Stuffography Terrarium: Pentagonal Sin


Террариум. "Пятиугольный Грех"

Terrarium: Pentagonal Sin

Êâàäðî-Äèñê 2000


by Dzhon

Or call it, perhaps, Hexagonal Sin, because what we have here, believe it or not, is precisely Triangle squared, right down to the throw-away choral track, the haphazard lurching among seemingly incompatible musical genres, and the far-out versification of Anatoli "George" Gunitskii—Boris' original partner-in-crime dating all the way back to The Temptation of St. Aquarium in 1973, but last heard from in an Akvarim context ca. 1984. We also have bird chirps, barbershop harmonizing, Radio Africa-esque synth effects, and some singing that sounds remarkably like Gaelic—though for all I know it could be Udmurt—among other unlikelihoods and inconsistencies too numerous to mention.

But this album is such a tongue-in-cheek party, I find it hard to be a pooper. If kitsch is, as Clement Greenburg defined it long ago, "a failed seriousness," then this is precisely anti-kitsch: a successful frivolousness. It's Benny Hill, with a wink and leer, in love with his own snarkiness. It's a bubble, a gas, a snigger, a fart. It's musical co-ed naked Jello-wrestling: if you're going to turn up your nose, well who the hell invited you, anyway? No need to get your knickers in a knot.

Let it be noted, lest there be any mistake, that this is not an Akvarium project per se, but a wacky Boris and friends effort calling itself "Terrarium," even though it includes a passel of Akvarium types backing up the famous-in-their-own-right threesome of Leonidov, Chizh and Butsov. (Butsov and Leonidov are credited along with BG and A. Vasil'ev for all the music.) By the same token, however, BG is clearly the guiding spirit of the project: he's featured on all but two tracks (one of which is the 28-second eponymous "Pentagonal Sin" choral track; "Labrador/Gibralter" is the other), while the others are featured on only one, or at the most two, tracks apiece.

So sit down folks, fasten your black safety harness, and prepare yourselves for a wild ride. This attraction is not recommended for seniors, children under 12, or those inclined to motion sickness. The ride will begin with the sound of the gurgling baby...

Some notes to help you adjust to Zero-G:

January Romance: Steel-guitar, flute, a string section, a bunch of grown men going "Ooo-la-la," and Queen-ish synth noodling for an overall impression of Lawrence Welk conducting the musical program for the Luau in Limbo. Given these parameters it's perhaps not surprising that my overriding impression should be a shoulder-shrugging "Eyhhhh."

Out of Synch: Heeeeeey Bungalow Boris...Turn on that groovy lava lamp and get ready to air-guitar up a storm because this could be right off side 3 of the Beatles' The White Album: all those weeping guitars, Ringo-beats on the drum kit, George Martin production values, the key change halfway through, and lyrics that tell a little tale that's spritely if basically unfathomable. I like this one.

Molloy Arrived: Or, Molloy gets on his horse and rides clippity-clop into a Pelmeni Western. Round 'em up, move 'em out, Borya the Kid! If this were a movie, though, I'd pay to see it in the theater.

Bringing from the Garden-plot: A Fanfare for the Common Garden. This sounds like it's right off of Hyerborea: You either think that's a good thing or you don't. I've come to the point where I think и так, и так...

Zoya and Sonya: Far and away the straightest, most radio-friendly thing on the album (ergo, it's inclusion on the single). An upbeat, power-pop toe-tapper that sounds a whole lot like the Tom Petty of Full Moon Fever.

Electirc Bird: Yikes! Tribal drums. Gregorian chant. The "rubab." The "zurna." Weird monkey-chant-like stuff. And then it's everybody ragga, baby! "I'm sorry but I'm going to have to shoot you." All that and the stampeding horse you came in on. Unlike that intellectual doggy from Piter, this electrical wildlife is pure kinetic madness. You'd have to be mad to like this. Comment? No comment...except my straight-jacket needs to be the same size as my bowling shoes.

Geography: And now for something completely Monty Python-esque...

Labrador/Gibralter: The other track from the single. Rubekin's beepy-boopy-beepy-boopy Russian two-step keyboard figures very heavily. I find that I like it more or less entirely despite myself, like one of those Russian candies that looks like chocolate-covered earwax but tastes pretty good anyway. I heard this blasting out of grainy speakers the other night as I ate shashlik and watched the sun set lingeringly into the Volga and thought to myself "Вот так."

(This song was later to gain a certain popularity from its inclusion on the best-selling soundtrack to the Russian gangsta film Brother 2.)

Creole: The barbershop dirge. Organ, weird harmonizing and that's about it folks. For me, it suggests Tom Waits starring in a remake of The Music Man. Again, I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing.

The Chinese Don't Want: The lyrics tell us that the Chinese don't want war. And what do they want? Apparently, to tango! With one of those trilly little Mexican trumpet solos, whattyacallem? Mexicali, that's it. Which, by the end, has morphed into "Penny Lane" anyway. And then there are the cowbells. You just never know with those Chinese. Хитрые такие!

At Least: Postmodernism ahoy! Starts all lovely and gentle floating by on clouds of strings, but deconstructs itself into what sounds like one of those irritating kids on those Soviet "Ералаш" shorts they always run on ОРТ.

All in all, this Terrarium is a garden of unearthly delights: recommended for those with an interest in bugs, ferns, hot-house flowers, and other things, delicate and strange.