lunedì 30 dicembre 2013

CZESŁAW NIEMEN & AKWARELE - "CZY MNIE JESZCZE PAMIĘTASZ?" (1969)

In 1968 Niemen released "Sukces", a rhythm & blues album with some good songs, but maybe a bit too canonical. It was the following album, "Czy mnie jeszcze pamiętasz?" (transl. "Do you still remember me?"), which proved his genius once for all.

On this record he tried a little bit of everything. "Wiem że nie wrócisz" is a baroque song with reminisces of Procol Harum and other proto-prog bands, "Ach jakie oczy" is a powerful example of Polish funk, "Przyjdź w taką noc" is a strong r&b with beat music influences, while "Jeszcze sen" is as tragic as any Aznavour's chanson. The biggest hits of the album, "Pop papugami" and "Czas jak rzeka", are two perfectly orchestrated pop songs, with nothing to envy to Burt Bacharach.

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venerdì 27 dicembre 2013

ZABRANJENO PUŠENJE - "DAS IST WALTER" (1984)

Led by singer Nele Karajlić and guitar player Sejo SexonZabranjeno pušenje (transl. No Smoking) was one of the most important bands for the Yugoslav new wave. They are considered to be the band that brought this kind of music to Sarajevo, which up to that moment was limited to mainly classic rock and folk music.

"Das ist Walter" is a brilliant debut album, it contains both raw and polished sounds, and a singalong pop feel shines throughout the tracklist.
"Zenica Blues" was a hit, pushing the album to the 100.000 copies mark. I consider it a new wave equivalent to Johnny Cash's "San Quentin", as their melodies are kinda similar, and they are both about prison.

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giovedì 19 dicembre 2013

DARKWOOD DUB - "U NEDOGLED" (1996)

Today Darkwood Dub is one of the prominent bands in the Balkan indie-rock scene, but it hasn't always been this way. Their affirmation is the result of a long process, which started with the Yugoslav war and endured to the very end of it. During the conflict, the band encountered difficulties in both distributing records and performing live.

The debut album, "Paramparčad", was recorded in 1992-93, but released only in 1995. It was a strange record, heavily influenced by funk and dub music. Anyway, a poor sound quality and some monotonous guitar-driven arrangements penalized it a bit. It was only with this second studio effort that the band finally revealed its true value. 

While the mix between indie-rock, funk and dub remains the main key of their music, the album is full of keyboards, samples, and scratch tricks, making it one of the most exciting hybrids between guitar music and electronic sounds in that golden age known as the Nineties.

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sabato 7 dicembre 2013

MORAWSKI WAGLEWSKI NOWICKI HOŁDYS - "ŚWINIE" (1985)

After the positively received "I Ching", Wojciech Morawski (drums), Wojciech Waglewski (guitar), Andrzej Nowicki (bass), and Zbigniew Hołdys (vocals) decided to record another album, this time without any external help. 

"Świnie" sounds monolithic when compared to the eclecticism of its predecessor. The entire tracklist is dedicated to a cold post-punk formula, with dissonant guitars, powerful bass lines, a metallic drum sound, and some striking, desperate vocal performances. The album surpassed again the 50.000 copies mark, becoming another cult classic of the local new wave. 

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sabato 30 novembre 2013

"I CHING" (Zbigniew Hołdys + various artists, 1984)

Largely recorded during the Polish martial law, with armed soldiers controlling the studios, this album is the photography of one of the harshest moments in the history of the nation. Despite that, it contains some courageous lyrics, mostly written by Bogdan Olewicz, which subtlely criticized the regime.

The project was directed by Perfect's Zbigniew Hołdys (composer and singer in most of the tracks), with the help of some great local musicians, such as Wojciech Morawski (drums on twelve tracks out of fourteen), Wojciech Waglewski from Osjan (mandolin on "Wojna chudych z grubymi", lead vocals on "Ja płonę", lead guitar in nine tracks), and Andrzej Nowicki (treated piano on "Nie będzie nas", bass guitar in eight tracks). Two songs are written and sung by blues-rock legend Martyna Jakubowicz.

The musical content is really eclectic, ranging from atmospheric new wave songs ("Heksagram sześćdziesiąty piąty") to frantic punk rhythms ("Nie będzie nas"), from folk music ("Różne rozmowy z życiem") to hard rock ("Człowiek mafii"). Last but not least, here you can find "Wojna chudych z grubymi", an anti-war poem and a wonderful piece of music (try to image Police with a virtuoso mandolin player in place of Andy Summers). 

"I Ching" did not receive any support from local radio or television, but it was still able to sell 50.000 copies in the year of its release, opening the way to the supergroup Morawski Waglewski Nowicki Hołdys, and subsequently to the long lived art-rock formation Voo Voo.

