Aquarium (band)

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Aquarium (Аквариум)
Aquarium 2004-12-12 live in Mannheim.jpg
Aquarium live (2004)
Background information
Origin Soviet Union, Russia
Genres Folk rock, Reggae, Fusion, other subgenres
Years active 1972–present
Labels Magnitizdat by Andrei Tropillo, Melodia, Solyd, Soyuz
Website www.aquarium.ru
Members Boris Grebenshchikov (vocals, guitars),
Sergey Kuryokhin (keyboards, piano),
and many others

Aquarium or Akvarium (Russian: Аква́риум) is a Russian rock group formed in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg, Russia) in 1972. The band's second lineup was disbanded in March 2013.[1] Despite an announcement of the group's disbanding, Aquarium has played with Grebenshchikov, Rubekin, and an otherwise new lineup of musicians since spring of 2013, and played a concert in Moscow in July 2013 with this current lineup.[2] The band also plans a concert in Kiev in December to celebrate Grebenshchikov's 60th birthday.[3] The band had many member changes over its 40 year history, and at the end the only remaining original member was lead singer and founder Boris Grebenshchikov. Former band members have included Anatoly Gunitsky, Dyusha Romanov, Sergey Kuryokhin, Oleg Sakmarov, and Vsevolod Gakkel.

Formation, first lineup (1972–1991)[edit]

Aquarium was formed in 1972 by two friends: Boris Grebenshchikov, then a student of Applied Mathematics at Leningrad State University, and Anatoly (George) Gunitsky, a playwright and absurdist poet.[4] The founding members were Grebenshikov, George (drums), Tsatsanidi Alexander (bass), Alexander Vasilyev (keyboards), Valery warmed (sound).

The popular story behind the name "Aquarium" is that it was inspired by the Budapest street Leningrad pub "The Aquarium" and suggested by one of the band members. However, Grebenshchikov has given differing stories in interviews, suggesting alternately that it came through band word association sessions or was inspired a glass aquarium-like building.

In late 1972, guitarist Edmund Shkliarsky (later the leader of "Picnic" band) was briefly a member of the band. Bass player Michael Feinstein-Vasiliev (Fan), the first professional musician in the "Aquarium", joined in January 1973. In the same year keyboardist Andrew "Dyusha" Romanov also joined the band, and, inspired by rock-flautists Richard Meier and Ian Anderson, retrained as a flautist.

Early concerts[edit]

Reports vary as to their first performance. Some sources suggest that it was in 1972 at a small country venue,[5] while others place it at the Leningrad restaurant "Hold" at Central Park of Culture and Recreation, for which they were paid 50 rubles in cash.[6]

In the 1970s and early 1980s, rock and roll was strictly regulated in the Soviet Union, and only a few artists managed to be approved and signed by the government record label Melodiya. Aquarium's usual concert venues were private apartments and they faced many years of fierce competition to land a spot on the label. These "apartment concerts" (квартирники) were a unique Soviet phenomenon created by underground musicians. They were usually acoustic, as noise could cause the neighbors to call the Militsiya, but the limited space fostered an atmosphere of intimacy between the group and its audience, who listened with bated breath, perhaps with someone recording the concert on a simple tape recorder. This was similar to the concept of the Russian bards.

In 1973, the "Aquarium" performed their first live concert, but did not follow this up with regular concerts.

Home recording albums[edit]

While on vacation in January – February 1973, Grebenshikov and George wrote material for their debut album "The Temptation of St. Aquarium"/Iskushenie Svyatogo Akvariuma (Russian: Искушение святого Аквариума). The band recorded the album with home recording equipment, with variable sound quality results. "The Temptation of St. Aquarium" was long thought lost, but in 1997 the record was found and released in 2001 on CD in the book "Prehistoric Aquarium". They quickly followed this up with their second album, S Toy Storony Zerkalnogo Stekla, or From the Other Side of a Mirror Glass (Russian: С той стороны зеркального стекла), named using a line from an Arseny Tarkovsky poem. All masters of this record appear to have been lost. Their third album was called "Parables of Count diffusers" and was written by Grebenshikov, George Fan and Dyushey Romanov, probably in the spring of 1974.

Theatre and regular performances[edit]

In 1974 the group became heavily involved in amateur theatre, playing pieces of absurdity on the steps of the Engineers' Castle. However, when the theater was headed by professional director Eric Goroshevsky, Grebenshchikov became disillusioned with the idea of a fusion of rock, poetry and theatre, and shifted Aquarium's focus to concentrate on musical activities (though they only made a complete break from the theatre group in 1977). George left the band, but kept in touch with its members. The following year, cellist Vsevolod (Seva) Gakkel joined the band .

Aquarium began to regularly perform live in 1976. Their first concert was on February 25, 1976 jointly with Grebenshikov Gakkel and Dyushi Romanov. On March 10 Aquarium was a surprise guest at that Tallinn Festival of Popular Music, where they played a set of four acoustic songs and won the prize for the most interesting and varied program. In this year they released the album "From that side of the mirror", recorded with V. Gakkelem.

In 1977 Romanov and basson player Alexander "Fagot" Alexandrov were called up for two years of military service. With the loss of these members, Grebenshikov recorded a highly successful solo album All Brothers are Sisters (Vse brat'ya - sestry). Aquarium also became popular to the point that Grebenshikov was recognised in the street. In 1979 an acquaintance connected the band with two important figures of the Soviet rock, Artemy Troitsky and Andrew Tropillo, the studio who had recorded the first "historic" album "Aquarium". That same year, the group began to help at concerts of Alexander Lyapin (he eventually became part of the "Aquarium" a year later). Duchamp and Viola also returned from the army.

In autumn 1980 came the bootleg "Music of Public Toilets". There is also mention of the bootleg "Music For The Dead and the Living". In August 2002 studio "Triaryl" published this album, erroneously dating it 1974 .

Tbilisi Rock Festival[edit]

Aquarium burst into the consciousness of the Soviet rock scene by competing at the 1980 Tbilisi Rock Festival. The band caused a scandal with their performance, which was considered bizarre and shocking. During the set, Grebenshikov lay down on the stage and made provocative movements while playing the guitar, causing all the jury members to demonstratively leave the hall. "Aquarium" was accused of promoting homosexuality (the guitar actions), incest (Grebenshchikov changed words while singing the song "Marina", though this may have been through poor technique) and indecency, and banned from the festival. The incident became known in Leningrad, and as a result Grebenshikov lost his job and was expelled from the Komsomol (Young Communist's League, expected of working Russians). However, while they did not receive any prizes, the band's performance made them become a symbol of the Soviet alternative culture.

Until 1987, Aquarium recorded all of their albums in live concerts and in a self-assembled underground studio (several members had engineering education) disguised as a "Young Technicians Club". A notable exception was the album Radio Africa (1983), which was secretly recorded using a government-owned mobile studio, after bribing a technician.

Mainstream success[edit]

The advent of Glasnost in the second half of the 1980s brought many underground Russian rock musicians to public recognition and Aquarium became one of the most popular acts. They were allowed to play in large concert halls, appeared on state-owned television and recorded soundtracks for several films, most notably Assa.[7] In 1987 they recorded their first album for the state-owned Melodiya record label. With official backing and legalized distribution the album was a huge hit in the Soviet Union, selling well over a million copies within a few months. This was, however, the last album recorded by this Aquarium line-up and the band broke-up shortly afterward. Grebenshchikov subsequently released two albums in English and toured with several different backing bands. In 1991 after the break-up of the Soviet Union he released music under the name "the BG-Band", "The Russian Album", a collection of melancholic folk songs influenced by his travels all over Russia and demonstrating a return to his Russian roots.

Second lineup (1991-2013)[edit]

Grebenschikov kept touring and shortly returned to calling his band "Aquarium", although the lineup bore little resemblance to the original band. The band continued to release more albums and tour extensively over the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and places with Russian-speaking immigrant communities in Germany, Israel and the United States. In 2007, Aquarium performed for the first time at the Royal Albert Hall in London. In 2008 the "Aquarium International" project (with participation of over 20 musicians worldwide) was created.

Their 2008 album "Loshad' Belaya" (White Horse) was released in a similar fashion to Radiohead's 2007 "In Rainbows": it was offered for free download in mp3 format with the downloader opting to pay the amount they saw fit.[8]

Although often criticized for departure from their original style and constant line-up changes, which made the later incarnations of Aquarium essentially a Grebenshchikov solo project, the group still enjoyed considerable success in Russia with regular radio airplay of their old and new songs, popular albums, and frequent tours.

Aquarium's lineup in 2012 consisted of Boris Grebenshchikov, Boris Rubekin (keyboards), Andrey Surotdinov (violin), Igor Timofeyev (guitars, saxophones and flutes), Alexander Titov (bass), Oleg "Shar" Shavkunov (percussion) and Albert Potapkin (drums).

Musical influences[edit]

Aquarium were strongly influenced by Western rock music, particularly by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, T.Rex, and progressive rock acts like Jethro Tull, King Crimson and Roxy Music as well as by new wave and reggae artists. This was reflected in the band's often complex compositions and wide-ranging lyric themes, even including references to Celtic and Indian cultures.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Date Title Translation Notes
Albums (archival) from the 1970s
1973 Iskushenie Svyatogo Akvariuma Temptation of St.Aquarium
Menuet Zemledeltsu Farmer's Minuet)
1974 Pritchi Grafa Diffuzora Parables of Count Diffusor
1976 S Toy Storony Zerkalnogo Stekla From The Other Side of Mirror Glass
1978 Vse Bratya-Sestry All Brothers are Sisters
Studio albums
1981 Sinii Albom The Blue Album
Treugolnik Triangle
Elektrichestvo Electricity: History of Aquarium, Vol. 2
1982 Akustika Acoustics: History of Aquarium, Vol. 1
Tabu Taboo
1983 Radio Africa
1984 Ikhtiologia Ichthyology
Den’ Serebra The Day of Silver
1985 Deti Dekabrya The Children of December
1986 Desyat’ Strel Ten Arrows
1987 Ravnodenstvie Equinox
1989 Feodalizm Feudalism
1991 Russkii Albom Russian Album Released as BG-Band
1993 Lyubimie Pesni Ramzesa IV Favorite Songs of Rameses the IV
1994 Kostroma Mon Amour
Peski Peterburga Sands of Petersburg
1995 Navigator Navigator
1996 Snezhnii Lev Snow Lion
1997 Hyperborea Hyperborea
Lilit Lilith (US: Black Moon ) Released as BG and The Band
1999 Psi
2002 Sestra Haos Sister Chaos
2003 Pesni Ribaka Fisherman's Songs
2005 Zoom Zoom Zoom
2006 Bespechny Russkiy Brodyaga Carefree Russian Rover
2008 Loshad' Belaya White Horse
2009 Pushkinskaya 10
2011 Arkhangelsk
Live Albums
1982 Aroks & Shter
Desyat Let Ten Years
Electroshock
1993 Pis'ma Kapitana Voronina Letters of Captain Voronin
Vizit v Moskvu Visit to Moscow
1994 Akvarium na Taganke Aquarium at Taganka
1995 Tsentr Tsiklona Center of the Cyclone
1996 Sezon dlya Zmey Snake Season
Dvadtsat Let Spustya Twenty Years Later
1997 Akvarium-25, Istoriya Aquarium-25. History
1998 Molitva i Post Prayer and Fasting
2008 The Royal Albert Hall
Songs performed by Aquarium Incognito
1994 Anna Karenina Quartet
1997 Russian-Abyssinian Orchestra “Bardo”
2000 Terrarium. "Pyatiugolnii Grekh" Terrarium. "Pentangular Sin"
Compilations
1986 Red Wave

Filmography[edit]

Documentary films about "Akvarium" and Grebenshchikov[edit]

Soundtracks by "Akvarium"[edit]

  • Ivanov (1981), dir. A. Nekhoroshev, A. Ilkhovsky
  • Assa (1987), dir. Sergei Solovyov
  • Zolotoy Son (Golden Dream, 1989), dir. Sergey Debizhev
  • Chernaya roza – emblema pechali, krasnaya roza – emblema lyubvi (The Black rose..., 1989), dir. Sergei Solovyov
  • Dva kapitana 2 (Two captains II, 1992),[9] dir. S. Debizhev

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Знаменитая музыкальная группа "Аквариум" прекращает свое существование (The famous musical group "Aquarium" ceases to exist)". Новый Век. 18 March 2013. Archived from the original on 9 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "Субботний концерт Аквариума (Saturday's Aquarium Concert)". Вечерняя Москва. 29 July 2013. Archived from the original on 18 August 2013. 
  3. ^ ""Аквариум" даст концерт в Киеве в честь 60-летия Бориса Гребенщикова (Aquarium will perform a concert in Kiev in honor of Boris Grebenshchikov's 60th Birthday)". РКМ. 18 Аугуст 2013. Archived from the original on 18 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Vera Ivanova and Mikhail Manykin (14 February 2007). "The legends of Russian Rock Music". Russia-InfoCentre. Guarant-InfoCentre. Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "Events: July 1972 (translated)". Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "Events: July 1972 (translated)". Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Assa". Film. IMDB. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Aquarium (2008). "Aquarium". Kroogi (in Russian and English). Kroogi. Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  9. ^ Dva kapitana II at IMBD.

External links[edit]