Friday, September 18, 2009

Second World Music - 3oguaK

When I say "world music," you think what? Ethiopiques? Something tribal? Maybe qawwali. But probably not '80s Soviet synth-rock.

"The Mysterious Galaxy" from Music in the Universe (1982)

That's too bad. If '70s Nigerian funk says something about a culture, Zodiac definitely represents something about the Reagan-era USSR. Running the whole spectrum of Kraftwerk-Moroder-Faltermeyer [motorik-Italo disco-Hollywood cheese], these Latvians made party music that sounds possibly subversive - within totalitarianism. But that also displays the antiseptic control common to so much instrumental synth music - and totalitarianism. That they were hugely popular must have surprised and alarmed the Politburo, at least somewhat.

The drummer, Andris Reinis (or as I like to call him, "The Master of the Hi-hat"), is amazingly not a commie-engineered cyborg. Not only for the ruthless machine-precision technique, but the startling inventiveness where least expected: the (human) drummer in a synth outfit?! Naturally, there was a lot of turnover [liquidations], probably due to a shadowy outside authority figure [commissar]. Just as naturally, the band did a few soundtracks...

"Zodiac" from Disco Alliance (1980)

The song quality varies wildy, with Music of the Universe (1982) the strongest album overall, and the debut Disco Alliance (1980) being a little more amateur and disco - thus a lot of fun! So you end up with average songs with awesome names ("Provincial Disco") and great songs with generic names ("Pacific"). And really, really excellent songs - like the videos included above.

Music in the Universe

And thankfully, we have a couple of minutes of live footage in their prime from Soviet tv - and it's "The Mysterious Galaxy"!!

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