Without being overly conceptual like its predecessor Russian Album or too damn long like Navigator, Favorite Songs of Ramses IV works well. The fact that it was marketed in the US shows that Boris believed that it would represent him at his best. Dubbear agrees with him. Dubbear only feels bad for the people who dragged heavy harpsichords up stairs (or down). Imagine a few folks (sexy Russian men that is) in their mid 30's/mid 40's drenched in sweat, mixing positive energy with intense Russian cussing as our Boris waits in the studio with a mysterious half smile and a half-smoked cigarette (or maybe even a pipe?) like the true “King of Dreams” and “Father of Apples” he is… All those images aside, here are the songs:
Flyer. Actually this song is really about a pilot, but that's a different story (much, much longer, mind you). It scores some excellent psychedelic sounds that lie somewhere between the East and the West. These sounds come from a place where overweight Buddhist monks bang away on harpsichords and lutes while Philharmonic Orchestra members caress their Djembes, Tablas, Doumbeks, Dholaks, Bongos, Bodhrans, Damarus, Mahdals, Rainsticks, Guiros, and Cha Chas. Did I mention the Kettledrums?
Oh well… Welcome to Boris's inflamed mind, Ladies and Gentleman! This is simply brilliant. The line “Bring me a letter from people I love” will bring out a tear. Less sensitive individuals will be left confused with the challenge of an “under darkened water flying technique.” There's also some classic BG guitar strumming here for lovers of the Old School. Excellent!
The Sciences of the Young. I loved this one, I must confess. There's nothing else that excites me more than neo-baroque noodlings applied to a sweet post-ABBA disco kick-drum pattern. Titov himself provided the great, pulsating bass line. Interesting modulation effects of the vocals add even more to the whole synthetic feel of the song, yet it has nothing to do with electronic music. I did hear some suspicious noises in my headphones that did sound a lot like a pre-programmed high-hat of some sort. Olle Romo's ghost confirms that as well. “House remix please,” says the dubbear: ‘Dedushek' away and you will be fine. More slightly bizarre erotic imagery in the lyrics that flow very well after another not-so-lonely night, if you get the hint…
Hierophant starts with a great soothing melody and continues for a while somewhere between Vertinskiy and beyond, until the horrid prog-rock styled drums come in and ruin it completely. They must have felt very experimental inserting that piece. Brian Eno my ass… Kill the drummer, or better the person responsible for snare drum sound. Oh wait it's just me… maybe a few odd children will enjoy the outre quality of this otherwise ruined gem. Do not send them my way though…I have no idea what hierophant means, but I can tell a drummer with too many Rush records.
How Do We Get Home sports an excellent Dead Can Dance-style trombone intro and comfortably settles into another Akvarium track with its Ivan Bodhiharma rhythm section feel and a lyric style circa 1986. Lovers of the old school rejoice again and reach out for another cup of dark tea. The fact that this song was demoed in England brings an interesting “true homesick” feel to it. Not a bad song but it won't change your world any time soon. The line “How can you believe in such uninspired days?” (There's a slight double meaning here—in Russian it could mean “believe in such days” or “believe while such days are present” [poetry editor's note: put it on the page & add a line break after "believe" and the double meaning's there in English too]) well illustrates the situation in Russia in the early 90's. Actually it's rather timeless, so just apply it whenever another crisis is on and it should work handsomely.
Royal Morning. A sudden flashback to the Russian Album period with its fair Russian queens and other important stuff. It's a sad song. If you don't have a mate you might consider getting one. Otherwise a fireplace inside your cozy winter cabin is always an option…
King of Dreams Boris should be marketing a reverse tape simulation software plug-in. It'll be a hit. Until then there's King of Dreams with its extended ending full of bizarre reverse noises. Did Dave Stewart allow any reverse madness? Hell, no. Finally free for good, Boris decides to go nuts, and he does. Forget your “Poetry” this is the real deal. When it's over, you will barely be able to remember the title of the song. It's hazier than Purple Haze, but Third Stone From The Sun it isn't…Go clean up that pipe!
Back to Virginity is a nice little oddity that sounds very much like an intro to a song about a little duck that can be found on Strange Games' second album. (Russian vinyl only!) This is what you get for playing with a pitch wheel on a keyboard, brother. The vocals resemble “Underwater song” from December's Children This is all very well, but must every album have a conceptual post-psychedelic interlude inserted somewhere? Boris says, “Yes.” He likes to insert. Here, there and everywhere. He also invented the word “Hoy.” You're not worthy. [Editor's note: We're not worthy.]
