Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Сергей Курёхин - "Опера богатых" [1992]

Artist: Сергей Курёхин
Title: Опера богатых
Genre: Avant-Garde, Free Jazz, Minimal Electronic
Country: Russia
Release date: 1992

Track List:
  1. Донна Анна (pt. 1)
  2. Аль-Кадбар Буги
  3. Невеста Крумхорна
  4. Трагедия В Стиле Минимализм
  5. Харе Кришна, Донна Анна! (pt. 2)
  6. Синагога-буги
  7. Связанные Одной Пиццей
"The Rich's Opera" is a compilation of Sergey Kuryokhin's minimalistic works recorded during 1987-91 and released as LP in 1992. The name is probably a play on a popular Italian proverb "Bed is the poor man's opera". This is one of the best known Kuryokhin's works, possibly because it's less avant-garde than his early albums. In particular, the opening track "Donna Anna" is among his best-known and easily recognized compositions.

It has very little to do with rock music, but I'll place it under the "progressive rock" label nevertheless. Actually, it's fairly close to Kuryokhin's early 80's free jazz experiments, but more influenced by classical music and minimalistic electronic music. Fun fact: he was one of the few Soviet electronic musicians that owned a SCI synthesizer (namely SCI Prophet 2000) that was bought for him by one of the labels associated with Leo Records, and brought to Soviet Union by Joanna Stingray. According to Andrey Tropillo, having access to such equipment (which never was officially exported to the USSR, and costed almost like a new car on a black market in mid-1980s) was the main reason for Kuryokhin to start experimenting with avant-garde electronic music. The operatic female voice which you can hear in both parts of "Donna Anna" was recorded with the help of Olga Kondina, a professional opera singer. The rest of the album is entirely instrumental.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Сергей Курёхин & Поп-Механика - "Насекомая Культура" [1987]

Artist: Сергей Курёхин & Поп-Механика
Title: Насекомая Культура
Genre: Avant-Garde, Free Jazz, Sound Collage
Country: USSR
Release date: 1987

I already have mentioned Sergey Kuryokhin on here before, but he, as one of the most prominent Soviet avant-garde musicians, deserves much more. Today, 20 years after his death, he's remembered mostly for his "Lenin was a mushroom" prank that was aired on TV in 1991, but his legacy (as a musician, actor & screenwriter) is much more than that.

He became known at home mostly as a member of Aquarium during the first half of 1980s, and he has played in several other rock bands prior to that, but his main interests lied in free jazz and avant-garde music. In late 1979, he tried to send some of his piano compositions to BBC, which attracted the attention of Leo Feigin, who worked at BBC and owned the experimental jazz label Leo Records. In 1981, Feigin's label has released Kuryokhin's debut vinyl, which gained a considerable amount of recognition in the Western bloc. Inspired by this success, Kuryokhin decided to continue his career in experimental music, and started his own project "Pop Mechanics" (named after the Popular Mechanics magazine) in mid-1980s.

Pop-Mechanics, like many early industrial bands, always were rather a performance art group than a music band. They never had any fixed line-up, and most of the prominent members of the Leningrad Rock Club took part in Pop-Mechanics at some moment. This particular album was recorded with the help of Igor Butman, a very well-known jazz saxophonist, and the members of Leningrad-based techno duo The New Composers. It's probably the most avant-garde work of Kuryokhin released during the 80s, and it's mentioned in DMT's Industrial Culture FAQ as one of the early examples of Soviet experimental music that's fairly close to early industrial & musique concrete. I'd say it's rather free jazz mixed with minimalistic techno, but a work as experimental as this one defies any attempts of classification. The album was released on tape as one long track (presented in the video above), and re-released on CD in 1998.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Гражданская Оборона - "Звездопад" [2002]

Artist: Гражданская Оборона
Title: Звездопад
Genre: Psychedelic Punk
Country: Russia
Release date: 2002

Track List:
  1. Песня Красноармейца
  2. Песня О Циркаче
  3. На Дальней Станции Сойду
  4. Шла Война
  5. Звездопад
  6. Ветер Северный
  7. Город Детства
  8. На Всю Оставшуюся Жизнь
  9. Слово - Товарищ
  10. Каравелла
  11. Белое Безмолвие
  12. Красный Конь
  13. Песенка Про Черную Гуашь И Надежду
  14. Солнце Взойдет
  15. Я Принял Решение
  16. Свой Среди Чужих
My blog would be incomplete without mentioning the most famous band in the Siberian punk scene, which was immensely influential to both punk and industrial/noise scenes in ex-USSR. Yes, I'm talking about Grazhdanskaya Oborona (the full name translates to "civil defense", and the shortened name, GrOb, means "coffin").

