Won James Won

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Tol's Toy (R.A.I.G., 2004), 6.5/10
Theorist Attack (2005), 7/10
The Hollow Grail (2007), 5.5/10
Dante Moscow (2008), 6.5/10
Voinya Vezumiya/ Warrior Vesumia (2013), 5/10
Red Wedming (2014), 6/10
Corpus Unhearmeticum (2016), 6.5/10
Prozrachnik (2017), 5/10
Venus in Abyss (2018), 5/10
The Dust Supper (2019), 5/10
Loss Avoidage Ltd (2022), 7/10

Russian band Won James Won, an emanation of the "ZveZdaZ" art movement gathered around singer Tikhon Kubov and bassist Danila Smirnov, debuted with the 27-song album Tol's Toy (R.A.I.G., 2004), a bold attempt at refounding the grotesquely sardonic and provocative art of the Fugs 40 years later with better tools to assemble sound collages. Particularly effective are the bursts of punk-rock (Shtuch Mastorfuckin Pastor Nak), of dementia (Krasota Carole Laure Spaset Mir, New-York City In The Fall + Cozmo's Love), of musique concrete (Kogda Ostanovitsa Karusel), of plunderphonics (Ezhun Zip Tsaa Bibliotekar'), of chamber electronic music (Muzykal'Naya Shkola), of cartoonish musichall (Edvard v Ochkakh). The longer songs are simply composites of diverse elements, like the collage of industrial music and garage-rock of Nachnetsa Karzlnsoelzky Karnawal, or the regular hard-rock song that ends in cacophony in Estakada. Out of nowhere we even get the melodic power-pop of Privet ya Vash Lyubimyj Gvor before it implodes into a moribund piano sonata. Miike Mouse Enters Dokodemo Doa is pure audio nonsense. The eight-minute Reflektor J'est Stluczone opens and ends in an incandescent vortex of white noise but it's mostly a melancholy waltzing litany. The album is overlong and could have been trimmed by half but nonetheless announces a major force of chaos.

Both variety and depth are overwhelming on Theorist Attack (2005), recorded mostly by a trio of Smirnov, Kubov and guitarist Ivan Ludewig. Songs span a vast range of styles, and each song easily transitions from one genre to another one. They love to indulge in demented and sloppy musichall in the tradition of Frank Zappa and the Residents, but often their compositions derail into much more disturbing territory. Un Pipistrello Rosso is a dadaistic cabaret tune that turns into a tragic Roxy Music-style aria. The pounding boogie of The Promiscuity dissolves in an erotic orgasmic nightmare with samples of movies. The gentle strumming of Yumiko-Chan Takes A Lesson In Harmony And Concentration grows into hypnotic collective repetition with radio interference. The tone of the album can quickly change to ominous and expressionistic as in In Your Arms I Bleed. Hot War Kid Z regurgitates punk-rock. The eight-minute The World History is devoted to visceral recitation, somewhere between industrial rap and absurdist theater, with a brief descent into frenzied hardcore. Their quotations are unrecognizable. There's a disfigured cover of Fugazi's Bed For The Scraping and Dawn + Dusk rapes music by Slapp Happy's Anthony Moore and Peter Blegvad. The eight-minute Pocket Atlantis Masturbo turns Jeff Danna's film music upside down (or builds a parody of it) while blending movie samples with an eruption of death-metal. Charles Scott Boyer's Please Be With Me (covered by Eric Clapton) becomes a hardcore rigmarole at lightning speed before decaying into droning musique concrete, a feeble drone that somehow in the last 20 seconds resurrects the melody. There's some filler, especially towards the end, but where it works the album is a powerful expressions of the existential confusion and angst of the era.

The Drisneyland Chronicles Vol 1 (2005) collects live performances, notably the lengthy and chaotic sound collages of Scanner Cop (13:06) and Doppler's Dawn (10:52), besides a nine-minute version of Estakada/ Overpass.

