I'd got nowhere to hide to, so it didn't
really matter if I liked it or not --
I had to return to the world
which was a loony-bin and an apery...
S. Delblanc, «Dear Granny»
A townsman is not just everybody living in a town, like a citizen is
not just everybody inhabiting a city. A townsman is inherent to the downtown
avenues and alleys, interwoven and pulsating like the veins of some urbanistic
entity, not mythological but quite real.
Labbour HO's music is born of those interweavings. It Is the
music of a big city where eternity and fuss are coexisting side by side
-- but not completing each other. Old beaten pavements lovingly trodden
by Someone Great along concrete highways strangled by exhaust. Kievo-Pechersky
ancient bell-tower near the modernistic Iron Maiden's sword cleaving the
sky. All of this you can see day by day. Just let this reality through
your eyeballs, your larynx and your heart and you'll have something called
by Labbourers «the depressive optimism».
They made their first appearance one cold April night of 1988 in Goloseyevo
Park. That time we saw just a few sketches of their Feldwebel's Romance
program-to-be. But those three numbers provided an impressive picture of
quite original music even then.
Since then, the depressive optimism has become more refined, the program
sketches have turned into the whole.
Their show starts with a piercing melody blown out by Sergey Popovich's
harmonica, and the kindergarten jingling of the Black Box in Igor Granovsky's
firm hand. It's followed by signals of beep-beep, and they go into Ants.
Very strange. Labbour HO is not followed by an army of fans.
Feldwebel's Romance had been in the Young Guard's Kiev top
list for a very short time and since then has disappeared from top charts
completely. To see crowds shocked by incomprehensible music is not fun
anymore. Would there be just a small cult following of aesthetic snobs
on the side of the depressive optimists in the long run? Labbour HO
is definitely not one of those rock'n'roll heroes who are constantly raising
everybody to marches and attacks, and Popovich can't proudly shout into
his microphone, «We're together!» to the imagined million crowds.
Though I cannot be sure whether the Labbourers are at all desperate about
Three ants gnawing the glass... I remember Witch's curse in the Hoffmann's
Golden Pot, "Be in glass!" Just how to get rid of this
solid transparency, always squeezing you? It's an awfully slow travail
-- that's why this hopelessness is often heard in Sergey's guitar solos.
This city flattened by the glass weight of indifference...
Three ants gnawing the glass producing their mysterious "ho".
This syllable means "fire" in China. Velimir Khlebnikov created
his hidden intelligence, HO-mind... Stop. That's enough. You might be at
a loss in all those layers of perception. Why do we love to analyze so
much, not just listen and appreciate?
We see and hear this city as it is. It is, it exists whether
we love it or hate it. We are bearing it within ourselves. And we cannot
get rid of that feeling that may be called "an instinct of home".
...I don't like to complicate things -- those things that had been
created without secret ambitions to get into some "avant-garde league".
They are the common people -- but turned inside out. Try to understand
your own guts.
Labbour HO has got one special feature: they are unpredictable.
Like Kurt Vonnegut's characters moving in time, the Labbourers pull out
of the future the interlaces of veins and blood-vessels of the whole urbanistic
entity's circulatory system, transferring it into the present.
Unpredictable and industriuos. The group's symbol is the ant with one
unblinking eye, a laborer, a glass-gnawer. Working till the fingers hurt
and the humming in the ears becomes incessant. This year's hot summer was
dedicated to the rehearsals. What made them spend the nights away playing
the same piece over and over, one hundred times, two hundred? Where from
did they take that scream, "Give me the wings?"
A schizophrenic on stage is quite different nowadays: any person who
doesn't think in cliches, anyone who is unlike everybody. He doesn't want
anything for himself, he's not chasing anything. He's just thinking and
sometimes he speaks out. A modern urban schizo is like that, he's not aggressive,
he's quite peaceful.
The inner world of Labbour HO's songs is slowly pulling you
in, enchanting you. And at the very last, this world becomes a necessity
for you. Just like a homecoming.
I believe when the time comes their songs will be appreciated, and
some overfed music-lover would say, "Yeah, that's kinda funny. That's
scary. And that's quite mine."
The show starts. Popovich strikes the chords out of his guitar like
the strings are his own nerves. Igor Granovsky is towering over his keyboard.
Konstantin Dovzhenko is creating his own sort of rock'n'roll in the back
of the stage. See his hands moving, if you can. Always silent, he puts
all his words into the rhythm. And the drums come alive, singing -- now
louder, now softer...
...And this city blown through with cold autumn winds, breaks in through
the window-pane and sweeps out your sleepy comfort of the apartment flants.
And we smile, meeting the gusts of it half-way...
1. The Ukranian for «Loudspeaker»,
the Kiev samizdat magazine of mid-80's.