Exit wound in a foreign nation.
August 26, 2012 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Ramamba Haru Mamburu! Inhabiting a world somewhere between the desperate raunchy excesses of early Devo (NSFW), the playfully morbid obsessions of TMBG, and the puerile falsettos of Sparks, the Russian novelty/comedy/geek rockers Nogu Svelo! (English site) have been contributing earworms to Russian pop culture for, oh, some twenty years now.

A YouTube grab bag for those unwilling to wade: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

[links to individual tracks lead to YT when available, and OK-looking Russian MP3 sites otherwise — ads on Russian sites potentially NSFW]

Originally a standard quartet of guitar/bass/drums/keyboards, NS! was founded at an audition held under the aegis of the Moscow Rock Lab, a late-Soviet enterprise designed to bring Western-influenced music out of the underground. The members came from diverse backgrounds: the drummer Anton Yakomulsky was a technical-school dropout who DJed house parties and tried his hand at recording, while the band's front man Max Pokrovsky was a recent graduate of the Moscow Aviation Institute.

Although all NS! albums are a smorgasbord of kitsch, the earliest ones tend toward classic rock and punk rock, followed by a "middle period" characterized by an extensive use of effects and psychedelic synth instrumentation, and ending with the simpler, more commercial style of the last couple of albums. Along the way, the band has become a household name. Max, the vocalist, has also dabbled in theater and film and appeared on various reality shows.

«1:0 в пользу девочек» | Girls Lead 1-0 (1990, released 1993)
[complete playlist with full preview of each track]

The first NS! album recorded (although the second one released commercially) collects a series of angular tracks inspired by 70s rock standards. The songs are leavened with occasional "poems" in the perennially popular and revolting tradition of Russian black humor.

Selected tracks: 1. Ольга; 2. Фанта; 5. Тычинка; 7. Дурдом; 8. Мочилово; 10. Подросток Семенов; 12. Тазепам.
«Капризы манекенщиц» | The Caprices of Fashion Models (1992)
[complete playlist with full preview of each track]

This album appeared in small numbers and only on vinyl. There is a panoply of bootlegs (and above I present one of them to you). The songs are primarily inspired by the classic rock sound, with one substantial difference: Pokrovsky occasionally wrote lyrics in English-sounding gibberish.

The English lyrics are meant for listeners who studied English in high school, if at all. And they were written with the awareness of how absurd they sound. This album and the following one are full of examples. As the band continued to record, songs in English became less common and Pokrovsky switched to coherent Russian lyrics almost entirely.

Tracks with Russian titles: 2. Сандуновские бани; 3. Мама, мама; 6. Капризы манекенщиц; 7. Вся спина в кинжалах; 8. Весточка; 9. Самый наглый рок-н-ролл; 10. Уа-уо (Хрустальная ваза).
«Хару Мамбуру» | Haru Mamburu (1993)
[complete playlist with full preview of each track]

The band's third album is full of cheapo synths, a brash trombone (that would become part of the permanent lineup), howling guitars, and idiotic gibberish… sort of a ska-punk sound? Several of the songs concern the tale of Pokrovsky's alternate ego Haru Mamburu, a puckish rogue and trickster.

The title track is the basis for the band's first and second music videos: the above-linked live action video and this bizarre animated version of the same. The videos bring the band substantial popularity on Eastern European television.

Tracks with Russian titles: 1. Тарзан; 4. Хару виват!; 6. Хару Мамбуру; 7. Свинья; 9. Самураи в Рисовом Поле; 10. Фройлейн; 11. Вместе и навсегда; 14. Голая королева; 15. Диблопопс; 16. Рамамба в осеннем парке; 17. Баранья опера; 18. Капризы манекенщиц; 21. Пляжный Rock'n'roll; 22. Хару виват!

Several of the album's tracks were re-recorded using better studio equipment and rereleased, along with some original material, as part of the band's next album.
«Сибирская любовь» | Siberian Love (1995)
[complete playlist with full preview of each track]

The band uses the title track (live in London) to pursue a nomination to Eurovision, but is unsuccessful. A re-recorded version of "The Message" off the 1992 album wins top awards at Romania's Golden Stag festival.

Tracks with Russian titles: 1. Августин; 2. Пляжный рок'н'ролл; 3. Сибирская любовь; 4. Рождественская колыбельная; 5. Подросток Семенов; 6. Сандуновские бани; 8. Фройляйн; 10. Вечеринка на нудистском пляже; 11. Хару Мамбуру; 12. Ольга; 13. Весточка; 14. Бэйби; 16. Финал (соло на бас-гитаре).
«Счастлива, потому что беременна: Синий альбом» | She was Happy Because She was Pregnant (Blue Album) (1997)
[complete playlist with full preview of each track]

Most tracks are recognizable as light rock and 80s-influenced synth-pop: a set of fairly spare and simple songs with ska, pop, and classic rock influences. Occasionally devolves into nonsensical noises and puerile abrasiveness.

Some listening notes:
5. «Голый клоун» | "Naked Clown" — Lyric: "I'm sprawling in a puddle/I'm coughing up more blood/The girls here have no need for love from me."
7. «Реквием» | "Requiem" — Lyric: "A soldier grows tired of lying buried, felled by some blow/In an uneven battle fought some twenty years ago."
9. «Московский романс» | "Moscow Romance" — Another unsucsessful Eurovision bid: a tale of poverty in post-Soviet Moscow delivered in the manner of Adam Sandler. Amuses the young and saddens the old!
11. «Недуги» | "Ailments" — A dramatic reading of a medical manual.
«Счастлива, потому что беременна: Зеленый альбом» | She was Happy Because She was Pregnant (Green Album) (1999)
[complete playlist with full preview of each track]

The band intended this album to come out nine months after the previous one, but the release was delayed by over a year. A variety of novelty songs, largely in a pop rock format.

