On Howard Williams' (Japan Blues) trip to play Strelka Bar in Moscow earlier this year, his host, DJ, collector and Strelka tech guru, Sasha Grishin regaled him with some wild and wonderful tapes from the boogie box in his kitchen. On departing, Grishin kindly gave him a couple of unassuming cassettes on Andrey Suchilin's Objective Music label. A refreshing listen they were too, in amongst this improvised music, a sudden detour down a strangely dancefloor avenue, where kick drums hold together a set of free improvising masters of modern Russian jazz. Recorded way back in 1999, appearing for the first time on wax, this session is available, on Williams' earliest and recently revived label, Ethbo.
Palma Mira (Palm of Peace)
Fidgety digital bass, chivvied along by an array of Mikhail Plotnikov and Zukhrab Ali Bukhani's timbales congas, and kick drum, smothered by an intrusion of organic / industrial grind. Then those pads seep in, ushering a cosmic, bitterwseet optimism, a classical tidal wave, Sergey Letov's sublime saxophone goose riding it. Andrey Suchilin and Aleksander Pillayev's guitars pastiche a funk scratch, and mutate into a speaker-cone tearing distortion, blurring the lines between minimal hard rock and jazz improvisation, bristling with harmonics, threatening to descend into a mass of feedback at any given moment. And we're only half way in. The two axes grapple with the sax, while the proto-acid bassline re-affirms its supremacy, the melange bringing to mind the universes of Pepe Bradock.
In a world full of copycat digitised mouthwash, here was a gaggle of seasoned improvisers, convening in a good old fashioned rinse out. And somewhere in that running riot is Andrey Panov's sampled tuba (Panov is a legendary punk musician, leader of Automatic Satisfactors.)
Finale is a more sedate(d) affair, with a hint of early Wally Badarou, the downbeat quasi-tribal rhythms of Ivan Sokolovsky and Mikhail Plotnikov sounding like plucked cello. A watery cellulose groove, the background for breathy flute, Letov once more providing a sublime melancholic riff, leading to Suchilin's distorted steel pickups, as if Santana acid-jammed with the Butthole Surfers, or to Johnny Hawksworth's theme to Roobarb & Custard, turned up beyond 11. Letov's sax sings its free lament, underpinned by submerged cathedral keys.
Andrey Suchilin was considered a rock pioneer in the days of the Soviet Union. Among other bands, he was a member of Do Mazhor (C-Major) producing an odd blend of jazz, rock and avant garde music. The band released one album for Melodiya, in the last days of the state owned record label. He was a founder of the Moscow Rock Laboratory, set up under the supervision of Moscow’s Communist Party headquarters. They held a rock festival, during the changes that led to the USSR breaking up. Punk, rock and jazz groups, blacklisted by the authorities only a year earlier, began to play without restrictions.
Sergey Letov is an avant-garde soprano, tenor sax, flute player, and composer. He has appeared in numerous Russian bands and collectives, including The Moscow Composers Orchestra, Russian punk outfit DK, winds ensemble TRI-O, and in the Arkhangelsk collective - a symbol of the transformation of the soviet reality that took place in the provinces rather than the more sophisticated cities. He has played with electronic artists, rock bands, in improvisation, theatre, cinema, dance, art, and regularly lectures.