giovedì 28 marzo 2013

MULTFILMY - "THE BEST" (2000-2003)


Original title: The Бest
Original band name: Мультfильмы

Multfilmy never reached the Russian mainstream, but they were one of the most respected names of the local alternative rock scene at the beginning of the 2000s. This anthology is a nice introduction to their work. 
The band was founded in 1998 in Saint Petersburg by Egor Timofeev (vocals, guitar & songwriting). They represented a perfect example of non-British brit-pop (excuse me for the pun). In fact, they were a connection between the sound of the original movement (Blur in particular, I have to say) and Russian bands such as Mumiy Troll. Funny arrangements, good production, and elaborate tunes.

Tracks 1-6 from the album "Multfilmy" (2000)
Track 7 from the maxi-single "StereoSignal" (2000)
Tracks 8-10 from the album "Superpryz" (2002)
Tracks 11-12 from the album "Vitaminy" (2002)
Tracks 13-15 from the album "Muzyka zvozd i arkticheskikh stantsiy" (2003)

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domenica 24 marzo 2013

BEZ LADU A SKLADU - "BEZ LADU A SKLADU [aka XMETOV]" (1990)

Bez ladu a skladu (also known as BLAS) is a cult post-punk band from Trenčín (Slovakia), founded in 1985 and lead by singer Michal Kaščák, who was 13 years old at the time. They were able to release an album only in 1990, because in the Eighties the most experimental forms of rock music were banned all across Czechoslovakia.
From 1985 to 1989 the band was forced to the underground, playing some gigs (mainly in jazz festivals, which were less monitored by the Soviet authorities) and recording some songs and videos, without having the chance to distribute them.
After the 1989 Velvet Revolution, rock music was liberalized and the band finally realized a full album with a professional equipment. The result was this exciting debut effort, recorded in 1989 and released one year later: fourteen songs and fragments where post-punk meets funk and jazz, distorted guitars collide against a powerful saxophone, and every kind of dissonance, crazy evolution or funny sound is involved. 
Kaščák was still only 17 at the time of these sessions but his mix of declamations and histrionic singing is really impressive.

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giovedì 21 marzo 2013

KINO - "GRUPPA KROVI" (1988)

Every Kino album from 1986 to 1990 was a blockbuster in Russia, selling around a couple of millions copies each. "Gruppa krovi" made no exception, as its title-track is probably the most popular Russian rock song ever. "Zakroy za mnoy dver'", "Spokoynaya noch'" and "Mama my vse tyazhelo bol'ny" were also big hits, but every track here is a classic, basically. 

The album was recorded with hi-tech instruments such as the drum machine Yamaha RX-11 and the sampler Prophet 2000, both provided by Yuri Kasparian's American wife, Joanna Stingray. The sound is really advanced if compared to their earlier works: here you can hear a solid post-punk with loud rhythms, walls of guitars, sound effects, and a characteristic melodic sense, vaguely linked to Russian classical and traditional music (just think to Kasparian's guitar at the end of the title-track). Viktor Tsoi's voice is deeper than ever, painting every song with a gothic flavour.  
The first half of the record is more solid than the second, but my favourite is probably the closing track, "Legenda", a tragic ballad with a spare arrangement for guitar and electronic layerings. 

"Gruppa krovi" was the first album of Kino's classic line-up, with Igor Tikhomirov (from the prog-rock band Dzhungli) replacing Aleksandr Titov on bass. 


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venerdì 15 marzo 2013

BG (Boris Grebenshikov) - "RUSSKIY AL'BOM" (1992)

Original artist name: Борис Гребенщиков
Original album title: Русский альбом

After the release of "Ravnodenstvie", Akvarium entered the most difficult phase of their career. That album was not the work of a proper band: only Boris Grebenshikov and Aleksandr Titov played on all tracks, with various session men providing the rest of the instrumentation. That's why Grebenshikov decided to temporarily suspend the project and go on a journey outside Russia. 
In 1989 he was in Great Britain, where he recorded the solo album "Radio Silence", produced by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. The same year an attempt to resurrect Akvarium failed after some sessions (the unfinished album, "Feodalizm", would have been released only in 2007). 
After other minor projects, he decided to come back in great style with this "Russkiy al'bom", a set of folk-rock songs rooted in Russian traditional sounds. Released at the time simply as BG (his acronym), but today considered by everyone an effective Akvarium album, the work is dominated by acoustic instruments (guitars, violins, mandolin) and elevated by the presence of Oleg Sakmarov, who played oboe, flute, and Russian bagpipes, generating some incredible, ancestral sounds (i.e. the opening and closing instrumental tracks). Last but not least, here you can find "Nikita Ryazanskiy" and "Burlak", two of Grebenshikov's most beautiful and appreciated songs. 

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lunedì 11 marzo 2013

KINO - "NOCH'" (1986)

"Noch'" is widely regarded as a landmark record in Kino's career, for a number of reasons. In fact, it is:
1. their last album recorded at Andrei Tropillo's home-studio (Vitkor Tsoi and the producer have always had a troubled relationship);
2. their last album released illegally (and at the same time the first legal one, when Melodiya, the official Soviet label, reissued it two years later);
3. their first blockbuster, selling over a million copies in 1988 only;
4. their first effort as an effective quartet, with Tsoi (vocals & guitar), Yuri Kasparian (guitar), Georgy Guryanov (percussion), and Aleksandr Titov (bass guitar). Anyway, Titov would have left the band soon after, to focus on his career with Akvarium.

It is a great album indeed. "Videli noch'", a lovely song which mixes funk and jangle-pop, was Kino's first big hit; "Mama Anarkhiya" is a distorted power-pop anthem; "Fil'my", "Tanets", and "Zhizn' v stoklakhare some exciting hybrids between new wave and indie-pop. You can also find an amazing, frantic new version of "Posledniy geroy".

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lunedì 4 marzo 2013

RÓŻE EUROPY - "STAŃCIE PRZED LUSTRAMI" (1988)

Leaded by singer Piotr Klatt, Róże Europy was one of the most important Polish bands in the late 80s-early 90s era. 
This is their debut album and it generated a pair of top-5 songs in the LP3 chart, even though the band reached a real mainstream status only some years later. If you loved Ziyo, you must try this, as it follows the same reference points. 
The sound is a gigantic wall of post-punk bass lines, echoed guitars, atmospheric keyboards, and occasional romantic saxophones. Add to the picture some striking vocal melodies and you will have a first impression of what this album represents. Nothing less than ten wonderfully written, played and produced new wave tracks.

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venerdì 1 marzo 2013

AKVARIUM - "RAVNODENSTVIE" (1987)

Original band name: Аквариум 
Original album title: Равноденствие

A turning point in the history of Russian pop music. Released by Melodiya Records in vinyl format, "Ravnodenstvie" (transl. "Equinox") was the first rock album legally accepted by Soviet authorities.

Like all Akvarium's albums from 1982 to 1987, it contains some incredible tracks: "Velikiy dvornik" is an evocative, dreamy folk song referred to a spiritual Great Janitor; "Partizany polnoy Luny" is a hymn to freedom slightly reminiscent of British psych-prog singer Kevin Ayers; "Adelaida" is a stunning love ballad with some arcane, gothic folk arrangements.

N.B. I've added "Poezd v ogne" at the end of the tracklist. It is a gracious ballad in the style of Bob Dylan and one of Grebenshikov's most popular songs. It was released in 1988, combined with a video for Russian television. 

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