martedì 27 novembre 2012

JOSIPA LISAC - "NAJVEĆI USPJESI" (1968-1973)

"Post-punk and more", said Soviet Sam, but up to that moment he only posted "post-punk"... so let's have some "more"!

Josipa Lisac is an old Croatian singer who broke into the scenes at the end of the Sixties. Her powerful voice was kinda similar to that of Italian popstar Mina, but Lisac had the possibility to perform better songs, and to be surrounded by some first class arrangements. 
Moreover, she was not afraid to front rock music (in 1973 she released "Dnevnik jedne ljubavi", an album marked by psychedelic funk and baroque prog influences).

"Najveci uspjesi" collects some of Lisac's best songs, released as singles between 1968 and 1973. They were recorded at Jugoton Studios, with the help of the RTZ Orchestra. Authors and musical directors change from song to song, but the most important was probably Karlo Metikoš, who later composed the majority of Lisac's hits.


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domenica 25 novembre 2012

AKVARIUM - "RADIO AFRIKA" (1983)

Original band's name: Аквариум
Original title: Радио Африка

"Radio Afrika" is Akvarium's sixth album. It is also their first recorded with a professional equipment, after their producer Andrei Tropillo corrupted the engineer of a classical music studio, allowing them to use it at night (as you probably remember from the previous post, Russian rock bands were still not allowed yet in professional studios in the early 80's).

It is such a strange album: some songs are easy to remember, with their contagious tunes ("Muzyka serebryanykh spits" is a folk-boogie in the style of Marc Bolan; "Rok n roll mertv" is a powerful electric folk anthem; "Vana Khoya" is a lounge song, surrounded by an ethereal atmosphere; "Vremya Luny" is a danceable, wonderful pop number guided by Sergey Kuryokhin's electric organ sound), while others are little experimental fragments full of field recordings, manipulated tapes, piano and sax jazz solos. 

After this album the band's popularity increased exponentially all around Soviet Union.

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mercoledì 21 novembre 2012

AKVARIUM - "TABU" (1982)

Original band's name: Аквариум
Original title: Табу

Since their foundation in 1972, Akvarium represented the history of Russian rock music more than any other band. It is basically an open project, which changed a lot of members through the decades, with the only constant presence of leader, singer and guitar player Boris Grebenshikov.
Before writing about this album, their fifth, I will summarize their adventurous history.

1972-1979
The Seventies were the era of the harshest rock repression in Soviet Union. In the first years Akvarium played only some acoustic concerts in small apartments and clubs: they didn't use electric instruments to avoid control and problems with the authority. 
Their first public concerts were played in 1976, but still with acoustic instruments (a strategy to obtain invitations at the various Popular Music Festivals organized in Russia at the time). 
Anyway, they were still not allowed to release albums. Everything they recorded from 1972 to 1979 was realized in poor studio-apartments, with no equipment and no budget. This material remained in the shadow for decades until it was released between 1996 and 2001: it's basically a mix of horribly recorded folk tunes and ingenuous tape manipulations. You can live without it.

1980-1985 
In 1980 an event changed the history of Russian music. "Vesennie ritmy, Tbilisi-80!" was the first Rock Festival in Soviet Union. It was organized by the Georgian communist party to show an open mind, and hopefully to sedate the students' riots of 1978-79.
Akvarium were expelled after their performance was considered scandalous, but the festival was a big success and it started the liberalization of rock music (officially, rock albums were still banned, but the authorities let the bands release and self-distribuite them through concerts, festivals and black market: that's why Russian rock albums of the Eighties were released on home-made magnetic tapes).

1986-1991
In 1986 Melodiya, the official Soviet label, signed Kino and Akvarium under contract, giving them the possibility to sell their albums with a regular distribution. This was probably due to the fact that they were both enormously popular, and the authorities feared the impact that they had on young people. The majority of other bands had to wait until the birth of the C.I.S. to reach major distributions.

This is basically all you have to know to understand the political situation of the time, and to understand how much this band fighted for its music: it started in 1972, it was allowed to release its first album in 1981, and it had to wait until 1986 to obtain a regular professional contract.

