Speaking In Tongues
Scribbling In Voices


By Tatyana Yezhova

(«Guchnomovets»(1), Kiev)

Translated by Max Nemtsov

© 1988

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 it...
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.