Tracklist:
1. Heksagram sześćdziesiąty piąty (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
2. Miss Propagandiss (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys Joanna Posmyk)
3. Dyktator (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
4. Nie będzie nas (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
5. Ja płonę (vocals: Wojciech Waglewski)
6. Wojna chudych z grubymi (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
7. Gazeta (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
8. Człowiek mafii (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
9. Różne rozmowy z życiem (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
10. Super Ego (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
11. Milo (sung in chorus on Wojciech Waglewski's fictitious lyrics)
12. Słuchaj Man (vocals: Martyna Jakubowicz)
13. Kołysanka dla misiaków (vocals: Martyna Jakubowicz)
14. I Ching (instrumental, composed by Zbigniew Hołdys)

p.s. If you are a Polish reader and you want to try, please post a translation of "Wojna chudych z grubymi" in the comments section. I used Google Translate to understand the meaning of the song, but there are lots of grammar mistakes :)

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giovedì 21 novembre 2013

TIME - "TIME" (1972)

After a couple of years spent as Korni grupa's vocalist, Dado Topić started his own project, Time.

This debut album saw historic producer Vladimir Mihaljek (Smak and Bijelo dugme among his protegees) helping a line-up of expert musicians, such as Vedran Božić (guitar), 
Tihomir Asanović (organ), and Brane Živković (piano, flute).

The album was not a big success at the time, due to a first edition of 500 copies only, but it was soon reissued and never went out of print. Today considered one of the biggest classics of Yugoslavian rock, you can find it in every poll or list on this topic.
In their 32 minutes of duration the five tracks show a perfectly synchronized band divided between frantic funk-rock songs ("Istina mašina") and languid, atmospheric ballads ("Pjesma no. 3"), sometimes merging these two souls ("Kralj alkohol").
"Za koji život treba da se rodim" is the most celebrated title, ten epic minutes where you can find guitar-driven jams, hypnotic piano patterns, wild flute solos, and that tragic electric organ crescendo just before the grand finale.
The only song I don't like is "Hegedupa upa", as it sounds like a stupid imitation of Cream or Jimi Hendrix, but the rest of the album is quite simply among the finest examples of non-British progressive rock.

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mercoledì 13 novembre 2013

YANKA DYAGILEVA - "PRODANO!" (1989)

Original title: Продано!
Artist: Янка Дягилева

Yanka Dyagileva had a short career, consisting in five classic albums recorded between 1987 and 1989. Today regarded as an icon of the Siberian underground scene of the 80s, she died in May 1991. It was probably a suicide, although some rumours about an alleged murder started circulating. The only sure thing is that she was found lifeless in a river, when she was only 24.

Distributed at the time on some illegal copies, all her works contain pretty much the same songs, but the arrangements are radically different. "Ne polozheno!" (1987) was the debut album, built around the sound of two guitars and some percussion. Then came "Deklassirovannym ehlementam" (1988), recorded with a post-punk sound and a canonical rhythm section.

"Prodano!" is the third record. I consider it her magnum opus, as it contains 19 songs. Some of these were included on the first two albums, others would have been part of the further two albums, each one in a different version.
"Prodano!" is the album where the melodic talent is most evident, with her powerful, tormented voice shining above some wildly strummed guitars and nothing more. 
It is also her first record with a decent sound qualityAlthough the production is not the work of a professional, it's still an improvement on the low fidelity of her previous efforts. A monument to folk music and poetry, both pagan and anarchical, this is just the right introduction to a wonderful talent gone too soon.

Her discography was reissued in the 90s by Yegor Letov, along with some posthumous material.

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(The song starts at 0'30'')

domenica 10 novembre 2013

CZESŁAW NIEMEN - "DZIWNY JEST TEN ŚWIAT" + "NIEMEN & AKWARELE" (1967)

After some years spent releasing singles and EPs, Niemen finally recorded his debut album, soon imposing himself as the most popular Polish singer. It sold 160.000 copies in one year, while the title-track and "Wspomnienie" dominated radio and TV airplay. Today they are both regarded as absolute classics.

The album starts with "Gdzie to jest", a fuzzy beat song, but it quickly shows Niemen's versatility with "Nigdy się nie dowiesz", a mix of blues and Renaissance music. "Wspomnienie" is a delicate jazz-pop song, inspired by a poem written by Julian Tuwim in 1921, while the title-track is a surprisingly powerful soul-rock with bombastic arrangements, and the tragic "Chciałbym cofnąć czas" kinda reminds of the Walker Brothers vocal performances. Very popular at the time, but slightly forgotten today, "Pamiętam ten dzień" will earn your appreciation with a Spanish-sounding brass section. 