The band was founded on 8th November 1984 by Egor Letov and Konstantin Ryabinin on the ruins of Letov's earlier project Posev (aka Possev Verlag, founded in late 1982). Writing down their detailed history (and the history of numerous other projects associated with them) would take too much time and space, so I suggest you to research it by yourself, if you're interested. To put it in short: initially (in mid-1980s) they were playing raw and unpolished garage punk and post-punk, recording 10 full-length albums in just 2.5 years. In April 1987, they managed to take part in the 1st Siberian Rock festival in Novosibirsk. Their performance was very provocative by the standards of that time, and the organizers had to stop it after 25 minutes. Nevertheless, this incident made them famous over the whole country, and many people still call these 25 minutes "the finest hour" of Russian punk rock.

During 1988-90, they played a lot of live shows and recorded several more albums, but Egor Letov wasn't pleased with their popularity and fanbase (which, in general, was indeed horrible, like in the case with many other popular Russian rock bands of that time) and announced the band's break-up. In 1993, they've reunited again, but no new material was released until 1997. Their 1989-1990 recordings are characterized by being especially dissonant and noisy, close to 80's industrial and noise rock, and at times, even to primitive black metal like Ildjarn. Some critics consider these albums to be their best, but I personally prefer the period from 1997 to Letov's death in early 2008. GrOb's albums of that period are frequently called "psychedelic punk" due to strong influence of shoegaze and psychedelic rock, and more irrational and "trippy" lyrics. "Звездопад"/"Starfall" is very representative of that period, and I chose it for reviewing as one of the best albums in their whole discography.

"Starfall" is a collection of well-known old Soviet songs performed by Letov in his usual lo-fi noisy punk style. As usual, he couldn't sing properly (and he didn't pretend he could), but his vocals only add some "lo-fi" charm to the music. There's also some female vocals here and there, performed by his wife (now a widow) Natalia Chumakova. The sound is unpolished and fuzzy, but suprisingly melodic and nowhere near as harsh sounding as GrOb's early albums (I guess that's what is called "noise pop"). As for the choice of songs, I think Letov's intention was to cover both the most tragic-sounding songs he could find (mostly from the WWII era), and some of the more romantic ones as well. The title song was originally intended for the children, and I can guess that Letov has chosen it because he wanted to bring in the theme of children facing very mature political and ethical questions (a common theme in Soviet literature). The album artwork deserves a special mention, because Letov's decision to use the naive art of the Balkan school was great - these paintings reflect the surrealistic and "trippy" nature of the music very well:

Thanks to this album, I've discovered my new favourite painter - Ivan Generalic. Yeah, I know that the so-called "naive" or primitive art is mostly talentless shit, but it's certainly not the case with Generalic and his followers:

P.S. RIP Egor Letov. 10 September 1964 - 19 February 2008.

"And when I died,
There were no one,
who could deny that..." (E.Letov, early 1990s)

V/A - Origins Of Soviet Rock

Artist: (various)
Title: Истоки советского рока
Genre: Beat Rock, Rock'n'Roll, Surf, Rockabilly
Country: USSR
Release date: 1960-70s mostly

