Stuffography Hyperborea

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Hyperborea

SoLyd Records 1997


Review

by Dji & Dzhon

After much time spent in sackcloth and ashes with headphones on my ears, I am here to declare that THE GURUS HAVE WRONGED HYPERBOREA AND THEY SHALL SUFFER FOR THEIR SINS!!!

It is true that the much-maligned Hyperborea is an exercise in excess, but, as Frank O'Hara said, "Presence is better than absence, if you love excess." And how can we, the authors of a more than 1.5 megabyte database [bigger than that, now -ed.] on Akvarium and Akvarium-related matters criticize Boris for excesses?

This album features: flanged vocals, flanged guitar, flanged other stuff, harps, harpsichords, Russian Orthodox Church choirs which segue into Tibetan throat singers, backwards guitar, backwards Russian speeches, backwards (I think) Latin speeches, wah-wah pedal overthruster olympiads with well-mashed fuzz, sonar sounds that ping from stereo channel to stereo channel, sudden shifts in tone from angelic pseudo-traditional Russian folk to 50's-style rock-pop complete with rock & roll scat singing. Just to name a few highlights.

True, there are a few places where I sometimes fast-forward the tape, but at other times I'm in the mood for chanting sound collages in memory of the lost Hyperborea. And without even trying I can think of five tunes from the album which are classic Akvarium and which are neglected at the peril of a Bodhisattva's Bodhisattvahood.

There is something on the grand continent of Hyperborea for everyone to love... and, of course, something for most everyone to hate. As I wander its landscapes, I begin to see that a tour of Hyperborea is a retrospective, and the boldest innovation on this album is its lack of innovation: Hyperborea is a tour of past Akvarium styles—Akvarium in Memorium. You can hear echoes of the Triangle experiments, the dips into epic melody rock, the style surfing of Akvarium's ages. And yes, Dzhon, you can definitely hear echoes of Navigator.

So I, Dji, was an idiot. And Dzhon was an idiot. And Dzhub & Dzhrew were idiots for believing us. Let us now repent and beat ourselves with old bass strings. Auummmm [whack] Auuuummmmm [whack]...


Wielding a tungsten lingham, Dzhon rejoins...

Мерзопакость такая!!! I am entirely unrepentent, unswayed and unconvinced. Aside from the lamentable English language albums, Hyperborea remains one of the most unlistenable thing BG has ever had a hand in. It sounds like Машина времени playing Jethro Tull for heaven's sake! Tfooo! Comparing Triangle to Hyperborea is like comparing diamonds to coal; Hyperborea a self-indulgent, over-determined, under-thought-out mishegaas of an album...the queasy, bloated hangover that remains the morning after the тусовкаof Russian rock has played itself out and all you have left are dirty пельмениpots and перегар.

It's worth noting that my dislike of this album is relative: I view it as a bad Akvarium album, which is not the same thing as a plain-old bad album. Nevertheless, caveat emptor...and if you own less than 15 Akvarium albums don't even think about it.


Much, much later...

OK, Dji's right. Dji's so right. Dji's lingham is a beacon shining in the dark woods, like the heart of Смелый Данко, leading us to a better, brighter future. I eat the fruit of bitterness: pomegranates and lychee. I wear a sackcloth shapka.

But I've left the above vitriol in place as a warning to all that would follow: this is the Road Hardly Travelled At All. This makes the Road Less Travelled look like an autobahn. As of this writing (June, 2000) it remains the only Akvarium studio album not available in the crowd-pleasing, el-cheapo "licensed disc" format. There is indeed much here to love, but unless your four favorite albums are Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, Jethro Tull's Songs from the Wood, Queen's Flash Gordon, and They Might May Be Giant's Lincoln (in that order) it's very unlikely to be love at first sight—as my 3-year courtship with it demonstrates—and you'd do well to start Grebenschikovian journey somewhere else. Leave Hyperborea to the contemplaton of the Bodhisattvas—it is a koan too puzzling for ordinary laymen.


Post-apocalytic observations: [Dec. 2002]

Dzhon just serendipitously discovered that the first five tracks on this album are all ancient, ur-Akvarium songs, originally composed between 1974 and 1976. This fact was somewhat masked by the fact that three of them—"...Juniper Bushes," "Apocrypha," and "Horseman..."—were never actually incorporated into the cannoical Prehistoric Akvarium albums, and another, "Angel of the Rain," has an alternate title...still, a thousand more lashes with a broken bass string to us for being so slow on the up-take. Note that this means Hyperborea has more than a little in common with Sands of Petersburg, despite Boris' own classification of Hyperborea as new material, rather than an anthology album. What it is, in fact, is a hybrid: half old stuff taken from the shelf, dusted off, and given an odd, mid-90's version of Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" treatment; half genuninely new stuff of an intriguing, yet fragmentary, nature. (Of the new tracks, only two—"Aria of the Kazan Beast" and "Fast & Light"—are fully realized songs in their own right; the others are "movements" of "Magistral" or instrumentals). This may go some way toward explaining why Hyperborea has, over the years, summoned forth such mixed feelings from the Bodhisattvas.


Info on Hyperboreans from bibliomania.com [the original article is gone, but we'll maintain the link for citation purposes].

Hyperboreans (5 syl.). The most northern people, who dwell beyond Boreas (the seat of the north wind), placed by Virgil under the North Pole. They are said to be the oldest of the human race, the most virtuous, and the most happy; to dwell for some thousand years under a cloudless sky, in fields yielding double harvests, and in the enjoyment of perpetual spring. When sated of life they crown their heads with flowers, and plunge headlong from the mountain Hunneberg or Halleberg into the sea, and enter at once the paradise of Odin. (Scandinavian mythology.)

The Hyperboreans, it is said, have not an atmosphere like our own, but one consisting wholly of feathers. Both Herodotos and Pliny mention this fiction, which they say was suggested by the quantity of snow observed to fall in those regions. (Herodotos, iv. 31.).

See also:

You can never know too much.

reviewed by Dji and Dzhon


Original Bodhisattvas of Babylon text [1998] (we were so wrong)(?):

I agree with Dzhon: Hyper-bore-ya. Love the first "aye-aye-yi" song, and most of side one is ok, but side two of the tape is a decadent monstrosity, almost a parody of an Akvarium album. What happened? Later: I've changed my mind. It doesn't suck. Still, what happened? Even Dzhrew, who bought The One Track won't buy a copy of the cd. Somebody buy me a copy so I can change my mind.


The following "songs" are actually movements of the song "Magistral":

Overture
The Tower of Babylon
Pavlov
Spiritual Locomotive
Interlude
Monogamist
Rusty Jug of Fate
The Grand Finale