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Kino
Кино
Kino sostav.jpg
Yuri Kasparyan, Viktor Tsoi, Georgy Gurianov, and Igor Tikhomirov in 1988
Background information
Origin Leningrad, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union (now St. Petersburg, Russia)
Genres Post-punk, new wave
Years active 1982–1990
Labels AnTrop, Yanshiva Shela, Melodiya, Moroz Records
Associated acts U-Piter, Aquarium, Pop-mekhanika, Dzhungli
Past members Viktor Tsoi
Yuri Kasparyan
Georgy Guryanov†
Igor Tikhomirov

Aleksei Rybin
Oleg Valinsky
Alexander Titov

Kino (Russian: Кино) was a Soviet rock band formed in Leningrad in 1982, considered to be one of, if not the greatest rock band in the history of Russian music. The band was co-founded and headed by Viktor Tsoi, who wrote the music and lyrics for almost all of the band's songs. Over the course of eight years, Kino had released over 90 songs spanning over seven studio albums, as well as releasing a few compilations and live albums. The band's music was also widely circulated in the form of bootleg recordings. Viktor Tsoi died in a car accident in 1990. Shortly after his passing, the band broke up after releasing their final album, consisting of songs that Tsoi and the group were working on in the months before his death.

In 2019, the band announced a reunion with concerts planned in the fall of 2020 for the first time in 30 years, however they were later postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

History

Early years

Kino was formed in 1981 by the members of two earlier groups from Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Palata No. 6 and Piligrimy. They initially called themselves Garin i giperboloidy (Russian: Гарин и гиперболоиды) after Aleksei Tolstoi's novel The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin. The group consisted of Viktor Tsoi, guitarist Aleksei Rybin [ru], and drummer Oleg Valinsky [ru]. They began rehearsing, but Valinsky was drafted and had to leave the band. In the spring of 1982, they began to perform at the Leningrad Rock Club and met with the influential underground musician Boris Grebenshchikov. It was around this time that they changed the band's name to Kino. The name was chosen because it was considered short and "synthetic," and the band members took pride in that it had only two syllables and was easy to pronounce by speakers all over the world. Tsoi and Rybin later said that they had the idea for the name after seeing a bright cinema sign.

45 and the beginning of a career (1982)

Kino released their debut album, 45, in 1982. Since the band only consisted of two members, Grebenshchikov suggested that members of his band Aquarium assist Kino in recording the album. These included cellist Vsevolod Gakkel, flautist Andrei Romanov [ru], and bassist Mikhail Faynshteyn-Vasilyev [ru]. Since they had no drummer at the time, they used a drum machine. This simple line-up made the album sound lively and bright. Lyrically, it resembled earlier Soviet bard music for its romanticism of city life and the use of poetic language. The album consisted of thirteen songs and was named 45 in reference to its length. The group's popularity was rather limited at the time, so the album was not considered much of a success. Tsoi later stated that the record had come out crudely and he should have recorded it differently.

In between (late 1982–1984)

In late 1982, Kino attempted to record a second album at the studio of the Maly Drama Theatre, along with drummer Valery Kirilov [ru] (who later joined Zoopark) and sound designer Andrey Kuskov. However, Tsoi lost interest in the project and they ceased recording. In the winter of 1983, they played several shows in Leningrad and Moscow and were sometimes accompanied by Aquarium drummer Pyotr Troshchenkov [ru]. Rybin was replaced by rehearsal bassist Maksim Kolosov and later, guitarist Yuri Kasparyan. According to Grebenshchikov, Kasparyan was a poor guitar player initially, but he quickly progressed and eventually became the second most important member of Kino. With Kolosov and Kasparyan, Kino performed their second concert at the Leningrad Rock Club.

Kino band logo
Kino logo

The band's responsibilities were split evenly between Tsoi and Rybin. Tsoi was in charge of the creative component, writing music and lyrics, while Rybin did all the administrative work, such as organizing concerts, rehearsals and recording sessions. In March 1983, a serious conflict broke out between them, the culmination of multiple differences between the two musicians. Tsoi was particularly annoyed that Rybin performed his songs, and not his own writing, while Rybin didn't like Tsoi's unconditional leadership of the group. Eventually, the two stopped talking, and Rybin left the band.

The only audio document from this period was a bootleg called 46 [ru], which consisted of demos of new songs by Tsoi. These songs continued with the romanticism of 45, but also had darker undertones. Tsoi dismissed the recording as "only a rehearsal tape," but many fans viewed it as Kino's second record. Nonetheless, it has never been recognized as a legitimate album by the band.