Father of Apples. With intro guitar parts resembling Abbey Road's “She's so heavy” gone Donovan, this song will remind you why you loved Akvarium all along. Donovan and Beatles in one, plus all other A-related antics thrown in...Middle Eastern cuisine this isn't, but variety will make you return again and again! The Father of Apples could pretty much resemble anyone from Gandolf to Gakkel, as long as he's “wise” and gently walks throughout the soft parts of the song supported by a harmonium-sounding type of thing that recalls the moody stringiness of “Strawberry Fields.” The guitar production is excellent—you can find at least three different lead guitar tones throughout the tune. Somehow this track confirms Boris's anglophiliac tendencies. Must be those guitars. Nothing to do with apple pie-eyed blues. It's a keeper.
Probably a new wind was blowing. Suddenly, like thunder out of the clear, blue sky, that puzzling entity called "Akvarium" once again appeared with the words "It's time to gather together a group and play who knows what."
This announcement rang out distincly in Jerusalem; we thought about it another month and then went to Rybinsk to celebrate a fixed gathering of stars with a secret, but open concert (there was a notion to erect a powerful sound system on the banks of the Volga...well, and so forth. vid. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test); and at the same time make a video for "Volga Boatman." The trip turned into a true Satyricon, with hours and hours spent daily on trips up and down the Volga in search of collapsing churches, rare grappa in Rybinsk's grocery stores, and washed-out cemetaries. Nevertheless, the goal that had been set was achieved. In became clear that the "BG Band" had had its day and it was time to fulfill the prophecy regarding Akvarium.
Most likely it was Ded—a professional diplomat—who organized a meeting with Tit (Sasha Titov) on the neutral ground of Gakkel's "TaMTaM" club. Three days later the New Akvarium sat down to rehearse, as was customary, at DK Svyazi.
For a percussionist Tit proposed A. "Lord" Ratsen (formerly of the group "Televisor"). Andrei Vikhoryev with his tablas was recommended by mutual friends. We began with two songs, which had been written with the BG Band, but already were clearly meant for Akvarium: "The Flyer" and "King of Dreams." And it went from there.
At the same time, the local powers at Pushkinskaya 10 gave us a huge empty apartment on the top floor opposite the office of DDT (It was Yura Shevchuk himself who gave me the idea to take it: "Over there, for instance, opposite us, is an empty apartment. Keep a look out and they'll probably give it to you." And, to my amazement, they really did give it to me. Free of charge.). Naturally, there was neither gas nor heat, and the electricity went on and off at random, but all the same it was the first premises that had been willingly given over to Akvarium. For lack of anything better, Ded moved in with his whole family (later Vikhoryev followed him, and then we put a studio in where we recorded all the demos for Navigator, Snow Lion and Hyperborea).
Owing to the inhuman conditions of life, this was an intrepid deed. It turned out that, above and beyond everything else, the apartment wasn't without spirits of its own. Against the highly psychedelic backdrop of those years, spirits quickly occupied their place in the general scheme of things. (True, when they got quite out of hand, we had to resort to extreme measures. Our old friend, the clairvoyant and medium Grigory, came and gave 'em hell. For the time being the spirits calmed down, but the bears started to climb out of the pictures on the walls.) In the same place, we also had symposia, consultations, and other sorts of Akvarium-related festivities. None of this can be separated from the future Ramses IV.
As quick as can be this was followed by the beginning of a concert tour. A new Juggernaut hurtled along the broken roads of Russia—no longer an acoustic partisan detachment of hopped-up Sirens, but now dismal mercenaries in black leather with ghetto-blasters on their shoulders (playing the Stones, Hendrix and Tom Petty), 10 minute guitar solos, and with eyes gazing fixedly into other dimensions.
In Rybinsk the Egyptian gods were studied; in Ryazan, the four floods of time and the local monkish grottoes; in Smolensk "Dubrovskii" made its appearance, and in Lipetsk, "Hierophant." We started to record the album at Lenfilm, smoked up the studio with Indian fragrances, but later understood that it was impossible to bring the album into being there and ended up mixing everything at Melodiya with Yuri Morozov. Long live Ramses the IV!
Translated from Songs by Dzhon