Tracks 1-12: the original album, released in 1967. 
Tracks 13-15: released in that same year as part of the "Niemen & Akwarele" EP.
(Both the album and the EP featured the band Akwarele on instruments. A special mention for Marian Zimiński, keyboardist, and Tomasz Butowtt, drummer).


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A few records I have re-uploaded on request:

venerdì 1 novembre 2013

CZESŁAW NIEMEN - "ENIGMATIC" (1970)

Niemen, who died in January 2004 at the age of 64, is still one of the symbols of Polish music. At the peak of his career, between 1964 and 1975, he sold over two million records in his homeland, and he did it without ever compromising his intentions by making cheesy pop music.
On the contrary, he explored a mix of music styles, always trying to not repeat himself and to surprise his listeners. During his golden age, he went through Polish and Russian traditional music, soul, jazz-rock, progressive, psychedelia and baroque pop.

Recorded in 1969 and released one year later, "Enigmatic" is his most celebrated album. The glorious opening track, "Bema pamięci żałobny rapsod", starts like a gregorian chant, with a majestic choir and a striking church organ, only to suddenly mutate into a soul-rock epic after over 7 minutes. Guided by a surprisingly proto-trip hop rhythm section and Niemen's powerful, scratching voice, it hits the 16 minutes mark.

The other three tracks are shorter, but still powerful, filled with bluesy guitar solos, Hammond organ, jazz saxophones, and passionate female backing vocals, provided by legendary Polish vocal group Alibabki.

At the time, "Enigmatic" was combined with a movie, which showed Niemen and his band performing their music. The album sales surpassed the 125.000 copies mark in one year.


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giovedì 17 ottobre 2013

LECH JANERKA - "HISTORIA PODWODNA" (1986)

Despite having lasted just one album and a couple of singles, Klaus Mitffoch was probably the most important band ever emerged from Wrocław. After their break-up, Lech Janerka (singer and bass player) started his solo career with this album, which also marked the Nowa Fala movement (I can't find any information about sales, but three songs reached the LP3 top-10 and today it is considered a classic). 

While "Historia Podwodna" is still post-punk, it sounds richer than Klaus Mitffoch's, expecially for the use of an electrified cello, played by Lech's wife Bożena Janerka, and for the peculiar saxophone of Tomasz Pierzchalski
Guitars are also heavily treated and the structure of many songs hides unexpected twists.
If you like adventurous music which doesn't deny infectious tunes, this can be your album.


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mercoledì 16 ottobre 2013

EWA DEMARCZYK - "Ewa Demarczyk śpiewa piosenki Zygmunta Koniecznego" (1967)

This is one of the key-albums in the history of Polish music, in every perspective you want to read it. If you like singer-songwriters this is a must, if you like classical music this is a must, if you like experimentation this is a must, if you like pop music this is still a must (even though this is not a proper pop record, it influenced a lot Polish pop to come).

As shown on the title, the album is entirely composed by Zygmunt Konieczny in its first high-profile work after years spent creating music for theatre. Obviously, it also marks Ewa Demarczyk's full-lenght debut. 
Arranged by Konieczny himself, it was recorded with the help of the Polish Symphony Orchestra, and produced by Antoni Karużas. Lyrics are written by various authors and poets, and are all equally moving and significant. 

The eleven songs featured here probably represent the strongest definition of what Polish people call "poezja śpiewana" (literally "sung poetry"): a musical style where lyrics often have the strongest impact, but arrangements sustain them with accurate mixes of folk, jazz or classical music, or even less usual forms such as bossanova and tango.

A couple of translations I've found on the net:

"Taki pejzaż" (Such a landscape)
Lame dogs adorn the roads
Devil tangles girls' legs
Birds blacken the flowers of trees
The dreams are being trampled by cadavers

Such a landscape
Such a landscape

Rarely will the criminal weep with tears
Blind beggar will find work
Barefoot knight (will find his) laurel

Such a landscape
Such a landscape

Winds sow crippled pines
Useless although genuine

A fool will smooth them into a song
(he will) feed them with dreams
(he will) betray the star
There will be landscape
melodic maudlin

Such a landscape
Such a landscape...

"Tomaszów"
So maybe my dear let's go for a day to Tomaszow
Maybe during the golden dusk the same silence of September still sounds there
In that white house, in that room where someone else's furniture had been put
We ought to finish our old sadly-unfinished conversation
So maybe will we my dearest drop-in to Tomaszów for a day
Maybe during the golden dusk the same silence of September still lasts there

And only from my eyes a salty drop streams to my mouth
Yet there is no reply from you
(and you) just eat green grapes

This white house, this lifeless room
till this day wonders, doesn't understand
The humans put in the furniture and left that place in musing
But after all everything was left there
Even this silence of September lasts
So maybe my dearest let's drop-in for a day to Tomaszów

I still sing you with my sight "Du holde Kunst"
And the heart breaks
And I have to go
So you say me farewell

But your hand doesn't shiver in mine hand
And I went, I left, like dream the conversation broke
I blessed, I sworn, "Du holde Kunst"
So like that?
Without a single word?

