Vast in both physique and intellect, poet Stas Baretsky is perhaps best known for his collaboration with the foul-mouthed Russian rock collective Leningrad, but has also worked extensively with IDM duo, EU. His terrifying stage persona and the crushing anger of his lyrics are accompanied by lamb-like manners offstage; his massive being and scarred visage house a poet's soul, he's a package of contradictions who baffles the West. But in Russia, where poetry has long been deemed "man's work," as bloody and ruthless as that of any criminal or soldier, Baretsky is playing an old part. Drawing from Russian chanson, a crime venerating genre that became the guilty pleasure of the corrupt 1990s, the artist spits out his obscene and funny social critique. His edgy approach has led critics to dub his music "bard-core" and "turbochanson."
A resident of the St. Petersburg suburb of Lomonosov, Baretsky wrote poems from the young age of 14, working at a graveyard and as a guard at the local food market. He first paired his bawdy words with music in 2003, composing Tzenzura ("Censure"), and 2004's Tzenzura 2 ("Censure 2"). Both albums were squarely dubbed chanson, Stas gruffly reciting the rules of Russia's criminal underground, attaching a sardonic wit that became his trademark. On his first album he was accompanied by guitar, on the second by the synthesizer melodies of Andrei Erofeev (PCP). Several songs from the album made it onto the rotation of the Russian Chanson radio station.
Leningrad founder and enfant terrible of Russian showbiz Sergey Shnurov became enamored with Baretsky and his terse parables. A match made in heaven, the two artists shared a passion for vodka and non-normative speech, and soon Stas' considerable stage presence was anticipated by Leningrad audiences. Stas wrote lyrics for the group including two duets with Shnurov on the group's 2005 album, Hleb ("Bread").
Simultaneously, geographic proximity led to a more improbable pairing in 2004. Baretsky teamed-up with pensive indie electronica duo, EU, also Lomonosov natives. Soon the colossal poet was cursing and deriding modern culture before audiences of forward-thinking youngsters with floppy haircuts, surprised to find them applauding at his every obscenity. Stas began performing regularly with EU, though he often noted that his frivolous approach to art was at odds with the pair's deliberate, mathematical process. Their 2005 collaborative album Elektroshina was released on Shnurov's label ShnurOK. A marriage of their opposing virtues, Stas' obscenity littered texts, honestly depicted urban reality protesting mainstream media. One of his most infamous songs brutally disparages reality show host Ksenya Subchak, a Russian Paris Hilton-type; another was written as a satirical entry to the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. EU, for their part, was out to prove that IDM could reach beyond enthusiasts of beats and glitches.