Nachalnik Kamchatki and growing fame (1984–1985)

In 1984, Kino released their sophomore album, Nachalnik Kamchatki (Russian: Начальник Камчатки). The title was inspired by Tsoi's job as a boiler plant operator ("nachalnik" means 'chief' or 'boss,' and "Kamchatka" is slang for 'a very faraway place' – but also a folk name for the boiler plant where Tsoi worked, now his museum), as well as a reference to the 1967 Soviet comedy Nachalnik Chukotki (Russian: Начальник Чукотки). Again, Grebenshchikov served as a producer and brought many of his friends to help with the record. Among them were Alexander Titov (bass guitar), Sergey Kuryokhin (keyboards), Pyotr Troshchenkov (drums), Vsevolod Gakkel (cello), Igor Butman (sax), and Andrey Radchenko (drums). Grebenshchikov played a small keyboard instrument. The album was minimalist in style, with sparse arrangements and usage of fuzz effects on Kasparyan's guitar. "The album was electric and somewhat experimental in sound and form. I cannot say that the sound and style orientation turned out the way we'd like to see it, but from the point of view of the experiment, it looked interesting," said Tsoi later.

After the album was finished, Tsoi formed the electric section of Kino, which included Kasparyan on lead guitar, Titov on bass guitar, and Georgy Guryanov on percussion, and in May 1984, they began to actively rehearse a new concert program. Kino then performed at II Festival at the Leningrad Rock Club, where they were highly acclaimed and began to take off in popularity. The group soon became famous and started to tour the Soviet Union. In the summer, they participated in a critically acclaimed joint performance with Aquarium and other bands held in the Moscow suburb of Nikolina Gora [ru] under the close supervision of the state security forces. In 1985, Kino released their third album, Eto ne lyubov....

Noch and nationwide recognition (1985–1986)

Kino1986leningrad
Viktor Tsoi and Yuri Kasparyan at a concert in Leningrad, 1986.

In early 1985, Kino attempted to record another album, but Tsoi did not like producer Andrei Tropillo's interference in his work, and the project was left unfinished.

In November 1985, Titov decided to leave Kino in favour of Aquarium, of which he was also a member. He was replaced by jazz guitarist Igor Tikhomirov [ru], who remained part of Kino's "classic lineup" until its end.

In January 1986, Tropillo released the unfinished record the band had recorded in his studio a few months earlier. The album, entitled Noch (Russian: Ночь) sold two million copies, making the group famous far beyond the rock community. However, the band had an extremely negative view of the release of this album. They received very little money from the sales of the record, and the underground rock press also criticized the album.

In the spring the band performed at the IV Festival Rock Club, where they received the grand prize for the song "Dalshe deystvovat budem my" (Russian: «Дальше действовать будем мы»). In the summer, they travelled to Kiev to make a film with Sergei Lysenko. In July, they performed at the Moscow Palace of Culture Engineering along with Aquarium and Alisa. Afterwards, the three bands released a compilation called Red Wave. The album sold 10,000 copies in California, becoming the first release of Soviet rock music in the West.

Gruppa krovi and critical acclaim (1986–1988)

From 1986 to 1988, Tsoi began to act in more movies and continued to write songs for Kino. The film The Needle (Russian: Игла), which he starred in, brought the band to even more prominence, and their 1988 album Gruppa krovi (Russian: «Группа крови») brought them to the pinnacle of their popularity. Kasparyan had married the American Joanna Stingray, who brought the group high-quality equipment from abroad. Thus, the technical equipment Kino used on this album far exceeded the equipment they had access to on their earlier albums, and it was their first record technically on par with European and American recordings. Russian journalist Alexander Zhitinsky called Gruppa krovi one of the best works of Russian music and said that it elevated Russian rock to a new level. The album was also acclaimed in the West, where it was released in 1989 by Capitol Records and lauded by American critic Robert Christgau. Noch was also released on vinyl by Melodiya in 1988.

Kino performed on central television in the Soviet Union, and Assa, a 1987 film featuring Russian rock, showed Tsoi performing "Khochu peremen!" (Russian: «Хочу перемен») in front of a crowd of thousands. After this, Kino's popularity swept the country, and their music captured the minds of the Soviet youth of the 1980s.

Zvezda po imeni Solntse and global popularity (1989–1990)

Soon after gaining national fame, Kino began to receive invitations to perform from all over the Eastern Bloc and even from some foreign countries. They participated in a charity contest in Denmark to raise money for relief from the earthquake in Armenia and performed at the largest French rock festival in Bourges and at the Soviet-Italian festival Back in the U.S.S.R. in Melpignano. In 1989, they travelled to New York and held a premiere of The Needle, as well as a small concert.

In 1989, they released Zvezda po imeni Solntse (Russian: Звезда по имени Солнце), which was lonely, introspective, and sad, despite the fame the band was enjoying. Kino appeared on the popular Soviet television program Vzglyad and attempted to record several video clips. While Tsoi was unsatisfied with them and insisted that they be removed, they were nonetheless shown frequently on television.

Around this time, the band decided to create a separate pop band to perform their more light-hearted songs to balance the pop songs that helped them gain popularity with Tsoi's introspective musings.

In 1990, Kino performed at Luzhniki Stadium, where the organizers lit the Olympic flame, which had been lit only four times before (at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, the World Festival of Youth and Students in 1985, the Goodwill Games in 1986, and the Moscow International Peace Festival 1989.)

Chеrny albom and the end of Kino (1990–present)

In June 1990, after finishing a lengthy touring season, the band decided to take a short break before recording an album in France. However, on August 15, Tsoi died in a car crash near Tukums while returning from a fishing trip.

Before Tsoi died, they had recorded several songs in Latvia, and the remaining members of Kino finished the album as a tribute to him. While it had no official title, it is often called the Black Album (Russian: Чёрный альбом) in reference to its all-black cover. It was released in December 1990, and shortly after, Kino and others close to Tsoi held a press conference announcing the end of the band.

Reunions

In 2012, on what would have been Tsoi's fiftieth birthday the band briefly reunited to record the song "Ataman", which had originally been intended to feature on the Black Album. The song wasn't featured on the album at release because the only recording that existed of the song contained only low-quality vocals. This was the final release of the band and the final song to feature Georgy Guryanov who died on 20 July 2013, from complications of hepatitis C, liver and pancreatic cancer, at the age of 52.

In 2019, the band announced a reunion with concerts planned in the fall of 2020 for the first time in 30 years. It would feature the band's guitarist Yuri Kasparyan and bass guitarists Alexander Titov and Igor Tikhomirov. It would also use Viktor's voice, digitized from original multichannel recordings, and be accompanied by a "unique video sequence". Viktor Tsoi's son, Alexander, became the band's producer. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the concerts were postponed to 2021.

In March 2021, a new live album called Kino in Sevkabel was released.

Style

All Kino songs were written by Viktor Tsoi. His lyrics are characterized by a poetic simplicity. The ideas of liberty were present (one song was named "Mother Anarchy") but, on the whole, the band's message to the public was not overly or overtly political, except for the recurring theme of freedom. Their songs largely focused on man's struggle in life and dealt with such overarching themes as love, war, and the pursuit of liberty. Elements of daily life are also embedded in Kino's vocabulary (for instance, there is a song about the elektrichka, a commuter train many suburbanites use daily). When asked about the social and political themes of his music, Tsoi said that his songs were works of art and he did not wish to engage in journalism.

Legacy

Tsoi Wall 02
The Tsoi Wall covered with messages from Kino fans.

As one of the first Russian rock bands, Kino greatly influenced later bands. On December 31, 1999, Russian rock radio station Nashe Radio announced the 100 best Russian rock songs of the 20th century based on listener votes. Kino had ten songs in the list, more than any other band, and "Gruppa Krovi" took the first place. The Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda listed Kino as the second most influential Russian band ever (after Alisa.) In addition, "Gruppa Krovi" was listed as one of forty songs that changed the world in a 2007 Russian-language edition of Rolling Stone.

Tsoi's simple, relatable lyrical style was very accessible to Kino's audience and helped them gain popularity throughout the Soviet Union. While not excessively political, their music coincided with Mikhail Gorbachev's liberal reforms such as glasnost and perestroika. Additionally, the Western style of their music increased the popularity of Western culture in the Soviet Union.

Kino has remained popular in modern Russia, and Tsoi, in particular, is a cult hero. The group's popularity is referred to as "Kinomania," and fans of the group are known as "Kinophiles." In Moscow, there is a Tsoi Wall, where fans leave messages for the musician, and the boiler room where Tsoi once worked is a place of pilgrimage for fans of Russian rock.

Band members

  • Viktor Tsoi (Виктор Цой) – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar (1981–1990; died 1990)
  • Aleksei Rybin (Алексей Рыбин) – lead guitar (1981–1983)
  • Oleg Valinsky (Олег Валинский) – drums (1981–1982)
  • Yuri Kasparyan (Юрий Каспарян) – lead guitar, backing vocals (1983–1990)
  • Aleksandr Titov (Александр Титов) – bass, backing vocals (1983–1986)
  • Georgy Guryanov (Георгий Гурьянов) – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1986–1990; died 2013)
  • Igor Tikhomirov (Игорь Тихомиров) – bass (1986–1990)

Timeline

Discography

Studio albums
  • 45 (1982)
  • 46 (1983)
  • Nachalnik Kamchatki (1984)
  • Eto ne lyubov... (1985)
  • Noch (1986)
  • Gruppa krovi (1988)
  • Zvezda po imeni Solntse (1989)
  • Chyorny albom (1990)
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