Tabu [Taboo]

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Tabu is the first nearly entirely electric album made by Aquarium and the group's first full-fledged release in terms of professional sound processing. Since the songs were written by Boris Grebenshikov in late 1981 and sometimes played live in concert during 1982, at the time of this recording Grebenshikov knew how to play them perfectly. Psychedelic backing vocals bring new and unexpected nuances to"Play for Sure," and the new wave electronic elements in "Peace of Life" are modeled after the real heavyweights of the genre. And yet, most of the songs here are straightforward hard rock manifestos with Alexander Lyapin's guitar echoing the manner of early Alvin Lee and Jimi Hendrix. Quotations from the Doors, David Bowie, and the Velvet Underground provide a different type of adornment. Tabu was saved by free jazz effects introduced by avant-gardist Sergey Kuryokhin (piano) along with his fellow travelers Igor Butman (sax) and Vladimir Grishenko (bass). They were not regular Aquarium musicians, and their leading roles raised heated debates during the studio sessions. Andrei Romanov and Michail Fainstein-Vasiliev -- dumped by Kuryokhin as less than worthy musicians -- were selling watermelons instead of working in the studio. As a result, the sound turned out sharp, lacerated, and even hysterical. There are heated interchanges between guitar and piano in "Ashes," and strained piano and nervous bass compete with viscous cello in "Tonight Somebody," intensifying the high voltage of Boris Grebenshikov's lyrics (soft and smooth endings having been more traditional for Aquarium). Although the sleek acoustic sketch "Radamaerl" and the dark "Sons of the Silent Days" (patterned after the Doors' keyboard-driven ballads and David Bowie's "Sons of the Silent Age") don't fit with the rest of the album, they are logical conclusions of Tabu's storm-tossed demeanor. Boris Grebenshikov himself was dissatisfied with this recording and called it lopsided. Bitter quarrels during the sessions put the very existence of the band in doubt, as reflected by the question mark following the group's name on the cover.

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