So maybe will we my dearest drop-in to Tomaszów for a day
Maybe during the golden dusk the same silence of September still lasts there

And only from my eyes a salty drop streams to my mouth
Yet there is no reply from you
(and you) just eat green grapes

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giovedì 10 ottobre 2013

1984 - "SPECJALNY RODZAJ KONTRASTU" (rec. 1987-88, rel. 2003)

"Specjalny rodzaj kontrastu" was intended to be the debut album of 1984, a cult post-punk band from Rzeszów, lead by singer and multi-instrumentalist Piotr "Mizerny" Liszcz.
Unfortunately, their record label, Razem, was closed soon after the end of the sessions, and the record didn't have any distribution.
In 2003 the album was finally released on Boofish Records, with twelve bonus tracks recorded during some old radiophonic sessions (which I have omitted, because they weren't part of the original album, and they are mainly alternative versions of already known songs).

1984 played a very dark form of post-punk with majestic basslines, echoing metallic drums, sharp effected guitars, and threatrical, grandiose vocal performances. Some of my favourites here are the urgent, epic "Ferma hodowlana", the solemn march "Manitou", and the intimate opening track "Pierwszy śnieg", for voice, piano and sound effects only. 

P.S. "Specjalny rodzaj kontrastu" is also the title for one of their songs, which was released before the album and excluded from it. You can find it here.

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giovedì 3 ottobre 2013

MYSLOVITZ - "MIŁOŚĆ W CZASACH POPKULTURY" (1999)

Myslovitz is the most popular rock band to emerge from Poland in the late Nineties. They took the name from the city where they were born, Myslowice, making it the new capital of the local alternative scene.

This is their breakthrough album, the first of their mature phase (their previous works were not bad anyway, just a bit naive).
It reached no. 8 in Poland, staying in the chart for one year. It reached a double platinum status in 2002, but considering that there wasn't any update since then (certifications have been totally reformed in the meanwhile), that the album has re-entered the charts on a pair of occasions (including three weeks in the top-20 in 2009, when a deluxe edition was released), and that today it is regarded as a classic, I think its sales are likely over the 200.000 copies mark, which would make it a diamond disc by nowadays standards.

If "Miłość..." had been produced by an English band, today it would be considered a classic of the late Britpop era, as it contains some amazing songs. "Chłopcy" is introduced by a refined stratification of riffs and guitar effects, "Długość dźwięku samotności" is a touching love song with lounge-pop sounds, "Gdzieś" has some nice rhythm tricks and an explosive chorus, "My" is a softly depressive midtempo pierced by some subtle feedback noises, "Noc" is a celestial crescendo guided by acoustic guitars and percussions. 

P.S. This is strongly recommended to fans of Manic Street Preachers.

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martedì 24 settembre 2013

PERFECT - "CO SIĘ STAŁO Z ZBIGNIEW H.?" (non-album tracks 1978-1983)

These are some of my favourite songs released by Perfect. Since there is no compilation containing them all, I decided to compile it by myself.

1. Co się stało z Magdą K.?
A sort of Polish answer to "Year of the Cat" by Al Stewart.
Recorded in 1977 and aired in the spring of 1978, it was a solo recording by Zbigniew Holdys. Thirteen years later it was included in Perfect's anthology "1977-1991".

2. Po co?
Recorded in 1981, during the debut album sessions, this funny hard rock was released only eight years later, on the anthology "1981-1989".

3. Coś się dzieje w mej biednej głowie
This is one of the few heavy metal attempts by Perfect. It was released in 1981, as part of the EP "Chcemy być sobą". 

4. Pepe wróć
5. Opanuj się
Released as a single in 1982, selling over 150.000 copies. Both songs reached the top-10 on the Trójka chart. The A-side is one of their most precious gems, a strange hypnotic blues with a ghostly atmosphere. The B-side is a more canonical hard rock, though still enjoyable.

6. Moja magiczna różdżka
This beautiful boogie with new wave guitars was released in 1982, as a B-side for the hit single "Idź precz".

7. Zamieniam się w psa 
8. Dla zasady nie ma sprawy
Released as a single in 1983, selling over 100.000 copies. The A-side is a hi-tech hard rock, the B-side a very slow ballad, slightly reminiscent of the Police.

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sabato 21 settembre 2013

"POLISH NEW WAVE" (various artists, 1984-87)

This precious compilation was released in 1997 on Mathaus Records. It contains a bunch of non-album singles by four important underground acts of Polish new wave, all signed to the state label Tonpress. You will not find these tracks on any other release. 
I marked in red my personal favourites :)

1. Madame - Gdyby nie szerszenie 
2. Madame - Może właśnie Sybilla
3. Madame - Głupi numer
4. Madame - Dzień narodzin
5. Madame - Krawat powieszony w łaźni 

These five songs are everything the band recorded in its short career. 
Track 1 was aired by Radio Trójka in 1985, reaching no. 2 and becoming a little post-punk anthem. Tracks 2 & 3 were released as a single in 1985, tracks 4 & 5 were released as a single in 1986. 
Five years later Robert Gawliński would have formed Wilki, one of the most popular Polish bands of the 90s.

6. Made in Poland - Obraz we mgle
7. Made in Poland - Ja myślę 
8. Made in Poland - Kobieta
9. Made in Poland - Ucieczka
10. Made in Poland - Nieskazitelna twarz
11. Made in Poland - Jedna kropla deszczu  

This is everything the band produced prior to its debut album.
Lead vocals: Robert "Rozzy" Hilczer - Tracks 6 & 7 were aired by Radio Trójka in december 1984, then released as a single in 1985. Track 8 was part of the compilation "Sztuka latania", released in 1985. 
Lead vocals: Jolanta Pulchna - Track 9 & 10 were released as a single in 1986. Track 11 was probably recorded that same year, but I don't know when it was released.

12. Variété - I znowu ktoś przestawił kamienie 
13. Variété - Te dni  
Relased as a single in 1985, these two songs represented for eight years the only official release by Grzegorz Kaźmierczak and his legendary bandThe A-side was a top-10 hit on the Trójka chart. File under: gloomy sounds & saxophone.

14. 1984 - Tu nie będzie rewolucji
15. 1984 - Krucjata
16. 1984 - Specjalny rodzaj kontrastu
17. 1984 - W chołdzie fanatykom marszu
18. 1984 - Biała chorągiewska

Tracks 14-15 were released as a single in 1987. Tracks 16-18 were aired by Radio Trójka that same year. 
These five tracks probably form the best segment of the compilation. From the aggressiveness of "Tu nie będzie rewolucji" to the tragic melancholy of "Biała chorągiewska" and "Specjalny rodzaj kontrastu", multi-instrumentalist Piotr Liszcz, the leader of the band, shows some strong melodies and refined arrangements.

P.S. Polish title for this compilation is "Polska nowa fala 1983". Funnily, it doesn't contain songs from that year.

DOWNLOAD (kbps: 192)

venerdì 13 settembre 2013

"ASSA" (soundtrack, 1988)

Wiki says: "Assa is a Soviet film directed by Sergei Solovyov and released in 1987. It became a cult film, mostly thanks to the fact that it was one of the films that brought Russian rock music from the underground into the mainstream."

As you may remember, in the early 80s rock musicians from all over Soviet Union were releasing their albums in the black market, through home-made tapes. Even if concerts and festivals were allowed, bands from the underground scene weren't accepted by the official Soviet label, Melodiya.
"Assa" changed everything, as Kino and Akvarium performed in it, only to become stars soon after the release. The soundtrack was released in 1988 by Melodiya.

In particular, two songs became enormously popular. The first is "Gorod zolotoy" (transl. "City of God") by Akvarium, a wonderful acoustic lullaby influenced by Renaissance music. It was originally composed by Vladimir Vavilov in 1972, with lyrics added by poet Henri Volokhonsky.

The second is "Hochu peremen!" by Kino, a post-punk anthem with powerful, outbursting lyrics about freedom: "Our hearts are longing for changes, Our eyes are longing for changes, It's in our laugh and in our tears, And in the pulse of our veins. Changes, we are longing for changes!"

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giovedì 5 settembre 2013

OMEGA - "10000 LÉPÉS" (1969)

Omega is one of the most popular Hungarian bands ever. After a nice psychedelic debut album ("Trombitás Frédi és a rettenetes emberek", 1968), they released this ultimate classic.

The line-up at the time was a sextet, built around singer János Kóbor and keyboardist-composer Gábor Presser. They produced a surprisingly coloured music, which incorporated a lot of existing styles and predated some others. 
Here you can find devastating hard boogies ("Tűzvihar", "Félbeszakadt koncert"), bizarre improvisations ("Kérgeskezű favágok"), esoteric blues-rock with orchestral arrangements ("Tékozló fiúk", which kinda remind me of Arthur Brown's "Fire"), pleasing uptempo folk songs with a vaudeville touch ("Petróleum lámpa"), and epic martial progressions ("Tízezer lépés").
The most popular song is "Gyöngyhajú lány" (transl. "The Girl with Pearly Hair"), one of the anthems of Hungarian rock music, a wonderful progressive rock ballad.

