Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Embrace Of Branches - live [2002]

Artist: Embrace Of Branches
Title: Live @ "The Russian House" theatre (20 April, 2002)
Genre: Neofolk
Country: Russia
Release date: 2002

Track List:
  1. Intro
  2. Владыка
  3. Si El Que Es Más Desdichado
  4. Объятия Ветвей
  5. The Wonderbells
  6. Бархат
  7. Славянская
  8. Только Почувствуй (Studio Track)
Among the not-so-numerous Russian neofolk bands of the early 2000s, Embrace Of Branches (and the related projects, such ans Lanquor and Hazeldusk) were among the most obscure, despite having relatively well-known musicians (including Wolfsblood, an editor of the Seidr webzine) in their line-up. The only their legacy is a couple of interviews and one CD-R, recorded at their live performance with Neutral in some theatre in Moscow. Of course, you shouldn't expect much from such a recording, but at least it's better than nothing (for instance, I couldn't find any recordings of Hazeldusk even after a very extensive search), and I actually liked it better than later solo works by Wolfsblood. There's also one bonus track recorded in a studio, with is probably the best on the whole CD. Too bad they didn't manage to record a proper album...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Moon Far Away - "Minnesang" [2010]

Artist: Moon Far Away
Title: Minnesang
Genre: Neofolk, Ethereal
Country: Russia
Release date: 2010

Track List:
  1. И Свет Во Тьме Светит (Пролог)
  2. Олюшка
  3. Goe, And Catche
  4. Deus Amet Puellam
  5. Памятью
  6. Путешествие Королевича, Часть 1: Лунный Остров
  7. Путешествие Королевича, Часть 2: Новый Сон
  8. Francisca
  9. Witchcraft By A Singing
  10. Мама Русь
  11. Хајте Браћо Белој Цркви (Эпилог)
  12. Будем Жить (bonus track)
Arkhangelsk is a relatively small town on the shore of the Arctic Ocean which is quite far from most major urban centers of northern Europe. Yet it has a large port which was a part of a major trade/smuggling route for Western-made recordings and musical instruments during Soviet times, so it isn't a surprise that it long had an independent music scene of noticeable size. Out of notable bands formed in Arkhangelsk, I should mention Облачный Край, Six Dead Bulgarians (one of the most prominent early Russian industrial projects) - and, of course, Moon Far Away, formed in 1994.

Their debut album "Lado World" (1997) was critically acclaimed at the time it was released, but as for me, it has the same problem as some works by Irfan - it sounds too close to Dead Can Dance and not in a good way. Their subsequent releases took the direction towards more traditional folk music, and their latest full-length album up to date, "Minnesang", is more neofolk than anything else (although the ethereal, darkwave and traditional folk elements are prominent on "Minnesang" as well). A good review of "Minnesang" can be found here (although there are some minor inconsistencies - i.e., MFA aren't a pagan band in any way). Overall, "Minnesang" is one of the best albums in the history of Russian neofolk and definitely shouldn't be missed. The rest of MFA discography didn't impress me as much as this one, but it certainly worths to be checked out too.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Irfan - "The Eternal Return" [2015]

Artist: Irfan
Title: The Eternal Return
Genre: Neofolk, Ethereal
Country: Bulgaria
Release date: 2015

Track List:
  1. Eternal Return
  2. The Cave Of Swimmers
  3. Burana
  4. Salamander
  5. In The Gardens of Armida
  6. Ispariz
  7. The Golden Horn
  8. Tebe Poem
  9. Day to Pray
  10. Nehet
Beside some metal bands (most of which play very generic and unoriginal music, unfortunately), I don't know much about Bulgarian underground music, so a Bulgarian neofolk band comparable to early TMATN was a really interesting find for me. "The Eternal Return" already was reviewed by numerous sites and magazines, so I think I can't add up much to these reviews, yet I should confirm that Irfan's music is very beautiful. The Middle Eastern influences are very apparent, and the amount of exotic folk instruments used on this album (duduk, tambourine, various sorts of oud and saz, etc., etc.) is quite impressive. Some people say that it's too similar to Dead Can Dance and not in a good way, but I personally don't see a problem here (even if I'm not a fan of DCD and other 4AD bands).

