Wednesday, March 27, 2013

re-up'd: Аквариум - Акустика [1982]

Here's an album I've really been digging lately. Russian folk from the last decade of the Soviet Union. Aquarium (alternately known as Akvarium) was formed in 1972 by Boris Grebenshchikov and Anatoly Gunitsky. The band spent the first decade or so of its life doing mostly apartment concerts -- house shows with high political stakes in a country where "rock and roll" needed explicit state approval to play in the official concert halls. Aquarium is much more of a folk band though, in the style of бард "bard" music, which had since the 1960s referred to original music (one name for the genre is самодеятельная песня, literally "do-it-yourself song") by musicians who worked outside the Soviet musical/cultural system. From Wikpedia:
The first six years of Aquarium's history lacked cohesion as Grebenshchikov and his various bandmates followed the Soviet equivalent of the hippie lifestyle: playing apartment jams, drinking the low-quality port wine available from the Soviet stores of the time, and intermittently travelling to remote gigs, even hitchhiking on rail freight cars.
The album Akustika was made at the start of the '80s, just before the state music industry started allowing this kind of stuff to be more widely disseminated. It contains a dozen-plus real pretty folk numbers, mostly on acoustic guitar plus bass, violin, and the occasional flute. In contrast to a lot of the kitchen-recorded stuff by Yanka Dyagileva or Grazhdanskaya Oborna, this album is fairly high-fidelity (and a lot less noisy than GrOb), thanks to Grebenshchikov's access to academic recording facilities. The songs clearly demonstrate the influence of Bob Dylan on Grebenschikov, and Allmusic associates Aquarium with the likes of Neil Young, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, as well as Dylan of course. By the second half of the decade Aquarium were selling millions of records, which speaks to the popularity they garnered in their first 15 years of existence.

Boris G. is a huge name in Russian music, and when you hear his voice and songs it's not hard to understand why. Check out this video of Aquarium in what looks like a TV performance from 1986:

I should mention that I was turned onto this stuff by fellow St. Petersburghers Sonic Death (a band I can't recommend enough), who did a few Grebenschikov songs on their Boris Session EP, released in the summer. Needless to say the material is good and their take on it makes for some righteous jams.

Buy Akustika on CD at UkrMedia
My house is already not my home


  1. Sick, I've been trying to hear these guys for awhile. This is much appreciated.

  2. Ah yeah man, I had a feeling you'd be into this.