Track List:
  1. Электрон - Лучший город земли (1965)
  2. Александр Градский - В полях под снегом и дождём (1971)
  3. Садко - Ты проходишь мимо (1967)
  4. Аргонавты - Домик надежд и грёз (late 1960s)
  5. Летучий Голландец - Love and the Rain
  6. Ариэль - Дом восходящего солнца (1968)
  7. Сокол - Солнце над нами (late 1960s)
  8. Скифы - Годы как птицы (1969)
  9. Марзаны - Апачи (1968)
  10. Москвичи - Roll Over Beethoven (1967)
  11. Кочевники - Посмотри в глаза (1969)
  12. Второе дыхание - [Неизвестно] (1996)
  13. Удачное приобретение - I've Got The Blues (1974)
  14. Юрий Морозов - Виновата сама (1971)
  15. Машина времени - This happen'd to me (late 1960s)
  16. Мозаика - Тяжесть первородного греха (1982)
  17. Окна - Посвящение Хендриксу (1971-1974)
  18. Санкт-Петербург - Приходит день (1971)
  19. Россияне - Инопланетянка (1977)
  20. Оловянные солдатики - То что нам твердили в детстве (1972)
  21. Пульсар - Осень (1971)
  22. Фобос - Окна (1969)
  23. Кентавры - Ямщик (1970)
  24. Пит Андерсон - Blue Suede Shoes (1989)
The same blog where I found the Soviet Electronic Music compilation has a lot of other very interesting and rare stuff, including this compilation of underground Soviet rock music from before the late 1970s. This is what I'd call the "pre-Cambrian" era of Soviet rock before the recordings (especially listenable ones) from that time are very rare. Tape recorders and other sound recording equipment of more or less satisfactory quality became available to most independent Soviet musicians only since the end of 1970s. Of course there were many rock bands in the USSR well before that time, but there are very few survived recordings which are either hardly listenable (example #1, example #2), or they're the rare cases when the band members managed to gain access to the professional recording equipment. Not to mention that the vast majority of these bands simply didn't bother with recording anything... That's why I'm interested in any recording from that era, even if these bands were sounding too "dad rock" for me.

This sampler was compiled from many different sources, so the quality of recording is varied from track to track. Some tracks sound completely awful (mostly live recordings), some are pretty well recorded (mostly re-recordings of unreleased material). The most interesting thing about this compilation is that it doesn't differ much from the officially approved Soviet pop-rock of that time, in terms of both music and lyrical content, the only difference is that these tracks weren't released on vinyl and sold in stores. The real split between the "official" VIA scene and the underground rock culture started in the late 1970s with the rise of tape culture, and culminated in 1983-85 during the anti-rock campaign started by Chernenko's government. Most of the problems that Russian rock scene and its audiences are frequently criticised for (pretentious and elitist fanbase, high levels of plagiarism, putting too much effort into lyrics to the prejudice of music, etc.) are a result of that split, and can be also found in other highly ideologized genres of music (such as punk or black metal). For the sake of comparison, here's a song which was very popular in mid-1970s USSR:

The author of this compilation planned to include only independent/underground bands and artists, but the problem is that a lot of them later became professional musicians - even very famous ones, like A.Gradsky (track #2). He also didn't want to include any bands from the Baltic republics, because the Baltic rock scene always was too different from the rest of Soviet rock. The only exception was made for Pits Andersons from Riga, who was the pioneer of Soviet rock'n'roll (his first band, called The Revengers, was founded in 1962, or according to some sources - even in 1959).

Friday, March 25, 2016

V/A - Soviet Electronic Music

Artist: (various)
Title: Soviet Electronic Music
Genre: Electronic, Ambient, Minimal Synth
Country: USSR
Release date: 1980-85 mostly

Track List:
  1. Эдуард Артемьев - Поход
  2. Зодиак - Зодиак
  3. А.Родионов и Б.Тихомиров - Электронный наездник
  4. Зигмар Лиепиньш - Танец-85
  5. Арсенал - Фоторобот
  6. Зодиак - Пасифик
  7. А.Родионов и Б.Тихомиров - Догоняй, компьютер
  8. Эдуард Артемьев - Созвездие ушедших времен
  9. Зигмар Лиепиньш - Твёрдый орешек
  10. Аэробика
  11. Videosex - Neonska reklama (Bonus Track)
Thanks to this blog (which is one of the best sources for old Eastern bloc music I've seen so far), now we have an amateur compilaton of non-underground Soviet electronic music. As the author admits, it wasn't easy to compile: beyond Eduard Artemiev (who is internationally known mostly for his soundtracks for Tarkovsky's movies), there's only a couple of names that got more or less wide recognition. However, I think it was a right decision to prefer quality over quantity by including only the best stuff into this sampler. This is a great compilation that accurately reflects the spirit and atmosphere of Soviet science fiction of early 80s, and it's strongly recommended to everyone who's interested in old school electronic music (especially space-themed). If you want more, then you might want to check out another series of compilations on that blog, which features almost all Soviet electronic artists they could find (several hours of music in total, movie soundtracks mostly).

