According to well-established stereotypes, Russia is represented abroad as an enormous country with bears, vodka, and endless winter. Hollywood scriptwriters portray Russians as sullen and never smiling. Many foreigners who have visited Russia note that Russians leave the impression of very harsh people because they don't smile. Russians always have a poker face. But, of course, people are not a reflection of stereotypes. Russians know how to have fun, and there are many friendly, sympathetic, and cheerful people among them. And they don't smile, not because they are angry or sad, but because most Russians consider a smile not a demonstration of politeness but a demonstration of personal sympathy. Generally, here, people smile only at their acquaintances. It is not acceptable to smile at strangers in most cases.
However, Russian melancholy is a concept deeply rooted in the national consciousness. This concept creates images that inspire literature and art. One can find it in the works of A.S. Griboyedov, A.S. Pushkin, M. Yu. Lermontov, N.V. Gogol, F.M. Dostoevsky, L.N. Tolstoy, A.A. Blok, M.I. Tsvetaeva, A.A. Akhmatova, A.P. Platonov and other classics of Russian literature. For example, F.M. Dostoevsky wrote, "The Russian people, even in happiness, certainly have a part of suffering — otherwise, their happiness is incomplete for them." Of course, this does not apply to all Russians, who, in reality, are as different from each other as other Europeans are different from each other.
So what is the essence of the phenomenon of Russian melancholy? If you want to find the answer to this question or wish to be sad like a real Russian, you can check out a list of 10 musical performers related by the presence of a dark vibe of Russian melancholy in their work.
Ploho is a Novosibirsk post-punk music band founded in 2013. The name of the band is a transliterated Russian word плохо, which means badly. The band consists of a trio of Viktor Uzhakov (vocals, guitar), Andrey Smorgonsky (bass guitar), and Igor Starshinov (keyboards). Their songs reveal the inner world of an ordinary person living in a standard high-rise building. Also, they show that an ordinary, at first glance, life is full of vivid inner images, peculiar perceptions of everyday life.
Ploho participates in festivals, shoots videos, goes on tours throughout Russia and Europe.
The band's album Where do the birds fly to die (Russian: Куда птицы улетают умирать) entered the top 25 best albums of 2018 according to the version of the Portland radio station XRAY FM.
The Belarusian musical band Molchat Doma (Russian: Молчат Дома — Houses Are Silent) formed in Minsk in 2017. The band consists of Egor Shkutko (vocals), Roman Komogortsev (guitar, synths, and drum machine), and Pavel Kozlov (bass and synths). They create music at the intersection of post-punk, new-wave, and synth-pop. Dark, yet danceable.
In November 2019, the Hugo Boss company released a commercial for the new Pre-Spring 2020 collection, the soundtrack of the promo video was the song of Molchat Doma — Na dne (Russian: На дне — At the Bottom). In the same year, the band performed at the Berlin festival Pop-Kultur 2019 and at the European music festival Tallinn Music Week, where the British journalist Kieron Tyler noticed them and evaluated their work.
Theodor Bastard is a musical band from St. Petersburg, founded in 1999 by the guitarist and music author Alexander Starostin, aka Fedor Svoloch (Russian: Федор Сволочь), the band's name comes from the English version of this pseudonym. Theodor Bastard were one of the pioneers of world and neofolk music genres in Russia. Music critics attribute the band's work to such genres as world music, ethnic electronica, trip-hop, darkwave. The themes of their songs are based mainly on mythology and fantasy. The band's hallmark is the voice and intonation of Yana Veva - the lead vocalist and songwriter. She often sings in rare languages ranging from African and Asian to Native American and many more. Currently, members of the band are also Alexey Kurasov (ethnic percussions, winds), Alexey Kalinovskiy (keyboards), Vyacheslav Salikov (cello), Sergey Smirnov (drums), Ekaterina Dolmatova (backing vocals). Theodor Bastard's albums were released in 5 countries: Russia, Germany, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina.
Moon Far Away
The band was founded in fall 1994 in Arkhangelsk by Alexey Sheptunov, aka Count Ash, the photographer Heleg and the female vocalist Anea. The musicians chose gothic and neo-folk for their genre, becoming a pioneer of the gothic genre in Russia. Due to the similarity of their first works with the creations of the famous Australian-Irish duo, the reputation of the Russian Dead Can Dance was fixed in the press for Moon Far Away.
Their debut album Lado World, released in 1997, was recognized by domestic and foreign critics as the first gothic release from Russia. The band currently consists of Count Ash (guitars, keyboards, programming, wheel lyre, percussion, flutes, harp, balalaika, vocals, music, and lyricist), Leda (lead vocals), Zhigich (bass guitar), Victorion (drums, percussion, flutes). The musicians prefer to perform under pseudonyms, and during concerts and photoshoots, they hide their faces under masks.
Andrey Vyacheslavovich Lysikov, aka Dolphin, was born on September 29, 1971, in Moscow. His musical career started with the alternative hip-hop band Duboviy Gaai (Russian: Дубовый Гаайъ, formed from the Ukrainian misspelled phrase Дубовий Гай — Oak Grove) in 1989.
Then in 1991, Andrey joined the infamous hip-hop band Malchishnik (Russian: Мальчишник — Bachelor Party). In addition to the lack of morality in the lyrics, the band attracted attention with its defiant image. In 1996, the band broke up, and Dolphin began a solo career.