The album equally resounds prog and hard rock, which were both at their very beginning at the time. In other words, Omega were not mere followers, but great musicians, perfectly synchronized with the expressiveness of Western rock giants.

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giovedì 29 agosto 2013

IZRAEL - "NABIJ FAJĘ" (1986)

Robert Brylewski is a legend of Polish rock. He was the head of Brygada Kryzys along with Tomasz Lipiński, and after their separation he contributed founding two of the most important projects of the local underground, Izrael and Armia. For some years he kept playing in both bands, in the former as the frontman, in the latter as a guitarist. The fact that Izrael produced reggae music with new wave influences, while Armia was a hardcore punk project, says everything about Brylewski's eclecticism.

"Nebij faję" is Izrael's second studio work. It is totally focused on Brylewski's figure, being their only album where he's the sole vocalist (on all their other records, he was supported by a co-lead singer). It is probably superior to their debut effort, being less reggae-centered. While you can hear dub basslines, echoed drums, and upbeat guitars all around, the album also shows a new wave production, an oppressive mood, and some experimental moments such as the kraut-rock rhythm of "Wolny naród", or the percussive storms of the first and last instrumental tracks.

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P.S. If you are interested, "Aya RL II" is available again. Please keep flagging expired links :)

mercoledì 21 agosto 2013

BIG DAY - "W ŚWIETLE I WE MGLE" (1994)

Big Day is an alternative pop-rock band from Olsztyn. Formed in 1994, they quickly showed a peculiar psychedelic sound, mixing jangling guitars and distortions, muscular rock progressions and ethereal atmospheres. On this debut album you can hear the influence of British shoegaze and Madchester movements, which was kinda unusual, if you consider that in the mid 90s nearly every Polish rock band with a female singer played grunge. 

What makes their music so exciting - apart from the dynamic rhythm section - is the combination of male and female vocals, the first provided by bass guitarist and lyrics writer Marcin Ciurapiński, the second by his wife Anna Zalewska, who has become the symbol of the band for the public.

"W świetle i we mgle" was not a big seller at the time, but the band reached an intense period of fame soon after, between 1995 and 1997 (their second album, "Kaleidoscop", surpassed the 100.000 copies mark).

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mercoledì 7 agosto 2013

VIS IDOLI - "VIS IDOLI" (1st EP + 2nd single, 1981)

I presented Idoli on my blog nearly one year ago, when I posted their 1982 full-lenght album, "Odbrana i poslednji dani".
"VIS Idoli" is the first EP from the band led by Vlada Divljan. Released in 1981, it was a blockbuster for Yugoslavian new wave, selling over 200.000 copies at the time.
It contains six songs, three of which have become classics: the art-rock love song "Malena", the punk anthem "Zašto su danas devojke ljute", and "Devojko mala", cover of a wonderful Serbian pop hit, originally sung by Vlastimir "Đuza" Stojiljković in 1960.

P.S. I added two bonus tracks, released in the same year as a single: "Maljčiki", a crazy ska song which probably remains the symbol of the band, and the melancholic post-punk "Retko te viđam sa devojkama" (transl. "I rarely see you with girls"). This was the second Yugoslavian song about homosexuality, preceded only by Prljavo kazalište's "Neki dječaci".

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domenica 4 agosto 2013

BEMIBEM - "BEMOWE FRAZY" (1974)

After tons of post-punk, a step back into the Seventies, with this great album, the only released by Polish pop-jazz ensemble Bemibem. Ewa Bem and her brother Aleksander, both singers and percussionists, were the leaders of the project (Aleksander composed nine songs out of eleven). 

"Bemowe frazy" displays a wide range of influences: Brazilian music (bossanova chords, samba percussive sections), sunshine pop, and orchestral jazz are the first things you will notice here. Elevator music keyboards and complex vocal harmonies are also part of the game, making this one of the most refined albums in the Polish pop-jazz scene. If you want to listen to a Western band with similar mood and musicianship, just try Chris Dedrick's Free Design, from New York. 

After this record Bemibem slowly fell apart, with Ewa starting a long solo career, which would have made her the most important female jazz singer of her nation.


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domenica 28 luglio 2013

TSYGANYATA I YA S ILYICHA - "GAUBITSY LEITENANTA GURUBY" (1989)

Original title: Гаубицы лейтенанта Гурубы
Band: Цыганята и я с Ильича

Yegor Letov is best known as the leader of Grazhdanskaya Oborona, but in the course of time he was involved in some exciting side projects. He formed Tsyganyata i Ya s Ilyicha in 1989, along with his multi-instrumentalist Konstantin Ryabinov and frontman Oleg Sudakov (also known as Manager).
Interestingly, Letov was not the main singer. Even though he produced the album, played a lot of instruments and sung various background lines, Manager was the lead vocalist and lyrics writer.