"Tabu" is the album that I've chosen to start with Akvarium because it is the first one which is musically interesting: three of their first four albums ("Siniy al'bom", 1981; "Treugol'nik", 1981; "Akustika", 1982) were basically folk music in the style of early Bob Dylan (just adding some flute here and there), while the remaining one ("Elektrichestvo", 1981) was probably out of focus (on the first side some electric boogies recorded live in concert, on the second a collection of reggae tunes recorded in studio).

In "Tabu" Grebenshikov decided to improve Akvarium's musical power. Helped by Sergey Kuryokhin's brilliant piano improvisations and Alexander Lyapin's powerful electric guitars, Grebenshikov created a personal universe that englobes without distinction post-punk rhythms, blues scales, local folk, free-jazz fragments, and the aristocracy of art-rock. The best tracks here are probably "Segodnya noch'yu kto-to" (a nearly gothic piece), "Pepel" (a cold post-punk song admittedly inspired by Gary Numan), and "Synov'ya molchalivykh dney" (an epic ballad dedicated to David Bowie since its title, which means "Sons of the Silent Age"): three extraordinary rock numbers that show a band at the height of its musical creativity, with nothing to envy to Western music's giants.


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giovedì 15 novembre 2012

AYA RL - "AYA RL" (1989)

After a long hiatus, Aya RL finally released another album.
Originally titled "Aya RL", but reissued as "Aya RL II" (to discern it from the previous album), this second studio effort shows a mutation into the band's dynamics. Igor Czerniawski's keyboards and electronic sounds become dominant, while guitars and other instruments are relegated in the background. Even the voice of Pawel Kukiz is not as important as in their debut, considering the presence of tracks like "Waltera pamieci rapsod zalobny" (instrumental), "Fiji" (just some spoken words), and "Ten czlowiek z teczka" (nearly whispered). 

Songs are constructed upon repeated electronic patterns and do not always fit Aya RL's old atmosphere (the single "Jak ze szkla i stali" is virtually a soul track: not that bad, but surely not what you want to hear from Aya RL).

Anyway, Kukiz regained his crown on the apocalyptic crescendo of "Za chlebem". I'm sorry that I can't post it, as this album is entirely banned on Youtube.

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venerdì 9 novembre 2012

MAANAM - "MENTAL CUT" (1985)

The album that closed the first phase of Maanam's career. It is also their most atmospheric effort, with lots of echoes, guitar effects, and ethereal background vocals. Their initial punk fury has definitely evaporated into these immaterial sounds and majestic rhythms.

"Mental Cut" is a nothing less than a classic, as proved by the tracklist. "Simple Story" mixes new wave and jangle-pop, "Kowboje O.K." is a vivid instrumental track with country-Western influences, massive ballads such as "You or Me" and "Kreon" are somehow similar to the Sisters of Mercy's coeval masterpiece "Some Kind of Stranger". Thanks to irresistible hit singles such as "Lipstick on the Glass" and "Lucciola", sales surpassed the 300.000 copies mark in one year. 


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martedì 6 novembre 2012

MAANAM - "NOCNY PATROL" (1983)

When releasing their third album, Maanam tried to change their aggressive sound into a more refined product. The result was one of their most revered works, even though not their most successful (150.000 copies in one year is a solid performance, but not a triumph if we consider Maanam's usual sales).

Every song here is different from each other. "Nocny patrol" is a dub march featuring Kora on her most ethereal performance up to that moment, "To tylko tango" has a quite self-explainatory title, "French Is Strange" is a syncopated track with a sharp guitar sound (similar to the one that the Sisters Of Mercy's guitar player Gary Marx was developing in England at the same time), "Raz-dwa-raz-dwa" is an epic post-punk assault with a heavy metal opening riff in the style of Iron Maiden. 
The anthem is probably "Krakowski Spleen", an atmospheric mid-tempo with some harrowing, poetic lyrics: "The streets are shrouded in mist, A key in every door, Gaze out through my window, Longing for the storm. The sun so high so high, Shining in the pilot's eye, Tirelessly ablaze, Burning in icy space. I'm waiting right here for the wind, To blow my shutters away, Then maybe I can rise, With the sun in my eyes".


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