Man-Eating Monkeys and Monstrous Cats: "The Four Positions of Bruno"

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Based in the city of Ekaterinburg, "The Four Positions of Bruno," are - suitably enough - a quartet, although none of them has a Christian name beginning with "B." Instead we discover an alternative foursome: Aleksandr Sitnikov, Nikolai Babak, Anton Klevtsov, and Vladimir Seleznev.

Sitnikov and Klevtsov are responsible for founding the outfit, which originally declared that it would never record a track lasting longer than 1 minute, 59 seconds. Appealing those these constraints were, they quickly led to a need for spin-off groups, where longer formats would not be taboo. As a result, two other ensembles were created, whose names translate, somewhat awkwardly, as "When the Glue Runs Out" and "Everything's Visible Below." Primetime radio did not beckon.

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They claim that their current name refers to a type of Romanian polka that was once created in Bucharest - by a choreographer called Bruno Radulesco in the 1930s; we can find no records of any such person. Nonetheless the story continues, told both frequently and with confidence: apparently the dance involved young men and elderly female partners. It was designed to symbolize both "impatience and the withering of the flesh."

Quite how, we neither know nor wish to, despite the unwavering expressions below. Public lavatories are rarely considered repositories of reliable information. (At this point, all manner of puns suggest themselves. We shall refrain.)

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A connection to live, shambolic performance and choreography was maintained from this early point onwards, and in fact "4PB" have written music for a couple of major dance events. Size, however, would not prove to be synonymous with success. "Both events were a complete failure," they admit, "but that had nothing to do with our music!"

Both events were a complete failure, but that had nothing to do with our music!

This would suggest, perhaps, that the original desire to work in smaller, "domestic" formats would be prove a good defense against loud and visible collapse. Discarding such logic, the band threw caution to the wind. In an attempt to move on from the risks of grandeur - they grew in size. The self-imposed, previous guidelines on track length were abandoned; the compositions in this post are all between five and thirteen minutes in length. As a result, the line between control and chaos is thin.

The band is not terribly keen on listing or crediting any direct influences, at least not from the (conservative) world of music per se. They maintain that on occasion ideas for their instrumentals simply "come out of the air, since the atmosphere around us is always full of sounds from radio shows, TVs broadcasts, and bits of other peoples' songwriting." Other band members name-check the influence of paintings done by a late grandfather and perused decades ago, or the fact they've recently given up drinking. "Psychological damage done in my childhood" is also a possible factor. The recent sobriety of borderline alcoholics and the repressed memories of childhood abuse are unlikely to produce material for the Top 40.

Nobody seems that concerned.

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This tendency to find inspiration so far and wide might lead us to suspect that 4PB are keen to use samples, and indeed they do, but not from the work of others. They do not take music from music; instead, the numerous ambient sounds heard in this post are borrowed from daily life outside a studio's walls. "We might use the sounds of some mentally unstable 'bards' that I got on tape at home, maybe the sounds of some elderly people that I've worked with in the past. I'll even use a lofty phrase or two, uttered by a friend - and recorded on the sly!"

Presumably, if such sounds are caught randomly and not subject to great editorial intrusion, they would lead to some kind of objective soundscape, a natural, realistic picture of life in Ekaterinburg free of contrivance. If we take the EP on offer here, though, a very different picture emerges - and it's not at all happy. The artwork shown at the top of the post is for the recording titled "A Very Tasty Human" (Ochen' vkusnyi chelovek). Immediately the roles of evolution, predatory behavior, and natural scale are all turned on their head. Hunters become victims; humans lose their place at the top of nature's pecking order.

A good time to wall oneself up in the garage.

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The content of the EP's six tracks give us good cause to draw that amount of specificity from the image. Most of the compositions involve a spoken text by an elderly woman, seemingly reading out loud from the printed page (and with unstable dentistry). The snippets she intones involve various kinds of mystery that have led people to be hoodwinked, confused, or simply scared. These are stories of the illogical. One man sees what he thinks are dogs, maybe strange birds in the darkness, yet he "takes a step towards them... towards the unknown." Another figure is unsure of his position in time and space; sleep and waking are worryingly confused.

Things go from bad to worse. We are then told of some strange group of men, gathered round a table and playing a "hellish game of poker," whilst children's rhymes sing of monsters or a horrific parent/scientist who experiments on animals in order to create a "six-legged cat." As these monsters multiply, no doubt in search of more "tasty humans," the members of 4 Pozicii Bruno (as the band like to transliterate their name) offer a most distorted soundtrack. The majority of their percussive work is pushed far beyond the limits of clarity, creating a bestial, broken-down clatter of noise. Frequently, fragments of adult speech, children's riddles, or sentimental melodies will float to the surface, but without exception they are soon swallowed up once again by the thunderous sounds of drums, feedback, white noise, and other warped commotion.

Disorder trumps logic, be it narrative, musical, or zoological.

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When the time comes to play these kind of compositions live, 4 Pozicii Bruno admit that problems often arise. "You can't help but remember the bad things, such as equipment not working properly or bad sound quality. Then there are all the problems we've had with the police - who want to stop our shows. But, on the other hand, we're sure that a lot of people have the same hassles, so it's probably not worth going on about it too much."

You can't help but remember the bad things, such as equipment not working properly or bad sound quality. Then there are all the problems we've had with the police - who want to stop our shows. But, on the other hand, we're sure that a lot of people have the same hassles, so it's probably not worth going on about it too much.

It's interesting to note that the police - as arbiters of law and order - would be upset by the performances of 4PB. This, as we see, is an ensemble that uses its music less as a form of lyrical self-expression than - conversely - a way to reveal some external "verity." They hope, with their field recordings and randomly captured loops, to give voice to the ways things "really" are around town. In fact, their most recent interview for the Russian press was titled: "Russia Is Such a Safari Park!" The world of Cops and Robbers, in short, is "really" more like Dog Eat Dog.

And if word got out that the streets of Ekaterinburg are really full of man-eating monkeys, six-legged cats, or other social forces that are just as destructive, then the local police would have a huge problem on their hands.

As the cover to the band's previous recording shows below, the natural order of things can sometimes operate so far from comforting logic that things themselves come to life. In a world - or, at the very least, a town - where mice and monsters have reversed places, objects like wire and fences - used previously to keep out all manner of undesired phenomena - may turn upon the people who made them. What once brought comfort now takes it away. After all, Ekaterinburg is the town where Gary Powers fell from the sky in 1960, and Nicholas II was executed 42 years beforehand.

Reversals of fate are a common occurrence here, apparently. Their soundtrack, therefore, requires uncommon sounds.

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Audio

4 pozicii Bruno – Poisoned Porridge
4 pozicii Bruno – Royal Poker
4 pozicii Bruno – Rubber Band in the Hair
4 pozicii Bruno – The Bay of Crab Dogs
4 pozicii Bruno – What Comes from Nowhere...?
4 pozicii Bruno – You Creep and Get Caught

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