Rational Diet by Rational Diet on Apple Music

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About Rational Diet

The musicians associated with Belarus-based avant chamber ensemble Rational Diet began playing together in the city of Brest, on the country's eastern border with Poland, in 1996. Greatly influenced by the European Rock in Opposition scene, they initially performed music as accompaniment to experimental films and theater productions, but by the following year decided to collaborate as composers and performers of experimental music and chamber rock under the Rational Diet name.

The ensemble performed concerts at various locations across Belarus, and issued its first recording, From the Grey Notebook, on cassette in 1999; the recording featured suite-like structures balancing composition, improvisation, and noise, with recitations from the work of avant-garde poets from the Stalin-era Soviet Union, notably The Grey Notebook of Alexander Vvedensky, a Russian poet arrested for counterrevolutionary activity in 1941 and who died while en route to exile. Thematic elements were composed by guitarist Maxim Velvetov, and the lineup featured a number of musicians who would be heard on future Rational Diet releases, in addition to Velvetov including reedman Vitaly Appow, bassist Dimitry Maslovsky, and drummer Nikolay "Gumberg" Semitko.

Relocating to Minsk, Rational Diet underwent a number of personnel changes, the group's membership now including students of the Minsk Conservatory of Music. With instrumentation including violin, cello, reeds, accordion, and guitar -- and momentarily no bass or drums -- the group recorded the 2003 album The Shameless, including compositions by Appow and violinist Kirill Krystia, additional musical accompaniment to texts by Soviet-era avant-gardists, and chant-singing -- later described by the band as "pseudo-folk" -- by guest vocalist Maria Lagodich.

The music of Rational Diet became available to a wider audience through AltrOck, an RIO/avant-prog-oriented imprint based in Italy. In 2007, AltrOck released the group's eponymous debut album for the label; the album featured tracks from both From the Grey Notebook and The Shameless. AltrOck continued its support for Rational Diet by issuing the 2008 album At Work. Recorded over four months in 2007 by a septet lineup featuring Appow (bassoon, saxophone), Velvetov (guitar), Krystia (violin), Maslovsky (bass), and Semitko (drums), as well as new members Olga Podgaiskaja (keyboards, vocals) and Anna Ovchinnikova (cello), the album continued to draw influence from such RIO bands as Univers Zero, Present, and Henry Cow and also -- in the case of Podgaiskaja's singing -- classical operatic and art song traditions. The band now featured five composers: Krystia, Appow, Velvetov, Podgaiskaja, and Ovchinnikova.

AltrOck released the third Rational Diet CD, On Phenomena and Existences, in 2010. The album, recorded between August 2008 and June 2010, found the group's lineup unchanged from At Work. Although the bandmembers recorded their parts separately over nearly two years, the composing and playing remained at a high level of sophistication. Perhaps a divergence in compositional style was starting to become apparent, however; aside from the opening "Sleep Is Teasing a Man" composed by Appow, the remaining 13 comparatively short tracks (ranging from one minute to a bit less than six minutes in length) were composed by either Krystia or Podgaiskaja, with the former sometimes tending toward a spikier, rockier, more abrupt compositional style and the latter leaning a bit more strongly toward modern classical chamber music and away from rock. Lyrics sung by Podgaiskaja were derived from Soviet-suppressed literature and authors, including Alexander Vvedensky.

Rational Diet would become involved in another recording project in 2011, collaborating with Belorussian poet Andrej Khadanovich on an album/audiobook entitled Milosz pa Bialorusku (Milosz in Belorussian), in which the group provided musical accompaniment to readings from the works of Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet and author Czeslaw Milosz. Early that year, the ensemble also worked on the soundtrack for a play entitled Bondman's Wings, presented by an experimental theater troupe in Brest.

Given the emergence of Podgaiskaja and Krystia as Rational Diet's principal composers on On Phenomena and Existences, and the two musicians' somewhat divergent compositional styles, perhaps Rational Diet was being pulled in opposing directions, but in any case the group's 2011 projects apparently finished the job, because the band ultimately broke up and two new groups, Five-Storey Ensemble and the Archestra, emerged in its place. Five-Storey Ensemble, an 11-piece aggregation including Podgaiskaja, Appow, Maslovsky, and Semitko as well as members of the Minsk-based quartet Fratrez, recorded its debut disc, Not That City, between January 2011 and February 2012; released by AltrOck in February 2013, the album largely features Podgaiskaja compositions in a chamber classical and even operatic style (with several pieces by Appow) and includes lyrics by Alexander Vvedensky on three tracks. Interestingly, Kirill Krystia appears as a guest on Not That City, as does his wife, Nadia, a vocalist, violinist, and cellist. Kirill Krystia composes the music of the knottier, more electric and rockish Archestra, which prominently features Nadia Krystia's singing and whose members also include Appow and Semitko. Arches, the debut disc by the Archestra, arrived as the inaugural release of the Soleil Mutant offshoot of the French Soleil Zeuhl label the month after Not That City was issued by AltrOck. ~ Dave Lynch

    Brest, Belarus

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