With this album Manager wanted to create a new way to write songs. In fact, some tracks are nearly a-cappella numbers, where he screams with unexpected changes of intensity. On the other hand, songs with instrumental backgrounds are more resemblant of Grazhdanskaya Oborona (the aggressive lo-fi ska of "Na blazhennom ostrove kommunizma", the noisy "Opozdavshaya molodyozh'" with its galloping bassline, the punk assault of "Gusar i Verka Zozulya", the whirling "Russkie", built on a Prokofiev theme - the same used by Sting in "Russians").
The most praised moment of the album is "Pesnya gvozdya", where you can hear a few percussive sounds and Manager pretending to be a piece of wood while nails penetrate it. It is one of the most disturbing pieces of music you will ever listen to.


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mercoledì 17 luglio 2013

TILT - "TILT" (1988) + singles & bonus tracks

Tomasz Lipiński is a legend of Polish rock music. In the early Eighties he caused a strong change of direction on Brygada Kryzys, helping them to produce one of the most eclectic albums of the Nowa Fala movement. After their dissolution, he came back to his earlier project, Tilt, starting a successful career. 

In fact, this first album is another milestone. You can consider it a Polish answer to Style Council, and believe me if I say that maybe Style Council never released such a solid album. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Paul Weller fan, I'm just trying to praise this record as it deserves. 

The tracklist is equally divided between uptempo songs ("Jest tylko to", "Zawsze wszędzie teraz"), sophisticated ballads ("Rzeka miłości...", "Gdyby wszystkie słowa"), and mixes of both (the most popular song, no. 1 hit "Mówię ci że...", is at the same time velvety and energetic).
Arrangements are rich and fascinating, involving jangly guitars, dominant basslines, tons of saxophone, soulful background vocals, and some smooth keyboards here and there.

N.B. I've added six tracks on a separate folder. "Runął już ostatni mur", "O jaki dziwny dziwny dziwny", and "Każdy się boi swojej paranoi" were released as part of the same single in 1985. "Tak jak ja kocham cię" was aired by Trójka Radio in 1988 and then released on the 1991 CD reissue of "Tilt". "Szare koszmary" was also released on that edition of the album, but I don't know when it was recorded, nor aired the first time (I just know that Tilt first played it live in 1983). "It's all over for you" is a 1979 demo, released on the 2000 CD reissue.


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giovedì 11 luglio 2013

BOA - "BOA" (1982)

Boa was a pop quartet from Zagreb, formed by Mladen Puljiz (keyboards & vocals), Slavko Remenarić (guitars), Igor Šoštarić (drums), and Damir Košpić (bass guitar).

There is not much information about the early years of their career. It is hard to understand if they were popular at the time. In fact, this debut album shows a hi-tech, expensive production (with lots of electronic layerings, funky basslines, effected guitars, and refined sounds), but today just a small circle of fans seems to remember the band.
It is a pity, because this is such a well played, intense new wave record, which on one side reminds of Trevor Horn's pyrotechnical works, and on the other it predates Camel's "Stationary Traveller", with its obscure, Cold War atmosphere (even the artwork is similar!)

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giovedì 4 luglio 2013

KINO - "KINO [aka CHORNYY AL'BOM]" (1990)

On August 15, 1990 Viktor Tsoi died in a car accident near Riga, while returning from a fishing day. His death was a shock for the entire Soviet Union, leaving his many fans in despair, but projecting his name into immortality. Today Tsoi is still regarded as a music icon and symbol of freedom.

"Kino", also known as "Chornyy al'bom" (transl. "Black album") because of the cover, was released in December 1990. It consists in eight songs, recorded by Tsoi's bandmates Yuri Kasparian, Georgy Guryanov, and Igor Tikhomirov after the tragedy. They used his guitar & voice demos, completing them with new instrumental background tracks. After the release, Kino officially disbanded.

As always, the album was a blockbuster and every song on it became popular, especially "Leto" and "Kukushka". Kasparian's ability on electric guitar shines throughout the entire record, with his mix of rock energy and arcane, seductive folk influences. Tsoi's voice is deep and touching, it's so sad to think what an amazing songwriter and character he was, and how an adverse fate cut off his career.

In my opinion, the strongest tracks are those where folk roots are more evident, such as "Zvezda" or "Leto", but the album offers a bit of everything, including atmospheric breaks such as "Kukushka" and dance-pop songs such as "Krasno zheltye dni" and "Muraveynik" (which strongly reminds of New Order).

A little curiosity: on the first vynil edition, all songs were untitled. Official titles came out only four years later, when the album was reissued on CD and cassette.

