Overblown’s Top Russian Language Albums

russia

Overblown’s team of writers represents multiple timezones, with our staff hailing from Ireland, England, Canada, Poland, and Portugal and more, coagulating into a bubbling cauldron of diverse tastes and outlooks. This leads to Overblown’s unique intersection between culture, geography and music. Taking our globalization as inspiration we’ve begun compiling our most cherished non-Anglophone albums to highlight the music the algorithms tend to skip. Our first entry is this world tour is Russia.

Russia is a musical oddity, brandishing a deep lineage of classical composers while simultaneously holding its own in terms of electronic producers. The 80s were seen as the golden age of Russian rock with groups like Kino and DDT amassing popularity alongside the slow spread of rock music venues and loosening of censorship. Lately the country has nurtured a scene of dour faced post-punk that champions elements of Russia’s greatest 80s acts, spurred in relevance by apps like TikTok. These newer groups present a vessel into modern Eastern European sentiments.

So pause the Tarkovsky film and vibe out with Overblown’s favourite Russian albums.

хвойная вязь (Coniferous Ligature) – АБСОЛЮТ (ABSOLUTE) [2020]

 

Post hardcore trio хвойная вязь (Coniferous Ligature) hail from Petroskoi, the capital of the Republic of Karelia which borders Finland. хвойная вязь are both intricate and brutally savage. Over the course of two albums, 2016’s поволока (dragging), and АБСОЛЮТ (ABSOLUTE), which followed in 2020, they have crafted a dirty, knotty and yet melodic brand of post hardcore that is surprising, interesting and also catchy as all hell.

They also pop a bit of noise rock in there for good measure, so they sound like the bastard child of Shellac and At The Drive-In. Unfortunately, the trio have embarked on a hiatus since the release of their second album last summer. They are definitely worth your time and hopefully they will be back at some stage in the not too distant future. – Jamie Coughlan

 

Движение (Horizont) – Портрет Мальчика (The Portrait of a Boy) [1989]

Progressive rock may have fallen out of favour in the west during the 80’s, but it gained a foothold elsewhere. Nizhny Novogrod band Horizont or Движение, had begun performing straight hard rock before adopting a classical slant and then a symphonic approach a la Yes, Genesis and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Their debut, Summer in Town, certainly tapped into this style. By the time their second album came around, times and atmospheres had altered drastically.

The Portrait of a Boy matched the turmoil occurring in USSR at the time. The melodies were replaced with a darker, more foreboding tone. Dissonance and avant-garde became the way forward, aligning the band with Rock in Opposition. Cracks were opened in the wall. However, the future remained stark and uncertain for many as forces desperately tried to hold back the flood. It remains a startling listen; beautiful at times and disquieting elsewhere. It should appeal to those who favour the heavier side of prog such as Univers Zero, King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra. The Portrait of a Boy marked Horizont’s swansong as they disappeared along with Soviet Russia soon afterwards. – Phillip Morrissey

 

Sobolenko-Vietinghoff – Transgression Site-Specific [2018]

Araik Vietinghoff, also known as The Utopianist, was born in Armenia, raised in Russia and influenced by the West. Influenced by the ambient and minimalist school of composing, he set out to create pieces which drew on those before while also drawing upon his own heritage, background and surroundings. In his own words, he rejected the idea of complexity being the main goal, saying “simple does not mean stupid”.

Transgression Site-Specific is a collaboration with celloist Victor Sobolenko. The piece was based on an improvisational show in a former Lutheran church and performed live in St. Petersburg. The location’s particular acoustics played a major role in the decision making process. The music dips and soars as both performers display a wonderful sense of mood and tone. It could be composers from anywhere in the world but the end result is something uniquely Russian. Sombre, reflective and often uplifting. – Phillip Morrissey

 

Конец Электроники (The End of Electronics) – СОЮЗ (Union) [2016]

Eastern Europe and coldwave may come as a natural yet clichéd connotation. Obvious tropes lead to Belarusian group Molchat Doma, the most successful coldwave band to date. But the short EP I want to focus on came one year before Molchat Doma debuted. Конец Электроники (The End of Electronics) is a one-man band led by Nikita Skarletov and in 2016 he released some of my all-time favorite post-punk songs on СОЮЗ.

There’s no attempt to reinvent the wheel. Skarletov sticks to already proven and executed formulas but he does it so well that I don’t even mind that I’ve heard it before. Skarletov delivers six post-punk tracks that lie on the moodier and gloomier side of the genre. With its emphasized heavy bass guitar and baritone vocals it’s not hard to assume that Skarletov owes a lot to Joy Division (which modern post-punk band doesn’t?). The previously mentioned vocals are the star of the show. I always felt like English lyrics are not the best fit for post-punk and Skarletov confirms my assumptions. Singing in his native Russian, he creates a melancholic layer that heaves over the instrumentals and gives the album its unique Eastern-bloc ambiance. – Bartek Zaparucha

 

Воллны (Vollny) – I [2014]

Throughout the last decade or so, Eastern Europe has steadily leveraged its status in the music industry as a goldmine for all things post-punk and coldwave. In that process, a new wave of minimalistic and melody-driven post-punk made its way onto the music scene. Among this deluge was Воллны’s (Vollny), Felix Bondarev’s solo project, strong debut and so far single release, I.

I is a catchy, well-produced gem that fits the Russian aesthetic quite nicely. Simple yet effective basslines, dry but assertive percussion, and smart yet uncomplicated synth sections. I is also living proof that keeping it meticulously plain and simple can return great results. Or at least it does when you know what you’re doing. –José Garcia

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