For those who wonder WTF is track #10, I'll tell you: it's a soundtrack for the fitness classes which were very popular in mid-1980s. Might sound quite funny in our day and age, but it actually was one of the most erotic things you could see on Soviet TV in 1985:

The bonus track is performed by one of the first Slovenian synthpop bands which was very popular in Yugoslavia in the 80s. It's awesome how such a small country has managed to produce so many great industrial, synthpop, and other alternative electronic acts: Laibach, Coptic Rain, Borghesia, Neurotech, etc., etc...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ночной Проспект - "Кислоты" [1988]

Artist: Ночной Проспект
Title: Кислоты
Genre: Synthpop, Experimental, Noise
Country: USSR
Release date: 1988

Track List:
  1. Остатки сомнений
  2. Мне не нужна информация
  3. Наденем пилотки
  4. Наши богатства
  5. Всеобщее невезение
  6. Кислоты
Another influental Soviet synthpop project, formed in 1985 in Moscow by Alexey Borisov and Ivan Sokolovsky. Both of the founding members were well educated and aware of the most recent tendencies in the Western experimental music scene (in particular, they certainly knew of E.Neubauten and Psychic TV). Their early material can be described as "acid techno pop" with female vocals (performed by Natalia Borjomova), but they took a more experimental direction by 1987.

This album is probably their most experimental one, varying from synthpop and post-punk (mostly in the first half) to noise and dark ambient (second half mostly). It wasn't well received by the public at the time, but now it's regarded as one of the first full-length albums of the Soviet industrial scene, along with this one. I personally don't think it's as great as some reviewers claim it to be (among other things, I disliked the vocals; the early releases with female vocals were better in this regard), but it undoubtely was a very interesting release for its time. The band still exists as of today, although Ivan Sokolovsky died in 2005.

Биоконструктор - "Танцы по видео" [1987]

Artist: Биоконструктор
Title: Танцы по видео
Genre: Synthpop, Minimal Synth
Country: USSR
Release date: 1987

Track List:
  1. Биоконструктор
  2. Танцы По Видео
  3. Астрологический Ребус
  4. Вечерний Блюз
  5. Телетуризм
  6. Гравитатор
  7. Бетонный Рай
Bioconstructor was founded in 1986 in Moscow by Alexander Yakovlev and Andrey Kokhayev. In 1987 they became a 4-piece band and recorded their first tape which is presented here. The band split up in 1990, when most of the members joined Roman Ryabtsev to form Технология. Later the same year, Alexander Yakovlev later tried to revive the project under the shorter name "Bio", whih is still active today.

While Bioconstructor weren't the first Soviet synthpop band (the first ones appeared as early as 1983), and they never were as popular as Технология, they're still held in high regard as one of the most influental projects in the history of Soviet and post-Soviet underground electronic music, as well as one of the first Soviet bands to use dark sci-fi/cyberpunk aesthetics. The Moscow-based label Gravitator Records, specialized in synthpop, darkwave and dark electro, is named after one of the songs on ths tape.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bonanza Banzai - "1984" [1991]

Artist: Bonanza Banzai
Title: 1984
Genre: Synthpop
Country: Hungary
Release date: 1991

Track List:
  1. Szárnyas Fejvadász / Blade Runner
  2. Tánc A Vékony Jégen (Tánc Il.) / Dancing On Thin Ice (Dance Part Two)
  3. Mint Az Eső / Like The Rain
  4. Provokatőr / Provocateur
  5. Az Érinthetetlenek / The Untouchables
  6. Néma Film / Silent Film
  7. 1984
  8. Támadás / Attack
  9. Rendben / Right
  10. Nem Érdekel / I Don't Care
  11. Az Utolsó Pillanat / The Final Moment
  12. Techno Forever
I already have mentioned Bonanza Banzai on here some time ago, but let's repeat: they were one of the most famous among numerous Hungarian synthpop bands that appeared during the second half of the 1980s. It's benn said that most Hungarians that were in their teens during that time still know the lyrics of their best-known songs by heart. One of their former members, Ákos Kovács, is still very well known as a singer-songwriter.

The complete 1987-1994 discography of Bonanza Banzai can be found HERE in FLAC. My personal favourite is "1984", but other albums are pretty good too, especially the early ones.

Snake River Conspiracy ‎- "Sonic Jihad" [2000]

Artist: Snake River Conspiracy
Title: Sonic Jihad
Genre: Industrial Rock
Country: USA
Release date: 2000

Track List:
  1. Breed
  2. Casualty
  3. You And Your Friend
  4. Lovesong
  5. Act Your Age
  6. More Than Love
  7. Strangled
  8. Oh Well
  9. Somebody Hates You
  10. Vulcan
  11. How Soon Is Now?