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Romowe Rikoito - "Undēina" [2014]

Artist: Romowe Rikoito
Title: Undēina
Genre: Neofolk
Country: East Prussia
Release date: 2014

Track List: 
  1. Bewangiskas pintegas pagaūsenis
  2. Rantawa
  3. Kunnegsgarbs
  4. Swentagrēiwa
  5. Twānksta town
  6. Āustrawīdja
  7. Merūnas dwars
  8. Merūnas meddjan
  9. Skaītan
  10. Dēinawas deināina
  11. Undēinas dajā
  12. Bewangiskas pintegas wangā
After almost a decade of silence, Romowe Rikoito have released a new full-length album in 2014.With one exception of "Twānksta town", all the lyrics on "Undēina" are in Old Prussian language (or, more precisely, in its reconstructed version - since there isn't much known about the original Prussian language, which went extinct around 300 years ago). Only a couple of songs on their previous albums used this language.

The concept of "Undēina" might be quite hard to get into for those listeners who are, like me, not too familiar with the history and mythology of the Baltic region - and not only because of the language barrier. Some info in English can be found here, hopefully it'll be helpful. As for the music, it's excellent and definitely better than what I've heard on earlier RR albums. "Undēina" is a quite lengthy release, but that's not a flaw at all.

Tamás Kátai - "Slower Structures" [2016]

Artist: Tamás Kátai
Title: Slower Structures
Genre: Neofolk, Neoclassical
Country: Hungary/UK
Release date: 2016

Track List: 
  1. Music for Breakfast
  2. Raining this Morning
  3. Slowing Waters
  4. Colour Positive
  5. Colour Negative
  6. Tea in the Museum
  7. A Midday Storm in Marchmont
  8. Waltz for Niau
  9. Polimer C90
  10. Hydrangea Blue
  11. Thermal
  12. Visage
  13. La Galerie Soir
Tamás Kátai's name is surely familiar to the readers of my blog due to Gire, Thy Catafalque and several other projects which are on the list of my all-time favourites. "Slower Structures" is his second solo album (the first was "Erika szobája", released in 2005). The album is quite minimalisic, mostly instrumental and piano-based, although there are some guest vocalists and musicians (violin & contrabass - see the Bandcamp page for the full list). It's very atmospheric and melancholic in mood, just how a good neofolk/neoclassical album should be.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Виктория Пыстина / Victoria Pystina

Out of all obscure Finno-Ugric folk(-pop) I've heard so far, Lydia Loginova isone of my biggest favourites. Unfortunately she's retired by now, but she has a worthy successor - Victoria Pystina. Victoria's voice and manner of singing is very similar to Lydia's, but unlike Lydia, she sings not only in Komi. Here are all her songs I could find, mostly with lyrics in Komi, but with addition of a couple of songs in Russian:

Napoleon Boulevard - "Júlia Nem Akar A Földön Járni" [1988]

Artist: Napoleon Boulevard
Title: Júlia Nem Akar A Földön Járni
Genre: New Wave, Synthpop
Country: Hungary
Release date: 1988

Track List: 
  1. Júlia Nem Akar A Földön Járni
  2. Uram, Segíts!
  3. Szemtől Szembe
  4. Vagy Az Élet Volt Kegyetlen, Vagy A Szíved Volt Kemény
  5. Jó Lenne
  6. Milord
  7. Hidd El, Jönnek Még Jobb Idők
  8. Néha Álmodj Velem
  9. Európa Visszavár
  10. Vallomás
  11. Kína
  12. Állok A Hídon
Napoleon Boulevard were one of the best among numerous Hungarian synthpop acts of the 1980s era, along with Bonanza Banzai. No surprise, because their line-up almost entirely consisted of the members of another excellent band - Solaris - with an addition of lead female singer, Lilla Vincze. The band existed from 1985 to 1990; there was one more album recorded in 2010, but with a different line-up.

Their early works were mostly inspired by late XIX century French burlesque aesthetics, which became less prominent on their later albums. Nevertheless, this album has some French (and German) lyrics as well. While their first two untitled albums were fairly good, "Júlia Nem Akar A Földön Járni" is easily their best one, being probably the best album in the whole history of Hungarian synthpop/new wave. The cover art, I must admit, isn't that great, but the music definitely is: nearly every song on this album is a hit, but I'd especially mention tracks #1-4 and #8-9. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Puhdys ‎- "Wilder Frieden" [1999]

Artist: Puhdys
Title: Wilder Frieden
Genre: Hard Rock, NDH
Country: Germany
Release date: 1999