4. «Волки» | "Wolves" — about love among people who think they're werewolves. Lyric: "And as you sleep, I sleep next to you/So I can always be by your side/And if you leave, then I will leave too/Follow your tracks, like stars do at night."
5. «SOS in the Ass» — your daily dose of Russian-accented WTF.
8. «Влюбленные оленеводы» | "Deer-Breeders in Love" — Lyric: "I'm the moon over the Huang He/You're a wave, and we rock together/Sing a song of those two stars that did/Drown in the waters of the mighty Yangtze."
11. «Для студентов медицинских ВУЗов» | "For Medical School Students" — Lyric: "Contractions of the tongue propel the bolus through the oral cavity and toward the pharynx. The soft palate is simultaneously elevated."
«Каллы» | Lilies (1999)
[complete playlist with full preview of each track]

This tenth-anniversary album collects material recorded between 1992 and 1999, covering a range of influences from ska to 90s alt-rock to psychedelia.

1. «Кукла» | "Sex Doll" — Lyric: "Her dress and pantyhose are torn/One arm completely gone/Buy her a dress and then some glue/To stick her arm back on."
6. «Ave Maria» — Schubert's version, extremely well-known in the USSR thanks to a popular performance by Italian child celebrity and boy soprano Roberto Loreti.
7. «Хрустальная Ваза» | "Crystal Vase" — A remake of a rougher earlier version that had English gibberish lyrics. Seven minutes of intense freakout.
11. «Я шагаю по Москве» | "I Stride Around Moscow" — An irreverent update on the famous theme from 1963 movie of the same title (the kid in the film clip became quite famous later on).
«Бокс» | Electrical Room (2000)
[complete playlist with full preview of each track]

Surreal and macabre, the eighth album encapsulates the band's heavy, chugging mid-period sound.

1. «Черви»| "Worms" — about the inevitability of looming death. Lyric: "We're no longer kiddies/Our toys and toboggans/Are burned, and our onesies too small/Circular saws, hammers and bench-planes/Are making one garment for all."
2. «Клязьма» | "The River Klyazma" — about a river of filth (includes manic gibbering and very unfortunate Russian puns).
8. «(Печальная) Лариса» | "Larisa (Is Sad)" — Lyric: "Larisa, sad Larisa, is sadly/A bit in love with deer."
9. «Кровавые мальчики» | "Seeing Stars" — a luridly hallucinogenic song. (The title is a reference to Pushkin's Boris Godunov.) Lyric: "I'll lie on the table naked/Mommy, just give me the shot/And later please remember/To wash the hand of blood."
11. «Часики» | "Tic-Tocs" — remain mindful that death is just around the corner. Lyric: "The clock is ticking softly/We all will one day die/But while we are still living/Go to sleep." (live)
«В темноте» | In the Dark (2002)
[complete playlist with full preview of each track]

A turn to simpler instrumentation and lighter moods.

2. «Из Алма-аты» | "Out of Almaty" — a memorial in verse to a fictional girlfriend who died in a real plane crash.
4. «Бензин» | "Gasoline" — Lyrics: "It's perfect for eating/It works great for drinking/It's well fit for swimming/It's natural healing." (live)
7. «Наши юные смешные голоса» | "Our Funny Youthful Voices" — The tale of a serial killer's victim. Lyric: "The artificial light illuminates/The blood congealing in our wounds."
«Идём на Восток!» | We Go East! (2005)
[complete playlist with full preview of each track]

2. «Идём на восток!» | "We Go East!" — featured in the film The Turkish Gambit based on the eponymous novel in a popular series of Russian historical detective novels.
3. «Я — не последний герой!» | "I'm Not the Last Hero!" — recorded for the Russian version of the reality show Survivor (recalling the song by Viktor Tsoi).
8. «Апрель» | "April" — Lyric: "Once again we're going to your place/Where it's warm, and where the shower is."
13. «Рекламное место сдается» | "Advertising Space Available" — "The purpose of music is to fill time between advertising blocks."
«Обратная сторона ноги» | The Back Side of the Leg (2011)
A best-of selection of bizarre easy listening versions of popular NS! songs.

1. «Сибирская любовь»; 2. «Московский романс»; 3. «Идем на восток»; 4. «Чёрная-рыжая»; 5. «7 планет»; 6. «Лилипутская любовь»; 7. «Бензин» ; 8. «Из Алма-аты»; 9. «Свинка-свинка»; 10. «Хару Мамбуру»; 11. «Язык огня»; 12. «4 друга»; 14. «Кукла»; 15. «Реки »; 17. «Наши юные смешные голоса».
The band continues to tour and is working on a new album.
posted by Nomyte (4 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Nomyte, this is so great! Exactly the kind of obscure foreign surreal shit that makes me love the internet. (And it fits right in with just coming back from the Russian grocery store with kvass, pryaniki, and Odessa chocolates.)

I'll be a while listening through them, but you've got my vote for the August post.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:32 PM on August 26, 2012

+1 just for the TMBG mention/quote and the Sparks mention, but also a great post on what looks like an interesting band. Thanks!
posted by Evilspork at 6:38 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

You had me at Russian Sparks!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:41 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two tangents:
1. In interviews, Pokrovsky has mentioned his tolerance of LGBT people, which is much more than most other Russian mainstream musicians are willing to do. And that's kind of cool.
2. The song «На заре ты ее не буди» is actually a musical treatment of an eponymous poem (scroll down for English) by Afanasy Fet, a Russian Romantic poet.
posted by Nomyte at 9:51 PM on August 26, 2012

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