"Snake River Conspiracy is a rock band from San Francisco that formed in 1996. The band is currently comprised of Jason Slater, an ex-member of Third Eye Blind (bass guitar, producer) and Matt Lucich (Drums).

Tobey Torres sang on their debut album Sonic Jihad. After the first tour, Torres and Slater had a falling out, resulting in Torres leaving the band. Martina Axen (formerly of Drain STH) was brought on to perform live when SRC played a tour opening for Queensrÿche. While she was set to be the new official vocalist (going so far as to record on demos for the new album), an announcement was made on May 4th, 2006 that Tobey and Jason had reconciled and were back recording together with the intentions of releasing a new album in the Summer of 2007. This sudden and unexpected turn of events was well received by fans.

On September 4th, 2006, four months after returning to Snake River Conspiracy, Tobey Torres posted on her myspace blog that "I have once again chosen to disassociate myself from Snake River Conspiracy" and thanked fans for their support. Two days later, band guitarist Mitch Doran posted a message on the SRC forums that he had decided to leave the band as well. No official reason has been given for the second falling out. Jason Slater, who typically keeps fans apprised of the ongoings of the band via myspace and the SRC forums, has remained quiet on the situation as well as the status of the material that had been recorded during the brief reconciliation"

Such a pity they failed to release more than one full-length album, because they were a quite good band, as well as one of the few industrial rock bands of the 1990s to feature female vocals. The material on "Sonic Jihad" varies from mellow, almost synthpop-sounding songs like "Casuality" to more aggressive tracks like "Vulcan".

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Пикник - "Пить электричество" [1998]

Artist: Пикник
Title: Пить электричество
Genre: Art Rock, Industrial Rock
Country: Russia
Release date: 1998

Track List:
  1. Venenum Rerum Omnium
  2. Пить электричество
  3. U (напряжение не кончается)
  4. Афродита из пены и щелочи
  5. Купорос-Е
  6. Будь навсегда
  7. Три истории: I. Разговор глухих
  8. Три истории: II. Uroboros
  9. Три истории: III. Чужие племена
You won't expect a band named "Picnic" to play post-punk and gothic rock, right? Yet they do it, and their name is actually a reference to Strugatskys' well-known book "Roadside Picnic". They were formed in 1981 (although some argue that the band existed in some form as early as in 1978) as a part of the Leningrad Rock Club, and recorded their debut album at Andrey Tropillo's studio in 1982. Initially they played classic rock, but their sound became more "progressive" with the time, and since the late 80s, they were highly influenced by gothic rock as well.

Unfortunately, I'm not very familiar with their discography, because as of today, I've listened only to their "Best of" compilation and this album, which is considered to be their most experimental work. As a whole, it's still art rock, but heavily influenced by industrial and dark ambient. It's probably not the best album to start listening to their discography from (as in the case with DDT's "Мир номер ноль"), yet it's without a doubt one of the most interesting albums of the 90's Russian rock I've heard so far.

Monday, March 14, 2016

ДДТ - "Мир номер ноль" [1999]

Artist: ДДТ
Title: Мир номер ноль
Genre: Alternative/Industrial Rock, Classic Rock
Country: Russia
Release date: 1999

Track List:
  1. Музыкальный образ I
  2. Одноразовая жизнь
  3. Он
  4. Мы
  5. Метель
  6. Небо на земле
  7. Музыкальный образ II
  8. Интервью
  9. Расстреляли рассветами...
  10. Черно-белые танцы
  11. Донести Синь.
  12. Музыкальный образ III (Выход)
  13. Герой
My blog would be incomplete without mentioning the band which first introduced me to both classic rock and alternative/industrial rock when I was a teenager. You can find all basic info about then in Wikipedia, and I'll add that I was a fan of them and their frontman Yuri Shevchuk when I was 13-15 y.o. This video, which I saw on TV for the first time in early 2000, was probably the first alternative rock video I've seen and liked:

It blew my mind because it was so different from all the pop music videos which I've seen on TV before. Of course, I discovered Rammstein, Linkin Park and other bands of this kind shortly after that, but DDT remained my favourites for a long time. However, they became so popular not due to songs like the one above, but due to much more melodic and catchy stuff which they were playing in early 1990s. Here's, for example, their best-known song which was so popular that Shevchuk even grew tired of playing it live:

One more video from the same period, very simple yet surprisingly scary:

Like all popular bands, DDT has many devout fans and many haters as well. I must agree that some of Shevchuk's behaviour (mostly his "war on pop music" and some of his political activity) is suitable for a teenager but not for a grown man, but it hasn't much to do with his music. As for the music, he's frequently criticised for being rather a singer-songwriter with an electric guitar rather than a proper rock musician, but it isn't a big problem for me - I'm much more interested in neofolk and post-punk than in classic rock, after all. Some of DDT's albums can be indeed quite boring, especially if you don't understand the lyrics, but their discography is very varied in terms of sound. I chose this album to post mostly because it's a concept work strongly influenced by the industrial rock of the 90s, but it also has a lot of less aggressive-sounding, ballad-type tracks:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

ZGA - "Riga" [1989]

Artist: ZGA
Title: Riga
Genre: Noise, Percussion Industrial
Country: Latvian SSR
Release date: 1989

Track List:
  1. Article 0881022
  2. Crash Of Molecular Collapse
  3. Visions Of Perspective
  4. Mountain Pit
  5. Caput Mortuum
  6. Imaginary Flaying Of A Mechanical Pig
  7. Refinedrock
  8. Fweedom
  9. Illusions
  10. Round The Lughole
  11. Teeth
  12. Whistle
  13. Chew Wax
  14. To Reach The Middle Of The Way
  15. The Pool
  16. I Need No Immortality
  17. The Thaw
  18. You-Wah
  19. Ku-Ku 
After summarizing all my knowledge of early Soviet noise and industrial music, it seems to me that the industrial scene started to appear in the USSR around 1983-84, and the earliest known recordings were made in 1984. I don't know if bands like Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, Laibach or E.Neubauten were known to the Soviet audience back them, but Kraftwerk, The Residents and DAF were known for sure.

Of what I've listened to, "Zoldat Of Revolution" (1984) seems to be the best candidate for the very first Soviet industrial/noise demo. According to Dmitry "DMT" Tolmatsky's Industrial Culture FAQ, the 1983 demo by Center sounds surprisingly similar to early Psychic TV albums which were released around the same time, but I think there isn't that much similarity. I definitely hear strong Krafwerk influence on that demo, but otherwise it's just one of many amateur noisy Soviet rock recordings of that time (what I find more interesting is that tape contained some elements of rap, an year before the first known Soviet hip-hop album). Alexander Lebedev-Fronov of Linija Mass claims to have experimented with noises as early as in 1979, which might be true, but there's no independent evidence of it. The first documented evidence of his project's activity dates back to 1985 or 1987, depending on source.

However, there's one more project that for some reason isn't mentioned in DMT's FAQ, but is widely considered to be a seminal band in Soviet and post-Soviet industrial/noise scene. ZGA were formed in 1984 in Riga, Latvia (but, to my knowledge, no one of their members was Latvian). Soviet Baltic republics such as Latvia always were known for its "Westernized" music scene and enjoyed easier access to newest music from the Western bloc than the other parts of Soviet Union, so it isn't a surprise that one of the first Soviet industrial projects originated from there. The first album of ZGA that I heard was "Sub Luna Morrior" (released in 1996 and dedicated to the memory of one of their original members, Alexander Zhilin, who died in a car crash in March 1994). That was in mid-2000s, and such kind of music was too avant-garde for me back then. The band is still active today, although they've moved to St.Petersburg in 1991.

"Riga" is a collection of their recordings made during 1984-1988, released as their debut album by Points East (an Eastern European subdivision of a British experimental music label ReR Megacorp) in 1989. You can find all the mp3s and scans (several download options are available) on the band's official site. However, I'd recommend this album only to the die-hard fans of noisy and dissonant percussion industrial such as early Einstürzende Neubauten and Z'EV, otherwise this album probably will just give you a headache.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Джунгли - "Весна в Шанхае" [1989]

Artist: Джунгли
Title: Весна в Шанхае
Genre: Instrumental Art Rock, Jazz-Rock
Country: USSR
Release date: 1989

Track List:
  1. Измерения
  2. Весна в Шанхае
  3. Ностальгия
  4. Пляска (Хоровод)
  5. Замкнутый круг (Цикл 22)
  6. Эпитафия
I've mentioned this band in my previous entry and then realized than their music is surprisingly hard to find, so it'd be nice of me to post their album too. While I don't think it's avant-garde enough to be called "RIO" or "avant-prog", it's certainly influenced by the Rock In Opposition sound, and it's one of those Soviet experimental gems that are undeservedly forgotten nowadays (along with Стук Бамбука в XI Часов).

