Best Albums of 2018
selected by Konrad Erofeev

Drezden <BR> “Drezden”


Siarhei Mikhalok is by far the most famous Belorussian artist. A few years ago he dismissed his flagship project Lyapis Trubetskoy and embarked onto soul searching journey that some heartless people would call midlife crisis. Drezden is a one of the results of this journey to find better self, a self-conscious tale full of childhood memories and unnecessarily complicated lyrics. The album is mildly interesting, mostly because of its Neue Deutsche Welle inspired sound.

♪♫ Listen: “Drezden” + album stream

Drezden on Facebook.

George the Beast “Dobro Internationale XXXLP KING SIZE Album Vol. 1 Georgij Beast”

George the Beast “Dobro Internationale XXXLP KING SIZE Album Vol. 1 Georgij Beast”

George the Beast is just one more alias for legendary Belarusian avant-garde musician Sergey Pukst. Sergey is a foundational figure for Belarusian alternative scene but his work is rarely known outside the country, in part due to the language barrier. This is perhaps the first time he writes in English. This particular album isn’t the most representative, but still gives a chance to learn a bit about this remarkable musician. Here Sergey impersonates primitive and vulgar figure, not unlike legendary Tony Clifton but with even stronger cynical and sexist vibe. Outrageous texts and dumbed-down arrangements therefore are just a part of the game.

♪♫ Listen: “I was Never Loving You” + album stream

George the Beast on Facebook.

Anna Zhdanova <BR> “Iskusstvo” (Art)

Anna Zhdanova
“Iskusstvo” (Art)

This is a smooth as a pebble lounge record from an aspiring female artist Anna Zhdanova. It’s slick, it’s pleasant, it would not be out of place in any club. Vocal delivery is a little ambivalent and melodies could have been more catchy, but hey, sometimes all we want is mindless soothing beat.

♪♫ Listen: “Mirazhi” + album stream

Anna Zhdanova on Facebook.

ducя <BR> “Noch” (Night)

“Noch” (Night)

Belorussian musical scene may sometimes feel a bit backwater and to put it nicely ‘vintage’, but it has its share of trendy artists. ducя is as cutting edge as it comes, following all the big trends. It’s a DIY low-fi, it has charismatic female vocals, it become popular, and extremely so, solely through social marketing. All of these would be of course worth nothing if the music wasn’t appealing, but fortunately it’s actually very nice.

♪♫ Listen: “Gorodskaya Toska” + album stream

ducя on Facebook.

Troitsa <BR> “Tzar Agon”

“Tzar Agon”

For good or ill, folk crossovers occupy central place in modern Belarusian music. As far as these cross-overs go, Troitsa is the band. They were one of the pioneers of the genre in a country, they always work with authentic folk material, and from the quality perspective their music is simply impeccable.

Their new LP “Tzar Agon” is slightly more on a traditional rock side than I would like it to be, but still full of fresh authentic material performed with a lot of talent and precision.

♪♫ Listen: “Adame” + album stream

Troitsa on Facebook, Instagram, www.

Bez Bileta <BR> “Mayak”

Bez Bileta

A slightly deeper, more mature take on pop rock from the Belarusian veterans of the genre. After 20 years of mindless romantic pop the band pivots into slightly more thoughtful and gloomier repertoire. Result is better than anything they produced before.

♪♫ Listen: “Pirogues” + album stream

Bez Bileta on Facebook, www, Instagram, Twitter, Spotify.

Yellow Power <BR> “Ciaplo”

Yellow Power

This disc is a true gift to old-school psychedelic art-rock lovers. It heavily relies on tried-and-true clichés from late 60ies, such as heavy monotonous rhythms, transmuting key and guitars sounds, slow composition development and mantra-like vocals.

Following half a century old recipes without even an attempt to modernise would normally lead to an utter disaster, one would expect extremely derivative and boring record. Surprisingly this is not the case. Inexplicably old sound feels fresh again here. I don’t know why, probably due to the band’s true dedication to the style.

♪♫ Listen: “White Rose” + album stream

Yellow Power on Facebook, Bandcamp.

Five storey ensemble <BR> “Night En Face”

Five storey ensemble
“Night En Face”

It’s fascinating and sometimes hard to imagine that in their own time Mozart or Wagner enjoyed cult popularity and following that was quite similar to the fame of today’s pop stars. Old time classical music comes out as stale for a modern listener due to the sheer cultural and temporal gap between them and the composer. Modern days academic music often comes through as arcane and incomprehensible. That’s why it’s especially impressive when a modern composer manages to connect to a wide audience without compromising or simplifying their material.

Five storey ensemble is led by two young Belorussian composers – Olga Podgaiskaya and and Vitaly Appow. In their work Olga and Vitaly achieve an absolutely spectacular result. They create a complex musical weave that while being completely true to what classical music is, instantly connects to the modern listener, especially the one who normally enjoy post-rock instrumental music. The disk is fresh, easy to listen to, and deep in the same time. Without a doubt it gives us a glance on a heyday of classical music, when a first violin, not a solo guitar was a hero.

♪♫ Listen: “Jupiter” + album stream

Five storey ensemble on Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud.