Artist: Константин Зед (Konstantin Zed) | Album: Музыкальные Вибрации (Muzykal’nye Vibratsii/Musical Vibrations) | Genre: Avant-pop, Experimental rock, Post-punk | Year: 2014
From: St. Petersburg, Russia | Label: Southern City’s Lab
For fans of: Cardiacs, Bob Drake, XTC
Normally, I try to cover albums released within the last year or so on this site. I do make exceptions, with my occasional entries in my Deep Dive and Lesser-Known Gem series. This particular album, however, falls into something of an odd spot. Released in mid-2014, Muzykal’nye Vibratsii isn’t quite old enough for my completely arbitrary cut-off date of 20 years for Lesser-Known Gems. But it is certainly lesser-known, and it’s definitely a gem.
Looking at this album cover and listening to the music on this record, it’d be understandable if you mistook this for some underground, avant-garde release from somewhere between 1978 and 1985. But that is an aesthetic multi-instrumentalist Konstantin Zed purposely cultivated on his debut album. The Bandcamp page for this album describes it as art-punk, which, despite few punky moments, is oddly fitting. It draws heavily from the artsier side of post-punk and new wave.
“Veronika” opens the album with weird, slightly off-kilter synth and guitar lines. It jumps about restlessly, from bouncy verses and chorus to edgy instrumental explorations. This is one of the tracks on the album which best demonstrates the scant overt punk influences; noisy, angular guitars gurgle just below the surface. “Sladkij Son” (“Sweet Dreams”) follows and stands in contrast to the upbeat opener. This slow-moving song is based around simple electric piano, while guitar and string embellishments add artful gravitas. If you were to remove some of the more atonal guitar parts, this could almost pass as a White Album outtake.
“Budet Zharko” (“It’ll Be Hot”) has a more theatrical atmosphere. Zed’s dramatic vocals and the electronic ostinato imbue it with an almost cabaret-like quality. And “Luchshij Den’” (“The Best Day”), like “Sladkij Son”, evokes some of the weirder moments of late-‘60s psychedelic folk. Slavic folk melodies lead harpsichord and strings on a bizarre journey.
“Spad” (“Decline”) is the more overt examples of post-punk influence and one of the most straightforward tracks on the album. Zed still manages to infuse it with his signature weirdness; the instrumental exploration is frequently odd and atonal.
“Neustannij Strannik” (“The Relentless Wanderer”) has a smoky atmosphere, which is augmented by its effects-drenched vocals and bluesy guitar licks. Its closing moments remind me of Pink Floyd’s “Fat Old Sun” with its ascendant guitar solo and gentle-but-impactful backing track.
The album closes on “Korol’” (“The King”), which I think is something of an odd choice. It begins as a relatively simple piece of music: Zed’s vocals over piano and a simple bass pattern. As it progresses it gets stranger, culminating in some jarring synth tones. Frankly, if this track and “Neustannij Strannik” had been swapped, it would have given this album a stronger closing.
With its mix of post-punk, art pop, and psychedelia, all filtered through avant-garde sensibilities, Muzykal’nye Vibratsii is a unique release. Konstantin Zed proves here that he has a good ear for catchy melodies and skill as a composer and arranger. Though stylistically a far cry from many of the multi-parted opuses and bone-crushing metal I often review, the experimental spirit of this album fits right in on this site.