-dropping hysteria last week at the South by Southwest indie music conference and showcase in Austin, Tx. The band is very much its own beast, unlike anything we've heard in the West, too seriously musical to be discounted as a novelty, too odd and otherworldly to be wholly embraced.

It's an aggressively alternative eight-man aggregation that eschewed political posturing and pop acclaim back home for the rigorous pursuit of purely musical challenges during the past three decades.

Auktyon's single-minded direction has served them well. Russian musicians and songwriters, deprived of political targets and disoriented by rapid change in the larger world, are apparently losing their distinctive voices. It's no easy task to find success in Western music's teeming marketplace when that market has been turned upside down with digital technology and the stunning growth of independent musical enterprise.

No wonder Auktyon finds itself bewildered by its growing popularity in an increasingly xenophobic U.S., where it often seems no one understands their language, let alone the arcane roots of their exotic music.

Not that critics in this part of the world haven't fallen all over themselves trying to describe what Auktyon — pronounced "ouk-chy-own" and literally means auction — is and does. Here are some examples:

  • " ... bruising rock songs ... frontman Oleg Garkusha moves like a floppy-armed version of Zippy the Pinhead ... hints of Slavic tradition driven by a burly low-register bass, baritone saxophone and tuba."

  • "... art-rock to post-punk, free jazz sax squall to Latin percussion to military marching band tuba holding down the bottom ... they can connect with fans of everyone from Gogol Bordello to the Boredoms, Talking Heads to Pere Ubu, Ozomatli to Mr. Bungle."

  • " ... horn-driven skank the pan-Slavic tradition of wild-ass pre-perestroika hairiness ...profligate frenzy ... very strangely arranged, very globally crossbred and sweatily choreographed."

  • "... singer/guitarist Leonid Fedorov is something of a Leonard Cohen-style heartthrob, all husky, romantic intonation and lyrical poetry. If Herbie Hancock had a Russian grandfather and jammed with Black Sabbath and the Barnum & Bailey band..."

    You get the idea.

    And here they are again, on their eighth trip to the U.S. since 1997, and their first to Canada — Auktyon's debut in this country will be at the Mod Club Wednesday night — and at a loss to explain how they got here or where they're going.