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sabato 29 giugno 2013

KINO - "ZVEZDA PO IMENI SOLNTSE" (1989)

Kino's last release before Viktor Tsoi's death. It was another success (the title-track, "Pachka sigaret", and "Stuk" all were big hits), confirming the band as a polar star in the local counterculture. 

The tracklist is impressive for its solidity and diversity. 
Guitar player Yuri Kasparian shows his gusto for epicness in the opener "Pesnya bez slov", the title-track is a funky mid tempo number in the wake of "Gruppa krovi", "Mesto dlya shaga vpered" displays the dance side of the quartet, "Pachka sigaret" and "Aprel'" are stunning folk ballads with depressive lyrics and majestic vocal arrangements, while on the new wave anthem "Stuk" you can hear some harsh, distorted guitars. 
Every drum sound was programmed by Georgy Guryanov on his Yamaha RX-5 machine.

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martedì 25 giugno 2013

GRAZHDANSKAYA OBORONA - "RUSSKOE POLE EKSPERIMENTOV" (1989)

Original title: Русское поле экспериментов
Band: Гражданская оборона

At the beginning of 1989, when the repressive power of the Communist regime was slowly fading away, Yegor Letov was able to organize a new line-up for his most important project, including Igor Zhevtun (guitar), Arkadiy Klimkin (drums), and Konstantin Ryabinov (bass, guitar, wind instruments). 

If this is Grazhdanskya Oborona's most celebrated record, it's mainly because of its title track. Those fourteen minutes represent a real shock, with their assault of abrasive guitars and desperate vocals. Letov's lyrics use the image of Russian fields of experiments to portray the tragic condition of the human race. This song cannot be really described, but only experienced.

The rest of the album consists of nine short tracks which mixes post-punk bass lines, hardcore fury, and a noisy, low fi approach. Western indie bands such as Dinosaur Jr or Pixies sound like tender puppies when compared to these songs.

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martedì 18 giugno 2013

ŁAGODNA PIANKA - "NAJMNIEJSZE PRZEBOJE" (2013)

There's not much I can say about this indie-pop quartet, as there are just a few informations on the net. According to the biography, they are from Sędziszów Małopolski, near the Carpathian mountains, they are produced by The Car Is On Fire member Jacek Szabrański, and they received support from both Polish rock stars (Strachy na Lachy) and underground musicians (Ścianka). 
They are not popular yet, but I hope they will be, because they deserve more than just a few thousands visits on Youtube.
Anyway, the most important thing you have to know is that this debut album contains some nice songs with funky guitars, fat bass lines, and imaginative keyboard landscapes.


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domenica 16 giugno 2013

GRAZHDANSKAYA OBORONA - "MYSHELOVKA" (1987)

Original title: Мышеловка
Original band name: Гражданская оборона

Yegor Letov, who died in 2008 from a heart attack, was one of the key figures of Russian alternative music. In the late 90s his cult was so big that he could have been considered a mainstream outsider (or an underground star, if you prefer). Concerts with his main band, Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defence), attracted thousands every night.

Born and raised in Omsk, Siberia, Letov started a project called Posev in 1982, when he was only 17. He was the singer and guitarist, while his friend Konstantin Ryabinov played bass guitar. After two years they changed name in Grazhdanskaya Oborona. In 1985 two home-made tapes, titled "Optimizm" and "Poganaya molodezh'", were released in the illegal underground market, with their mix of noise rock, post-punk, and anarchic lyrics.
The approach was different from the pop-rock school of Saint Petersburg, which preferred metaphorical lyrics about freedom. Letov was direct and brutal, as he didn't like compromises. 
Unfortunately, the authorities feared his critical mood against the Soviet system, and at the end of 1985 he was forced for four months into a psychiatric hospital, while Ryabinov was conscripted in the military service.

After his release, Letov realized that he was alone. Without Ryabinov, he couldn't find anyone brave enough to play with him. From this moment to the beginning of 1989 Grazhdanskaya Oborona was basically a one-man band.
Recorded in the harshest moment of solitude, when only the punk band Pik i Klakson gave Letov some support by providing good instruments, "Myshelovka" is regarded today as a classic. A deranged abrasiveness flows through every fragment of the tracklist. The guitar sound is sandpaper, Yegor's voice is as raw as asphalt, but despite the low fidelity the result is majestic. 

Letov had a natural gift in taking advantage of Russian language malleability, thus giving musicality even to his craziest stuff. You simply can't resist this heroic, controversial, angry man and his tempestous sing-along slivers, ranted with an unusual sense of melody.

P.S. Letov was one of the most prolific musicians that I know. As Grazhdanskaya Oborona he released fifteen albums between 1987 and 1990, while at the same time he was making music under four other names (Armiya Vlasova, Yegor i Opizdenevshie, Kommunizm, Tsyganyata i Ya s Ilyicha). For this reason I will post only his most celebrated albums.


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