Джунгли / Jungle were formed in Leningrad in 1983 (according to other sources - in 1981), initially as a standard hard rock band. Fun fact: the name "Jungle" was chosen after some old man has called the audience of Leningrad Rock Club "a real zoo", and the band members answered jokingly: "It's worse than a zoo, it's jungle!".

By 1984-1985, their sound has evolved into art rock / jazz-rock. According to the band's gutarist, Andrey Otsryaskin, they were mostly influenced by Peter Gabriel, Robert Fripp, King Crimson, Oregon, and Krzysztof Penderecki. Sergey Kuryokhin, probably the best known avant-garde musician in the Leningrad rock scene of that time, also had a lot of influence on them (and it's most likely him who sparked their interest in free jazz). Since late 1987, their style finally shifted away from standard rock music (apart from jazz, they were also interested in medieval music and polyrhythmic folk music at that time). The same year, they had their first chance to perform abroad - first in Poland, then in Denmark and Finland. Their decision to play purely instrumental music has helped them a lot, since they wouldn't have to worry that the audience won't understand the lyrics. By 1990, the band's lineup was reduced to a trio. Then in 1992, when Andrey Otsryaskin realized that his band doesn't have much future in a country which just entered a deep crisis, he decided to emigrate. Thus the story of Jungle has ended.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Горизонт - "Summer In Town" [1985]

Artist: Горизонт
Title: Summer In Town
Genre: Instrumental Art Rock, Avant-Prog
Country: USSR
Release date: 1985

Track List:
  1. Снежинки / Snowflakes
  2. Чакона / Chaconne
  3. Летний город / Summer In Town
A RIO-influenced Soviet prog rock band which managed to release a vinyl LP in 1985, when the vast majority of independent Soviet musicians still had no other way of distributing their music than tape trading... is it real? Yes it is! Although they officially weren't called a rock band, but a "chamber instrumental ensemble", but it doesn't matter.

Horizont was formed in 1978 initially as a classic art-rock band influenced by Yes, Genesis and ELP. However, by 1983-84 their sound increasingly started to resemble the Rock In Opposition bands like Univers Zero or SMM, even if calling them a RIO-style band still would be a stretch. Like in case with Хроноп (whom they aided a lot with recording their two albums in 1990-91), they were based in Cheboksary and sponsored by Promtractor, which allowed them to release two professionally recorded albums in 1985 and 1988. Sadly art-rock wasn't very popular at that time, so they went largely unnoticed, despite being released on a major label. That's a pity, because they seem to be the only RIO-influenced Soviet band (beside Джунгли / Jungle who were an obscure jazz-rock band formed in 1983 as a part of the Leningrad Rock Club).

Here's a good and detailed review of "Summer In Town" written by Ilya Prutov, who's certainly much more knowledgeable of prog-rock and RIO than me (click to enlarge):

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Хроноп - "Здесь и сейчас" [1990]

Artist: Хроноп
Title: Здесь и сейчас
Genre: Art Rock
Country: USSR
Release date: 1990

Track List:
  1. Пока Мы
  2. Пророк Иеремия
  3. Тайм-Аут
  4. Время-Время
  5. Флейта
  6. Здесь И Сейчас
  7. Как Странно
  8. Костер
Although my city has over 1.2 million inhabitants, it never had a really significant music scene. It hosted one of the first Soviet rock festivals in 1971, but that's pretty much all; it never became a large rock music center, as Moscow, Leningrad or Sverdlovsk were. Even if things got slightly better since the beginning of 2000s, but the number of good local bands is still relatively small. Speaking of the Soviet period, I can't name anything except Rock Syndrome (which weren't that good) and Cronop, that were formed in 1985 and took their name from Julio Cortazar's book "Cronopios & Famas".

Until recently, I knew their founding member Vadim Demidov mostly as a music critic whose articles in a local newspaper were a major source of knowledge about rock music for me in the early 2000s when I was a teenager. Most of his band's albums turned out to be boring (that's often the case with the bands led by prominent music critics), especially the ones released after the band's reunion in 2004, but their best known works from 1990-91 are generally quite good.