The 20-song The Hollow Grail (2007) collects various live performances, mostly improvised by Alexander Bochagov (guitars, piano, samples), Tikhon Kubov (vocals and electronics), Daniel Smirnov (bass, keyboards, guitar), Ivan Ludewig (guitar), plus occasional drummers and additional singers and Yuri Sandyrev's didgeridoo in four songs. The overall tone is more austere, especially in the industrial techno jam Tapeworm Delivery and in the grotesque macabre chant The Giant Rotten Head Returns And Shrinks Into A Golf Ball. The punk-rock songs are a mixed blessing. Many vignettes feel unfinished, like sketches for future compositions. This is regrettable because some of them (The Theleme Quartet) shows promise. The lunatic ballad Lieutenant P & Lolly stands out. The nine-minute techno dance Endless Ends is too trivial.

The tour de force of the era is the 30-minute piece of the EP Dante Moscow (2008), structured in three movements: the murky and subdued Inferno (7:06), the piano-driven disorienting electroacoustic chamber music of Purgatorio (12:18), and the angelic, droning, ambient adagio of Paradiso (11:08).

Les 120 Minuetes de Sadomasonodoraemonocuporamenosodom (Accessory Takes, 2009) collects live performances and leftovers.

Smirnov and Kubov crafted the ten-song mini-album Voinya Vezumiya/ Warrior Vesumia (2013) in a more professional manner, but Helped by singer Sergei Kagadeev, guitarist Andrei Gankin, and balalaika player Yuri Sinyev, but the resulting sound collages (First Fuck, Smerkl, Izvnelyudy, Safogetty) are a lot less creative and even tedious. The twelve-minute Rus.exe.dus is the only piece that has some life but it goes on three minutes too many.

Unfortunately that massive drop in creativity was not just an incident. The 17-song Red Wedming (2014) retreated into the simple mood music of Black Aurora Over Us and Sviridiana (the two instrumentals that bookend the album), into the facile gothic pastiche of DOS Golgotha , and into several monotonous songs. The cartoonish collage Opium Dan and brief futuristic vignettes like Doom Container are intriguing but could have been developed into something more substantial. The highlights are the subliminal abstract soundscape of Clit Memory Reset (Suttee), the digital hardcore of Red Ded the distorted pop-metal of Dobaded! In Roseland and the eccentric ballad La Gondola Orgasma. But it is telling that now it is possible to identify the genre of each song...

The Drisneyland Chronicles Vol. II (2015) is another collection of live performances, notably a 32-minute version of Dante Moscow renamed Capitale Ephemerica.

There is still a lot of self-indulgent music on Corpus Unhearmeticum (2016) but the album contains two ten-minute free-form sound collages, 2666 Years Of Fear (a tribute to novelist Roberto Bolano) and Karuzel Retorno, as well as the eleven-minute glitch-ambient-concrete suite Deisis II. It also marks a mature return to the Dada spirit (QuaQua At The Gates Of Moonlight) and to expressionist atmospheres (Pensioner's Song).

Venus in Abyss (2018), a much more electronic work and mostly instrumental, with little or no vocals, contains the symphonic cosmic music of the nine-minute Spirale Lenticolare II - Spruzzatura Spaziale, somewhere between early Klaus Schulze and latter-day Pink Floyd, and the lifeless eleven-minute sound collage of Venus of Abyss.

Shtooch (2020) captures Smirnov, Kubov and guitarist Andrei Gankin in several live performances: improvised chaotic pieces like I Woke Up Naked and Full of Holes and Snow Traps Dissipate Our Velocity; and unlikely industrial dances like Illicit Abandon (Parallax Overdose) and Nothing but a Lighthouse of Acrobats.

They also released numerous cassettes such as Prozrachnik (2017), with the indulgent sound collage of Every Spring She Floats Up and The Dust Supper (2019), containing two colossal suites, Tsol Sgniht and Emit Muminim.

Loss Avoidage Ltd (2022) contains six mature abstract collages: the radioactive wasteland Toxic Eulogy The Failed Musical (13:12), the deconstructed Japanese conversations of Erodactyl + Sexpiria (11:29), the horror soundtrack Arrival of a Brain at La Pizdyamba Station, the zombie chant Nepo-Godder (Retuning Our Nightingale), the glitchy droning fresco Time Leaks Weakly (14:06), with its dramatic finale, and the calm galactic expanses of Unnamed Fields CALL = (12:11).

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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