Track List: 
  1. Wilder Frieden
  2. Ich bin der liebe Gott
  3. Dieser Tag gehört Dir
  4. Wut will nicht sterben
  5. Normales Glück
  6. Du hast schuld
  7. Nie getraut
  8. Eine Frage der Ansicht
  9. Hipp Hipp Hurra
  10. Gigolo
  11. Höhenflug
  12. Wie ein Strom
  13. Schieß mich ab
  14. Auf in's neue Jahrtausend
  15. Leise weht der Wind
Puhdys are one of the oldest rock bands from Eastern Germany (officially formed in 1969, but the band already existed in some form as early as 1965, albeit with a different line-up), and probably the most famous. Their name comes from an abbreviation made out of the names of their 4 founding members (Peter, Udo, Harry & Dieter). Like most other rock bands from the Eastern Bloc, they initially were a cover band, since there was a huge demand for covers in the situation when most rock albums from Western Bloc were impossible (or at least not easy) to purchase. They didn't abandon the practice of making cover albums later on, although they've released numerous albums of their own material as well.

Puhdys also were the first East German rock band to perform in Belgium and Netherlands (1974) and in West Germany (1976). They also have vistited the USSR numerous times during the 1970s, and at least two of their LPs were officially released on vinyl by Melodiya (in 1973 and 1977). Their sound has significantly evolved through the time: while their 1970s stuff was mostly influenced by the contemporary British hard rock acts (Deep Purple, Uriah Heep) and earlier American rock'n'roll (Elvis Presley etc.), they turned to more synthpop-influenced sound in mid-1980s.

This particular album, especially its first few tracks, is significantly heavier than their early works, and shows strong influence of the late-1990s Neue Deutsche Härte scene (particularly Rammstein), even if calling it an "industrial metal album" would be a too big stretch. Puhdys had a great influence on Rammstein in their early days, so Till Lindemann and Richard Kruspe decided to return the favour by collaborating with Puhdys on the track "Wut will nicht sterben". The rest 3/4 of this album is less heavy and closer to the earlier classic/hard rock works by Puhdys, but it's still very good and would be of interest for any fan of NDH (and German rock in general).

All albums by Puhdys, including this one, can be found in FLAC on this forum. I personally would recommend their first two albums as well: even if it's the kind of classic rock I'm generally not very interested in, these albums sound better than many albums of their more famous British and American contemporaries, and there are great tracks such as "Steine" that definitely shouldn't be missed.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Dödelhaie - "Schätzchen, ich habe das Land befreit!" [2002]

Artist: Dödelhaie
Title: Schätzchen, ich habe das Land befreit!
Genre: Punk
Country: Germany
Release date: 2002

Track List: 
  1. Radieschen auf Frischkäse
  2. Moloch
  3. Helden in der Nacht
  4. Das Böse
  5. I destroyed Atlantis
  6. Sei mein Wurm
  7. Kein Schritt zurück
  8. 50.000 Volt
  9. Neun Millimeter
  10. Drei Wünsche
  11. Tag X
  12. 30 Sekunden zu ihrer Entspannung
  13. Ghostsharks in the Sea
Today is a good day to post the band that was a primary source of inspiration for Der Steinkopf. Dödelhaie are one of the oldest currently existing German punk bands, formed in 1985 (although the band already existed in some form as early as in 1982) in Duisburg. While they aren't as widely known outside of Germany as Die Ärzte or Die Toten Hosen, they're still considered a cult band in the Deutschpunk scene. They also were the first foreign punk band to perform live in Cuba (in early 2000s). "Schätzchen, ich habe das Land befreit!" is widely regarded as the best release in their discography, which is entirely correct in my opinion. There are several songs in the middle of this album that are a bit boring, but generally it's one of the best Deutschpunk albums I've heard so far.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Der Steinkopf - "Die Hypnose" [2003]

Artist: Der Steinkopf
Title: Die Hypnose
Genre: Punk
Country: Russia
Release date: 2003

Track List: 
  1. Fliehende Gedanken
  2. Pinderschloss
  3. Дармоеды
  4. Keine Platz für dich     
  5. Die Hypnose
  6. Vogel
  7. Музыка В Стиле Ска
  8. Kranke Gesellschaft
  9. Ни-ши-ша
  10. Der Hass
  11. Keine Arbeit
  12. Твой Выбор
  13. Einerlei
  14. Цель
  15. Heute Nacht (Dödelhaie cover)
Der Steinkopf are a relatively old band by the measures of Russian punk scene - they were formed in 1996, but the idea of playing punk with lyrics in German came to them in early 1990s, when they found out about the Deutschpunk scene. By mid-2000s, they got considerable recognition in Germany, and have played live with Dödelhaie(which is currently my favourite Deutschpunk band). There's a roughly equal amount of songs with lyrics in German and Russian on this particular album; nevertheless, it's good to see a Russian band singing in German that's not just another Rammstein clone.