Holland’s contributions to art and music have been many. During the Renaissance the Old Masters Pieter de Grebber, Hieronymus Bosch, Johannes Vermeer, and Rembrandt created paintings that have enthralled the world. Fast forward to the 2nd half of the 20th century, specifically the 1960s where the Dutch band Shocking Blue gave the world the mammoth musical hit “Venus.” As the 20th century was coming to a close the world was introduced to the moody synth pop sound of the Dutch band Xymox. Here in the 21st century, out of the top 10 music spinning DJs in the world, five are Dutch.
Boris Zhivago, the Dutch artist with the Russian sounding name continues the Dutch contributions to the world of music with the wonderful new album "The Last Goodbye." Like all good Dutch music the themes of the songs on “The Last Goodbye” emphasize life, love, loneliness and death. Boris Zhivago updates these classical themes by wrapping then in frenetic, abrasive, caustic yet appealing and accessible 21st century electronics.
“The Last Goodbye” combines Italo disco, synth pop, eurodance, hi-NRG, electronica, and techno with fantastic and pleasing results. Legendary record producer Phil Spector is credited as creating a musical "Wall of sound" with his 60’s hits from acts like the Ronettes and the Crystals. Well Boris Zhivago does him one better by creating a musical electronic tsunami of sound. Embraceable melodies coupled with electronics that are presented in various ways keeps things interesting. Beautiful piano work keeps things from becoming too synthetic, so the album does not come across as an electronic/computer technology takeover.
“The Last Goodbye” definitely delivers the electronics though. Is it a coincidence that the fiery track "Twenty Years Ago" is possessed by the spirit of 90’s techno? I ask because 20 years ago in the early 1990s techno ruled the dance clubs. Dutch acts like Praga Khan, Jade 4U, Lords of Acid, 2 Fabiola, Rave Busters, Code Red, Channel X, Transformer 2, Fierce Ruling Diva, Air of Gloom, L.A. Style, and 2 Unlimited (before they went eurodance) were the techno titans. “Twenty Years Ago" acknowledges the contributions of those titans.
Like 2 Unlimited, late 90's eurodance acts 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor, and Alice Deejay are also Dutch and Zhivago also acknowledges eurodance as you will find eurodance inspired tracks on The Last Goodbye. "In A Land Of No Illusions" eurodance electronics are all over the place, including the exciting electronically modified vocals. The song's mix of 90's eurodance and 21st century synth pop remind me of synth pop band Echo Image's sizzling track "Need To Be Proud."
Boris Zhivago’s vocal delivery is different. It isn't deadpan; it's a sort of talk/sing. It's as if he is carrying on a musical conversation with his lover. I don't know what went wrong with Boris Zhivago's love life but it must have been really bad. With absolute defiance and conviction he sings "No More Love." The song is exquisite, so I must say that if this is what being out of love does to Boris then I hope that he never falls in love again. Some people are at their most creative when their love affair has ended and they are depressed, angry, and hurting. In his pain Boris Zhivago has created one excellent song about his disillusionment with love. By contrast, "Do You Really Love Me?" is champagne sparkling synth pop, bouncy, buoyant, and energetic. The intoxicating music is so frivolous and giddy, why care if your lover loves you or not, just enjoy the music and dance.
Now, if you want to feel morose there's "Rainy Day," where sad keyboard rhythms fall like dark cold rain on lyrics about a love that is dying. Also sad is "One Day" which laments the sad passing of time and the changes in relationships that this passing brings.
"Another Life" sounds like a lullaby tune from a music box. It’s hypnotic and it lulls you in and takes you away on a blissful musical journey. "Mona Lisa" will take on a journey too, a journey to the dance floor. With its chugging 1980's hi-NRG riffs and monosyllable monotone synth drone it reminded me of both Lime's "Angel Eyes" and Liza Minnelli’s (Pet Shop Boy's produced) "Losing My Mind."
Like his fellow new generation Italo miesters Johnny M5, Systems In Blue, and Fresh Fox, Boris Zhivago also pays homage to Russia with "In The Streets Of Moscow." The excellent song is vodka swilling, classic Russian monk chants that then break into throbbing electronics.
There are many little trademark electronics that take place throughout “The Last Goodbye.” "No More Love” has this catchy trade mark sound that’s akin to someone striking a metal pipe six times with a hammer. It goes 1234-5-6, and this trademark sound can be found in his "In A World Of Fantasy, “Rainy Day," and "Do You Really Love Me?"
Boris Zhivago and all the other Italo new generation hit makers don't just recreate 80' Italo they upgrade it. They have expertly filtered out the cheesiness aspects of the 80s and have added new 21st century ideas and elements. Yet they keep the spirit of Italo intact presenting a fresh new approach to a new generation of listeners. Boris Zhivago also keeps the spirit of Dutch synth pop, disco, techno, electronica, and Italo music alive with his stunning work on “The Last Goodbye.”
(C) 2013 Rix Roundtree-Harrison
Howdy folks, I just want to let you guys know that my new book titled "The Older You Get, The Dumber You Get: Stories For My Daughters." is out now and for sale at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. Those of you who have been reading my Life Is Music pieces will recognize a few of the stories which are thrown in with never before told stories. Please pick it up a copy, you'll like it. It's got some of everything including bigotry, sexism, racism, sex, drugs, rock 'n roll, and to quote the Beverly Hillbillies' Jed Clampett “swimming pools, movie stars.”
Artist Link: http://www.sp-rec.com