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Various Artists - Tripwave: A Retrospective Collection of Russian Psychedelic Progressive Music

Various Artists - Tripwave: A Retrospective Collection of Russian Psychedelic Progressive Music

2011 Trail Records (USA CD)

Starting from the beginning, which the label conveniently placed in chronological order:

Eastern Syndrome – Celt. 1989. A mix of unhinged psychedelia and 1980s New Wave songcraft and associated production qualities. Vocalist sounds like David Byrne, while the reckless psychedelic guitar abandon could be from an old F/I album circa “Space Mantra”. Some fine spacey sax as well. A little bit like the Saqqara Dogs overall here. It appears this track comes from an unreleased album called “Studio 13”. Fascinating stuff, and perfect for a compilation.

The Moon Pierrot – Moon Dream. 1990. Thick bass, happy rhythm guitar, danceable beats, sonorous vocals. Sounds like 1985 New Wave to me! But… I thought this was a psych prog collection? No, the Moon Pierrot belongs somewhere else, despite some fine electric guitar about half way through. I like it anyway.

Do Major – To Rake Your Fingers Through the Grass. 1992. More slap bass, canned drums, and synthesized vocals. Guess we’re still in the New Wave “neo psych” section of the album? I should state that I find music like this quite good, even if not necessarily what I associate with terms like “psychedelic progressive”.  The guitar work here, in particular, is exemplary. As are the female vocals. I should investigate this band further.

Decadence – Dream #5: Love. 1999. Seven years on, and we’re still in 1980’s territory. Hmmm.  This is from an album that was released by Musea. I can hear influences from bands such as Porcupine Tree here. Apparently the album has a prog metal slant, though this track eschews the distorted muscle. Pig squealing guitar, however, is not omitted. Not bad though.

Disen Gage – Solaris. 2004. Moving along quickly from a chronological perspective. This track comes from their debut “The Screw-Loose Entertainment”, and musically sounds like a modern interpretation of the motorik side of the Krautrock house like Harmonia with some post rock heaviness applied. Excellent stuff. Gotta love a Russian band that utilizes, as their band name, a play on words with English.

Rada & Ternovnik – Interlude. 2004. Well here’s a band with a dozen albums and a gazillion musicians. Could be a commune band, or a professional troupe? I have no idea. The music treads within the confines of the cold and clinical King Crimson cookbook, yet with some splendid acid guitar leads. And then the wordless female vocals takes this to the exotic – the sublime.  Who are these guys? Jeez…. Spent most of my life tracking interesting obscure progressive rock down, and here’s a band with a ton of albums that no one knows about. Gnosis lists ELEVEN of them with exactly zero ratings between them.  My goodness.

Krtl – Soda. 2006. First group here that it doesn’t appear released anything prior.  Also the first band here that is giving me that Gong influenced space rock sound. Danceable psychedelic guitar driven space rock with synthesizer “splooshes”…. right…. Ozric Tentacles. I thought I was getting a whole CD of it. Well… fortunately I received something else. This track is good. So is the whole CD so far. Damn….

Deti Picasso – Happy End is Inevitable. 2006. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m a Russophile? This doesn’t fit a single bucket of music that I would normally enjoy…  yet, I’m loving this track! Missing Persons singing in Russian with heavy psych guitars, via… hell I have no idea what. Need to learn more….

Vespero – Inna Burst Into Tears. 2007. Now this is one I knew of prior. And those dogs at Trail know exactly what they’re doing!  I’m pretty much a Vespero fan boy, and yet they somehow found the absolute BEST track in the entire Vespero canon (from their debut CD “Rito”). When I think of exotic space rock with female vocals, this is the track that comes to mind. OMG. Brilliant in every way.

Kafedra.org – Entrance to Invisibility. 2009. Another band that is totally unknown. Despite the captures-the-imagination track title name, this one is a rather straightforward rock tune with spacey synths and female vocals. Maybe my least favorite song from this album.

Liompa – Thee. 2010. The last track from the comp also features a band without a recording history. Yet another band that propagates the space rock instrumental (guitar-bass-drums-percussion) with soft female vocals. Would really like to hear more from these guys!

Absolutely love the industrial apartment block photo that adorns the CD package.

Overall, a CD that comes highly recommended. I certainly learned a few things here.


My good friend Lev, who is from Russia, had the following insights about two of the bands mentioned above: "Rada & Ternovnik is a cult band led by the idiosyncratic singer Rada Anchevskaya, a good acquaintance of mine and a really talented lady. Basically you can never guess what you might find on their albums - the only constants in the lineup have been Rada herself and her husband Vladimir Anchevsky, and they are known for shifting styles and musical moods effortlessly. If I were asked to describe their music in one word, I'd go with psych - purely on the basis of Rada's shamanic vocals and loose improvisational structures of many pieces. However, in fact they often merge it with many other genres, from traditional folk to so-called "dark folk" with a lot of mysticism, from postpunk to atonal avant-garde jazz. Oddly enough, their latest lineup is the proggiest, featuring keyboards for the first time (played by Fedor Amirov).

Another band which I can heartily recommend is Deti Picasso - once again, led by my old acquaintance, brilliant singer Gaya Arutyunyan (together with her brother Karen - yes, it's a male name in Armenia where they hail from!). Sadly they disbanded a couple of years ago (although Gaya and Karen are now members of the equally excellent Budapest-based Wattican Punk Ballet), but up to that point they were basically acting as two different bands within one. The first one focused on their Armenian heritage - folk songs with a unique Deti Picasso twist, as well as self-penned tracks in a similar style. "Ethnic Experiments" and "Turbo Mairik" are albums that showcase this side of the band, and I'd very much recommend them as it might be easier for a foreigner to get into their Armenian repertoire (it essentially got them famous in Europe which led to their moving to Hungary on a permanent basis). However, I like their Russian side even more - epitomized on the albums "Glubina" and "Gerda". This is a truly genre-mixing, style-bending experience, from alternative rock to prog to avant to theater music and everything in between, with great lyrics and fantastic vocal and instrumental performances... Totally unique too, I'm struggling to think of any comparisons."

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