John Williamson finds Soviet rock in full swing (below), Alastair Mabbott lends an ear to Natalie Cole (overleaf), plus Xenakis, John McLaughlin and the latest record reviews.
LISTINGS: ROCK 39 JAZZ 35 FOLK 36 CLASSICAL 39
Rocking the boat
The Soviet rock bands taking part in New Beginnings are examined by John Williamson.
At the end of his 1987 book Back in the USSR. Artemy'I‘roitsky. one ofthe major figures in the recent advancement of Soviet rock music. claims that ‘The future is bright and unpredictable. Nothing scares us now.‘
The optimism throughout the Soviet arts scene in the wake of Gorbachev may not have stretched so far as to think that by the end ofthe decade. previously frowned-on underground rock bands would be playing in the UK. And while the Soviet Ministry of(‘ulture has refused to travel with ‘amateurs‘ (read non-official). it has not proved a major obstacle to the visit of Agata Kristie. Kollcgian Assessor and Ne Zhdali to Rooftops on 30 November. The bands. from Sverdlovsk (in the Urals). Kiev and Talin represent a younger and more dynamic breed of Soviet musicians.
Indeed. the average age of the travelling musicians is around 26. and the New Beginnings rock organisers. Professor Simon Frith of the John Logic Baird Centre at Strathclyde University and Perc Ubu manager Nick Hobbes. are keen to stress the underground/non-official nature of the bands— the official/unofficial distinction being one of the outcomes of new political thinking in the USSR.
When rock music became officially acceptable. it became what Frith describes as ‘a bandwagon onto which career-minded musicians could jump‘. the outcome being that the State-run Melodiya record label. once the home of countless impossible-to-shift compilations of Brezhnev speeches. became more closely associated with ‘perestroika bands. with their heavy metal settings of socially-concerned lyrics”.
It has to be said that none of the three bands playing in Glasgow bear much resemblance to Frith‘s interpretation ofstate-approved rock. which relies heavily on traditional folk instruments and song forms.
()n tape. Agata Kristie. Kollcgian Assessor and
Ne Zhdali have little musically in common.
except their lack of Western reference points and a tendency towards long. occasionally over-indulgent instrumental passages. suggesting that the Zappa and Beefheart influences. attributed to some ofthe more regressive official bands. are not totally absent. even when it comes
to the more forward-thinking Soviet bands.
Agata Kristie add a modernity to some quirky. loosely-structured songs. while Ne Zhdali, the
a three-piece horn section — sound like a wackier.
| best of the three — with a live band which includes
faster and more perverse version ofTom Waits
circa Swordfishtrombones. While Kollcgian Assessor may be the least exciting prospect. any band who has a song title that translates as "I‘sar ofthe Beasts. Bastard the Xll' cannot be all bad.
The live part of the New Beginnings rock presentation is supplemented by the distinctly Scottish Beat Poets. whose LI’. Total/y Radio is promised soon. while Saturday 3 sees a symposium taking place at the McC‘ancc Building. Strathclyde University. between 10am and 5pm. with an in-depth discussion of the issues surrounding Soviet rock music. featuring Frith. Hobbes. Troitsky. PeterJenner (managerof Billy Bragg) and representatives of the visiting bands.
Agata K ristr'e. K ()llegr'an As‘s'es‘sor, Ne Zhdali and The Bear Poets are at Rooftops. Glasgow on 30 Nov.
I CASTLEMILK FAMILY TM Iﬂlﬂlllon. 88 put SUPPORT GROUP have forward by Billy Fox. announced plans tor a Chairman of the Glasgow maiorantl-drugs concertto ASSOClallon OI Family
take place in Glasgow in 30000" 5'0"”. I810
June. which n is hoped will ‘ provide cash lor protects all attract major local stars. . over Scotland which are
aimed at keeping young people away from drugs. At the moment. they are still approaching bands who might want to get involved, butthey're aiming high— the hoped-iorvenue is Hampden Park. I WE HAVE A WINNER tor I the strictly-limited (3000) boxed set ot Blast First singles. R Desai's ‘lwould like a romantic candlelit- dinner with Steve Albini
because songs about tucking were just not enough' won by virtue at being one of the few comprehensible answers received - you wacky lot! - though the reader who responded ‘because I'd like to stick Big Black albums up his burn sideways. Rapeman, indeedl' has our deeply-tell sympathy.
I AND JUST TO SHOW it’s not just our readers who
planned tor recording. we somehow did notgeton with it in the studio, and almost lett it altogether. . ..
have trouble putting a I sentence together without digressing into the realms where the lost god Uurgxax
squats underthe covers Finally. Ulrich, our nibbling at theirtoenails. double-bass player and take the case at French l in-house mystic.
discovered that the song, with a basic tone at 140.25Hz and 131 beats per minute. is tuned to the orbit
band M. Walking on the Water (yes. that's howthey punctuate it), who describe how the title track oi their
new LP‘PIuto'was olPluto.'As was hisbrain recorded: “Although itwas that day. perchance? one at the first songs I
The List 24 November — 7 December 1989 23