Here's their first and the best known LP, released on vinyl by Melodiya in 1990. They had to move to Cheboksary (~200 km from here) to record it, because they couldn't find professional recording equipment of adequate quality here back then. The album was recorded with a 8-channel Tascam tape recorder, and the result turned out to be great by the standards of that time. The recording was sponsored by the Promtractor factory, who were generous enough to pay them wages during the whole process of recording, as well as buying them professional equipment from abroad.

"Achingly intelligent" might be one of the worst tags I've ever seen on, but it describes this album very accurately. It's very melodic rock with calm and relaxed vocals and prominent use of flute. Some tracks at the end of the album might be a bit boring, but at least the opening two ones are great. If you liked this album and are interested in hearing more from them (here's their 1985-2010 discography, but they've released more albums since 2010), I'd recommend their 1991 one, as well as their debut 1985 tape (surely it isn't recorded as good as this album, but it still has its charm).

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Мыши - demo [1996]

Artist: Мыши
Title: -
Genre: Rock
Country: Russia
Release date: 1996

Track List:
  1. Всем привет
  2. Мальчики на белом
  3. Весна
  4. Слушай
It's about time to post something with female vocals, and here's a really obscure band from St.Petersburg whose live demo was posted here 5 years ago. After looking at the track names, I thought it might be generic shitty pop-rock which isn't worth a listen. However, I did gave it a listen, and while I wasn't far from truth when expecting it to be pop-rock, it actually turned out to be pretty good.

I couldn't find much info about the band, mostly because of its very generic name ("Mice"), but they apparently were formed in the very beginning of 1990s, and released a full-length album in 1991. Back then they were playing post-punk with male vocals. On this demo, the vocals are performed by Regina Baronova, who now works as a professional singer in Spain. I understand she isn't really a rock vocalist, and she probably felt herself out of place in such a band, but her voice is awesome! It's the most distinguishing feature of this demo in my opinion, and that's a pity that their other recordings didn't have her on vocals.

The videos of their live performances are also very hard to find. I personally could find only one video of them performing on some big rock festival in 1996. The quality isn't great, but I don't have any better. The clothes that Regina was wearing on stage seem to be a bit strange to me, although I liked her short skirt (I think Regina's legs are just as nice as her voice :))

Monday, March 7, 2016

Аквариум - "Искушение святого Аквариума" [1973]

Artist: Аквариум
Title: Искушение святого Аквариума
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Noise Rock
Country: USSR
Release date: 1973

Track List:
  1. Мой ум сдох
  2. Концепция 14
  3. Осторожно, берегись поезда
  4. Бустер в ночи
  5. Река Оккервиль
  6. Ария шузни, влюблённой в джинсню
  7. Мочалкин блюз
  8. Поэзия
  9. Гуру Панджахай
  10. Ну а ты?
  11. Он пришёл из туманной дали
  12. У меня шузня. Гимн
  13. Песня о кайфе
  14. Господин Раутбарт
  15. Голос
  16. Упади на песок
  17. Я — Шизо
  18. Большая увертюра для квака B-mol
  19. Маленький большой водопад
  20. Ля-ля-ля
  21. Фамилия — это субстанция
  22. Париж
  23. Во мне кто-то третий
  24. **
  25. Для Ахтараута
  26. Сказка о двух королях
  27. Мой ум сдох
  28. Пение птиц и птичек на могиле сдохшего ума
This album is a good answer to why the recordings of any independent Soviet rock bands priot to the end of 1970s are so scarce. Even if nearly every school and university had at least one rock band back then, very few of them had access to professional recording equipment, and what they could record at home usually didn't sound much better than this tape. No doubt it also would be forgotten by now, if not for the fact that it's a debut recording of a very well-known band.

"The Temptation Of St. Aquarium" was recorded during January-February 1973 (or 1974, according to some sources), using home-made monitors and mixing console (which needed a repair after every 20 minutes of use), an old tape recorder called "Dnepr", a 9-string guitar and some makeshift percussion. Some non-standard instruments and sound sources were also used, including the sound of a boiling plasic. The band members describe the results as "a surrealistic perversion made by two idiots: very funny, but very poorly recorded". The lyrics are mostly of jocular or absurdist kind, thus fitting the music (or, more like, "music") quite well.

The tape was considered to be lost until it was discovered in 1997 and released on CD in 2001. While its only value is historical, and it bears little relation to the band's later work, I find it to be strangely appealing to my dissonant, "industrial" side. After all, it's still better than Genesis P-Orrige & Thee Early Worm :)