He has nowadays become an idol of a whole generation, but at the same time, he stands aside from Russian rock and pop so-called elite. Dolphin never limited himself to the framework of any musical genre. Although conditionally, he describes his style as reading poetry to the electronic or rock beat.
A unique and remarkable poet, Dolphin is respected by professional writers, and the National Russian Writers' Union acknowledges him as one of the most outstanding modern poets.
Also, you can hear Dolphin's songs as soundtracks in some modern Russian movies. And his track Rap was part of the soundtrack for the videogame Grand Theft Auto IV. You can hear it on the Vladivostok FM radio station.
In 2021, Dolphin released the music video Ladoni (Russian: Ладони - Palms), dedicated to doctors, nurses, and medical staff from around the world who lost their lives in the fight against COVID-19.
Abviotura (Russian: Абвиотура formed from misspelled аббревиатура — abbreviation) is a rock band from Rostov-on-Don, founded in 1995. Since 2003, the members of the group have been living and working in Moscow. The band consists of Pavel Lapygin (lyrics, vocals, guitar, keyboards), Andrey Sheremet (bass, keyboards, computers), Roman Korobeinikov (solo guitar, jew's harp), Alexander Yakovlev (drums, percussion), Svetlana Pylaeva (folk vocals), and Alexey Yakovlev (soundman). One can describe the musical style of the band as a rock with folk elements. But the musicians themselves prefer to call their genre ethno core. The inclusion of authentically performed genuine folk songs samples is a distinctive and striking feature of the arrangements. The music of this band isn't dark. But it's filled with the inexplicable Russian melancholy, about which Dostoevsky wrote in his time.
Omnimar is a Russian electronic duo founded in 2011 in Moscow. The project includes Maria Mar and Alex VRT. They write lyrics primarily in English, but there are also songs in Russian and German. The sound of the early tracks was close to darkwave and electro-industrial, but over time the sound changed towards dark synthpop.
In 2016, the musicians recorded the song Out Of My Life. The song became a hit and a hallmark of the group. The video for this track collected a million views on YouTube in the first month. The released EP Out Of My Life entered the Deutsche Alternative Charts, the main alternative music chart in Germany, becoming the first-ever appearance of a project from Russia in this rating.
Lucidvox is an all-female psychedelic quartet from Moscow. They sing about mysterious things hidden behind the everyday life of ordinary people. The band plays chilly psychedelic rock, which in places reaches out to stoner doom. At the same time, their songs are filled with ethnic sounds and some eerie occult atmosphere. The band consists of Nadya Samodurova (drums, backing vocals), Galla Gintovt (guitar), Alina Evseeva (vocals, flute, synthesizer), Anna Switchitout (bass).
In May 2021, their music video My Little Star (Russian: Звёздочка) won the Best Music Video category at the International Short Film Festival Moscow Shorts.
Affinage (Russian: Аффинаж — Refining) is a Russian rock band working in its own style of noir-chanson that contains references to a variety of pop and rock genres. The band's name formed from French affinage — the metallurgical process of purifying metal. Affinage was founded in St. Petersburg by lyricist, vocalist, and guitarist Mikhail Kalinin, aka Em Kalinin, and bassist Sergei Shilyaev, aka Sergeich, in 2012. Later, accordionist Alexander Koryukovets and trombonist Alexander Evdokimov, aka Sasha Om, joined the band.
In terms of sound, the band is considered one of the most original and authentic in Russia. They play the music that ranges from light indie to extreme styles, from pop-rock to dark folk, but at the same time retains its unique sound.
Ice 9 (Russian: Лёд 9) is a side project of the alternative hip-hop band 25/17, founded by Omsk musicians Andrey Pozdnukhov, aka Bledny (Russian: Бледный — Pale) and Anton Zavyalov, aka Ant. The name of the project refers to Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. Ice-nine is a fictional solid polymorph of water, which is more heat resistant than regular ice.
The musicians created a side project to divide their work into two parts. As Bledny explained, in Ice 9, the field for experiments is much broader. They had cases when he wrote some lyrics for 25/17, and Ant said, "It is too complicated. People might not understand it." And in Ice 9, the musicians don't think about it at all. Whoever needs it will — understand.
In 2011, the project's debut album entitled Cold War (Russian: Холодная Война) took place. And in 2013, the second album was released under the title The Temptation of the Holy Commoner (Russian: Искушение Святого Простолюдина). The press immediately named the project the dark side of 25/17. Indeed, its work is not even dark but truly scary. According to the site Rap.ru, The Temptation of the Holy Commoner is the most creepy project of the 25/17 band members in their entire history.
Ice 9, both in lyrics and music, is a unique blend of creative regenerations, mixes, and references. In the project's music, you can hear references to Siberian punk of the last century, dance music of the 90s, or canonical death metal bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death, Autopsy, and others. To fully enjoy this project, it would be nice to have a certain amount of knowledge about the work of many outstanding people, fragments of which the musicians have successfully glued together. For example, the music video Hell of Cold (Russian: Ад Холода), recorded with the participation of the legendary Russian rock musician Konstantin Kinchev, refers us to John Carpenter's film They Live and reveals the secret of why musicians always wear black sunglasses.