Oleg Kireev on 22 Jan 2001 18:19:28 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] mailghetto # 34 (music, 90s)

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Now its seems finally clear, the 2000 year, not the 2001 one, was a beginning of new millennium in Russia. Everything coincided with it: a new president, a new political situation, a final decline of the institutions which were already stagnating last years and a rise of some new, which we will see better soon. Now it’s a time to make some resumees for the past, until the coming present takes us into it’s rapid changings.



By the end of the 90s one`s listening to a definite kind of music was no longer a “creed” for the others, and thus the most formidable bands of the Perestroika times, such as Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols, BG, Gr.Ob, Nirvana etc, became no longer admirable. The latest common interest was the European movement of the 80s, which included Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Einstuerzende Neubaten, Diamanda Galas. During its peak the mentioned musicians did live shows in Moscow (in 1997 and 1998). Unfortunately, PJ Harvey, certainly not the worst of them, couldn’t boast such popularity and didn’t come to Moscow. Then the image-based culture turned its attention to more subtle aspects of the style, and it became fashionable to listen to less-popular music. In this case different subcultures chose the characteristic features of their style. While the art bogema felt inclination to soft reggae and oriental tunes, the younger radical elements chose electronica and various modern followers of Psychic TV and Coil. The most radical aspect of this taste was the fantastical popularity of Autechre. Musician Pasha Shevchenko used to say that the thing was about the difference between “humanly and inhumanly oriented” electronic music. Autechre certainly belonged to the latter. The other phenomenon that was quite popular was stylized music. In this case two bands are worth mentioning: fantastic records of Current 93 that came to Moscow in approximately 1997, and Jay Jay Johanson in 1999. Current 93 were certainly the best among other gothic rock bands that were announced along with them. Aspects of their enormous influence on the audience included the combination of catholic mass-styled melodic music, David Tibet’s ecstatic voice and mystical lyrics. Current 93 were aesthetically very close to the ultra-right ideology of the Elements magazine, but were also accepted by various non-conformist people – another proof of the fact that music taste was no longer an indicator of political orientation. They somewhat resembled Jay Jay Johanson in their artificiality and stylishness instead of spontaneity. The latter became famous for his slow and sweet, almost sugary 60s-stylized music that sounded primitive from the point of view of modern civilization. Musical pop-art of the 90s.

According to their taste in imported music, the cultural circles of the capital gave birth and promoted their own performers. Under the title of PG a CD of Karibasy was published in 1999. It became the most successful achievement of Russian reggae, though their style was formally defined as dub. At last Russian rastafari could listen to them instead of outdated Komitet Okhrany Tepla and Jah Division. However, electronic music still suffered the lack of progress, the scene was occupied by St.Petersburg-based Messer Fuer Frau Mueller and Novye Kompository. Few people have heard Pasha Shevchenko’s music (the Tryop project), which is actually the best synthesis of electronica and rap of present time. Made with a home computer, lo-fi styled and self-published in limited number of copies, the Tryop CDs “Time, events, people” and “Fractal world” feature a perfect combination of surrealist lyrics, RAP-styled hard rhythms and choruses that may serve as ready slogans for a radical demonstration.

Meanwhile the Russian pop scene has lost the few valuable features it used to have, and the bands of the beginning of the 90s, such as Nautilus and DDT were no longer interesting for anybody. New bands, such as Mumiy Troll and Zapreschenniye Barabanschiki (Forbidden Drummers), immediately became pop-oriented. At first there was something radical in them that could make them interesting for the intellectuals, but then it became clear that common people found them worthy too, and the intellectuals couldn’t share common interests with ordinary people, according to the tradition. Generally speaking, the pop scene is in either way connected with traditional rock, and within the rock movement it is difficult to get rid of old categories of “pop” and “alternative”. Musical pop-culture (as well as pop-cinema that gave birth to tow “Brothers” and “Barber of Siberia”) was decaying and at the same time becoming more and more pompous and rich. In this environment a new phenomenon appeared that had nothing in common with either old alternative scene or with new corrupted one. It was Zemfira. A female singer from Ufa soon became a number one star with the support of Moscow managers. She was a star unlike all other: she didn’t have either a recognizable manner of singing or a common biography. Accordingly, unlike banal pop stars, she never was a hero of tabloid media, the latter felt somewhat constrained about describing her divorces and abortions in a usual way. Zemfira’s most notable feature was lyrics, absolutely incomprehensible from the point of view of both pop and alternative scene. She sang love songs in teenagers’ language allowing expressions that pierced one’s ear and destroyed their own meaning. They were absolutely incomprehensible as a poetical text (“the trouble is about you, about me, about the roads and the snow, the desires, and an OHM in the table. Rumba, rumba, rumba naked all around, I’ve just let my feelings through my veins, became too insolent, I wish I were a bit more compassionate to myself, after all I loved you” etc). However, with this childish twist of her tongue she sang about very different things, like drugs (“Summer in the city, you’re taking drugs”). A combination of Zemfira’s tremulous voice and hard rhythms of her band (“musicians are boys”) became the best musical feature of the end of the 90s that was, curiously enough, equally accepted by both intellectuals and common public.