by carl wilson

Post-Soviet Auktyon Heroes


When the Soviet bloc fell apart in the late 80s/early 90s, it seemed briefly as if a cultural bottleneck had been uncorked and the repressed visions only glimpsed in samizdat flashes would soon flood out to the world. But the nasty business of reconstruction and, in places such as Russia itself, mafia-capitalism hasn't turned out to be the fertilizer for a great flowering. There's been a smattering of literary and cinematic action, but outside the former East Germany's electronic and other sounds, how much notable new eastern-bloc pop music has surfaced? (Not counting, uh, tATu, who for all their catchiness seemed as much part of the porn boom as a sonic one.) That's not the whole story - there are traditional, jazz and new music stars out of many of the republics, especially Tuva, and east-west emissaries Tamizdat are tracking tons of emergent voices yet to make a global impact - but it's a much more marginal story than you might have expected. There remain some legends of samizdat rock, often with as many prison records as record albums to their names, such as Prague's Plastic People of the Universe and Uz Jsme Doma. But even the post-Soviet diaspora to the west has just begun to make a mark, with Gogol Bordello and their comrades in New York and a few others - such as Lenin i Shumov, one of my favourite bands in Toronto, led by Byelorussian scoundrel Eugene Slominerov. Tonight at the Mod Club, they'll be opening for a veteran and venerated group Eugene claims is one of very few great Russian rock bands, St. Petersburg's Auktyon, founded in the early 1980s.

I've never seen Auktyon in the flesh, but I've been listening to samples of their music for several weeks, and find their eight-piece, folkloric-new-wave-jazz-ska cocktail at least as combustible as the Czech massives' molotovs. The jousting voices of leader Leonid Federov and hypeman Oleg Garkusha add up to a lyrical-inflammatory hybrid of Jacques Brel and David Thomas of Pere Ubu, two names I never forecasted combining. Reportedly their carnivalesque stage presence lives up to the aural character, as you might gather from the photo above. Having long ago seduced their homeland and much of the Euro club scene, they're on their American campaign now (they turned heads at SXSW) - Eugene reports their plans to record with John Zorn this summer.

For further persuasion, peep this Toronto Star piece by Greg Quill from last weekend, and many others from around and about the interweb. You can also listen to this short feature on the BBC's Global Hit series. As a bonus, you needn't sweat the lingo barrier, as a lot of their lyrics are neo-futurist sound-poetry tossed salad anyway.

Locals will want to know that tonight's incarnation of Lenin i Shumov will come flavour-enhanced, sprinkled with new horn, percussion and string arrangements featuring guests such as Owen Pallett (of Final Fantasy) on violin and Doug Tielli (of the Silt and other Rat-drifting outfits) on trombone. Doors are at 7 pm, and tix $20. But even if you're nowhere nearby, Auktyon is the pickaxe to crack the remnant cold-war permafrost on your listening map.

In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, March 29 at 4:57 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)



friendly search-
come on comrade-the only se for you

Posted by don Karlo on April 15, 2006 11:41 AM



Actually, you did miss it. No postponement has occurred. It took place last night and it was magnifique. I checked with Half and he'd gotten some wrong info, very sadly for him.

Posted by zoilus on March 30, 2006 5:45 PM



You didn't miss it. From what I understand, it has been postponed until April 12. It certainly didn't happen last night

Posted by Half on March 30, 2006 4:02 PM



Uz Jsme Doma is from Brno.

Posted by KK on March 30, 2006 2:50 PM



Wish I could've seen this last night. I'm getting into that Lenin I Shumov disc, too.

As far as Eastern Bloc pop music, I'm a little surprised that there haven't been more waves made in North America by the electronic sounds you mentioned, Carl. Shantel's Bucovina Club 2 was extremely popular critically and commercially in Europe last year. Sure, Shantel is (West) German, but his popularity helped boost Romanian bands like Fanfare Ciocarlia and Mahala Rai Banda, and the Odessan future-village sounds of OMFO.

Shantel, and other producers like the Balkan Beats crew in Berlin, took Eastern Bloc sounds to dancefloors whereas Auktyon and Gogol Bordello are bringing them to rock audiences. Given rock's continual first dibs on indie consciousness in North America, I guess I'm not so surprised the latter two bands have gotten more press, especially since they're touring. But it's all good... and should keep getting better...

Posted by dacks on March 30, 2006 11:15 AM



Thanks for the tip Carl. I've been looking forward to this show since you first posted about it. Maybe I'll see you there.

Posted by Half on March 29, 2006 10:17 AM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson