Звуки Му

Real Name:
Звуки МУ
Zvuki Mu (translated as The Sounds of Moo) is a Russian experimental rock/post-punk band founded by Petr Mamonov in Moscow in 1983. One of the most revered and eccentric figures of the post-Soviet art and music scene, Mamonov reorganized Zvuki Mu several times with a different line-up and recorded solo under this name. In various years, he played experimental (1983–1987) and psychedelic rock (1988–1991), post-punk (1993–1997), and lo-fi/freak folk (1998–2005). In February of 2015, Petr Mamonov announced a formation of Совершенно Новые Звуки Му (The Brand New Sounds of Moo) with young musicians from Stoneberry band. The group presented their new concert program The Adventures of Dunno in 2015-2016.

Petr Mamonov started making music and writing poetry since early childhood, but serious experiments began in 1981 when he would sing and play acoustic guitar with his younger half-brother Alexey Bortniychuk drumming on turned chairs, saucepans, empty cans and toy rattles. They made a few home recordings and in the summer of 1982 recruited Pavel Hotin on keyboards, the first professionally trained musician in the band. Artemy Troitsky would sometimes accompany the band on violin, and he also suggested the name Armored Train w/o Wheels (Бронепоезд без колёс). The group soon disbanded, because Bortniychuk was abusing alcohol and got in trouble with authorities for being unemployed (which was a penal offense in USSR at some point).

Troitsky introduced Mamonov to many established rock musicians from Saint-Petersburg, so Petr started participating in "квартирники" (unofficial gigs held at private apartments instead of designated venues) of Aquarium, Kino, and Zoopark. He tried to reform a band, eventually inviting old friend Alexander Lipnitsky, who had no musical training, to play on bass guitar. Lipnitsky had to invent an original form of notation, marking which positions on four strings should be pulled how many times. In 1983, young avant-gardist from Leningrad Sergey "Afrika" Bugaev joined the group on drums. Troitsky acted as a replacement solo guitarist while Bortniychuk was serving prison time for "parasitism" (тунеядство).

The first official gig took place on 28th January 1984 at Moscow High School No 30 concert hall. Mamonov and the band performed on the same stage with Bravo, Center, Vladimir Ratzkevich, Sergey Ryzhenko and Viktor Tsoi. Vadim Grinberg, an avant-garde sculptor from Odessa, decorated the stage for the band, and Bortniychuk, who just got out of prison, joined musicians in a giant mask and fisherman's rubber boots, sitting silently for the whole show. Boris Grebenschikov, Sergey Kuryokhin, Andrei Makarevich and other celebrities attended this event.

Musicians spent summer of 1984 at Lipnitsky's dacha (country house) rehearsing and experimenting. Occasionally other artists would join the band, including Alexei Tegin on bass guitar. Zvuki Mu organized another private concert out in the country, and soon Mamonov fired Bugaev, who was smoking too much pot and snoozing at rehearsals, and replaced him with a professional jazz drummer Mikhail Zhukov.

In 1985, Lipnitsky sold a few antique icons from his collection and with a help of Joanna Stingray brought Yamaha 4-channel portastudio from the USA. Alexander set up a DIY record booth at his country house, using old exercise mats to soundproof the room, and musicians struggled to record some studio material. Finally having more or less decent equipment at his hands, Mamonov got obsessed with details and re-recorded each song numerous times losing the honest energy of his spontaneous performances. At the same time, more professional musicians joined the band: bassoonist Alexander Alexandrov (who graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory and used to play in Aquarium and Modern Jazz Trio with Kuryokhin and Anatoly Vapirov) and drummer Karen Sarkisov (ex-member of Center), while Zhukov switched to percussion.

Renewed Zvuki Mu gave their first concert on 11th January 1986 at the Moscow Rock Laboratory with Center, Bravo, Polite Refusal, and Brigada S. They returned to the same stage in May, and also played their first concert outside of Russia, in Latvia. On the 8th June, Zvuki Mu participated in the Movement Towards Spring rock festival at DK MIIT (Palace of Culture at the Moscow State University of Railway Engineering). After this show, Sarkisov and Zhukov left the band – their jazzy style and performing techniques didn't fit the group. Instead Alexey Pavlov, a 19-year-old drummer who used to hang out with Nikolay Kopernik band, joined Zvuki Mu. Alexandrov left the same autumn after long hesitation – Stas Namin Group invited him. Thus, a canonical Zvuki Mu line-up was formed: Mamonov (vocals, rhythm guitar), Bortniychuk (solo guitar), Lipnitsky (bass), Hotin (keyboards) and Pavlov (drums).

In 1987–88, Zvuki Mu toured actively around USSR. The band had a repertoire of over 20 well-rehearsed songs at this point but still didn't produce any studio recordings. After the gig at the Rock Laboratory festival at DK Gorbunov in June 1988, Vasily Shumov offered to become a producer of Zvuki Mu debut album, providing all equipment and technical guidance. As an experienced studio engineer, Shumov set strict discipline and forced musicians to record all their songs in 20 days. Instead of a brutal and aggressive vocals he had been using at concerts, Mamonov demonstrated measured and calm vocal manner. A resulting double album Simple Things was self-released on reel-to-reel in 1988.

Shumov left his 8-channel Fostex portastudio at Lipnitsky's dacha for ten days, and Zvuki Mu quickly recorded their second album Crimea. During the three-week session with Vasily, musicians fixated an already established "old" program, and this time, they recorded some new material they've been working on at the moment, feeling more laid back without an authoritative producer. On this record, Pavel Hotin played Yamaha DX-7 instead of a cheap "Mini-Mu" synth he used before. The album was officially released in 1994.

In the autumn of 1988, Zvuki Mu participated in the Carrot Festival in Budapest – it was one of the first major alternative music festivals in Europe. A brief Italian tour with Bravo and Televizor followed. Through Artemy Troitsky, Mamonov soon met with Brian Eno, who was looking for original bands from USSR to promote in the West. They signed a two-year agreement for Zvuki Mu album and two large-scale tours in the UK and USA.

Brian Eno produced an eponymous Zvuki Mu album, recorded in November 1988 at GDRZ in Moscow and mixed at Air Studios in London. The disc combined material from Simple Things and Crimea with one new song "Forgotten Sex." Polite and reserved Englishmen, Eno had difficulties communicating with brutal and honest Russian "muzhik" Mamonov, who kept rejecting all producer's innovative ideas. Unable to insist, Brian just gave up, and the album was recorded and mixed the way Petr wanted, again lacking raw energy of their performances. The album was released at the beginning of 1989 at Opal Records without tremendous success. A 12-inch single was also released, Zima (Winter) remixed by Mark Kamins with "Traffic Policeman" (or Hugo Largo on promo) on B-side.

Zvuki Mu had been touring internationally for the most of 1989 – gave a concert at Warsaw, went on a German tour with Auktyon, Va-Bank, and Ekaterina Surjikova (they played in Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, and Göttingen). With Kino and Auktyon, Zvuki Mu performed in Paris, Lyon and Bourges. The UK tour followed, and to coincide with it The Guardian published a large Eno's article about Russian rock and Zvuki Mu. Warner Bros. Records organized the North American leg of the tour on the East Coast, with shows in New York, Washington, Boston, and other large cities. Zvuki Mu played with Pere Ubu and shared the Lincoln Center stage with The Residents. Randy Rose was very impressed and noted that he would never imagine that Soviet band would give one of the wildest performances he saw in his life.

On the peak of success, Mamonov suddenly announced his plans to disband Zvuki Mu, since the project was over as an artistic concept. He decided to continue making music with Borthichuk as Mamonov and Alexey duo. Their second US tour was already booked, so American partners were extremely disappointed with the news. Warner Bros. opted out of the contract, and Linda Greenberg became their promoter in America. To meet the terms of his deal with Eno, Mamonov was forced to go on tour with full Zvuki Mu cast, including expelled Lipnitsky, Hotin, and Pavlov. This time, the band went nationwide, starting in Los Angeles and San Francisco and moving east, with stops at Madison, Chicago, Detroit, etc. The final show in New York on 17th May 1990 was the last concert for an original Zvuki Mu line-up. After returning to Russia, musicians got together for the last time to record their third album Transtability. Mamonov realized that boundaries of rock 'n roll were limiting him, so he became more focused on staging live shows, not the sound. He envisioned his concert as more of spectacular theatrical performances than simple music gigs.

Mamonov and Alexey performed with a drum machine instead of a live rhythm section, but soon they decided to expand the group and invited Mikhail Zhukov to return. He didn't stay for long, so they recorded their eponymous album in 1992 as a duo. After releasing it, Mamonov invited bassist Evgeny Kazantsev, who played with many Soviet groups and ensembles, and virtuoso drummer Yury Kistjenev from Alliance to join his band. Unfortunately, Kistjenev departed soon because Moral Codex invited him. As a replacement, he suggested Andrij Nadolskyj.

With a new quartet, Mamonov could finally perform many of his old songs, arranging them with heavy guitar riffs and achieving a dense "wall of sound" effect at live shows he always wanted. Petr decided to use the Zvuki Mu name for the band again, and original ex-members were not happy. To make things worse, Moroz Records started reissuing Zvuki Mu early albums on CDs, with all royalties going solely to Mamonov. Oleg Kovriga volunteered to reissue Zvuki Mu album at his label Otdelenie VYHOD to resolve the dispute and compensate the original cast of the band with proceeds. Since 1997, old Zvuki Mu started performing together again as otZvuki Mu (The Fainted Sounds of Moo).

Mamonov became more and more occupied with his various solo projects and theater/film roles, too busy to work with a band. After Gruby Zakat was released in 1995, Petr moved to the village and turned very religious. He conceived an idea of a metaphorical performance with Kazantsev dressed as a rooster, Borthichuk as a giant fish, and Nadolsky portraying baby bird in the nest. Mamonov was supposed to saw a huge tree branch they would all sit on. His band members were not particularly impressed with the eccentric idea, and the conflict got worse in October when Zvuki Mu concert at the Moscow Pushkin Drama Theatre got canceled due to the inappropriate behavior of the audience. Mamonov was shocked and disgusted by the actions of his fans, which were drinking and smoking in the concert hall, littering and swearing profusely. Utterly disappointed by the whole punk and rock community, he decided to disband Zvuki Mu again, this time for good. The material composed for the planned performance was released as Life of Amphibians as It Is in 1996.

Most of the following Zvuki Mu albums were composed and recorded by Mamonov alone. He departed from a heavier guitar sound towards an abstract and minimalist freak folk with primitive blues-like guitar arrangements and stream of consciousness lyrics. Due to his new pious Christian lifestyle, Mamonov abandoned most of his old concert repertoire as vulgar and bestial. Though, he released a compilation of old unpublished material Shkura Neubitogo (1999) and the greatest hits collection Selected a Few Good Ones to Fill a Compact (2000).

In 2000, Mamonov also released the first Zvuki Mu original material after a long break – Chocolate Pushkin. Musician characterized the album as a "lit-hop" (литературный хип-хоп, or literary hip-hop) and performed it as a one-man theatrical show. After releasing an experimental Electro T. the next year, in 2003 he almost simultaneously presented Mice 2002 and Greenish, again directing solo theatrical shows based on each album. In 2005, Mamonov released Brothers Grimm Fairytales with a peculiar musical interpretation of famous European tales. As of 2016, Mamonov is actively touring with his Brand New Zvuki Mu band.

The band's name Звуки МУ have different interpretations, with МУ referring to "music" (Звуки Музыки), Moscow streets (Звуки Московских Улиц), or a cow's moo. Journalist Sergey Guriev noted that Mamonov started using Zvuki Mu in his early poems even before forming a band, as an informal definition of his experimental style – somewhere between music and formless mooing. Another source of inspiration came from affectionate names Mamonov used with his very close friend Olga Gorokhova in the 1980s: муравей (ant) and муха or мухочка (little fly).

Early Zvuki Mu formation

Pyotr Mamonov
Alexey Bortniychuk (various instruments)
Alexander Lipnitsky (bass)
Pavel Hotin (keyboards)
Alexander Alexandrov (bassoon)
Mikhail Zhukov (percussion)
Karen Sarkisov (drums)

Zvuki Mu "canonical" line-up (1986-1990)

Pyotr Mamonov (vocals, rhythm guitar)
Alexey Bortniychuk (solo guitar)
Alexander Lipnitsky (bass)
Pavel Hotin (keyboards)
Alexey Pavlov (drums)

Second Zvuki Mu line-up (1993-1996)

Pyotr Mamonov (vocals)
Alexey Bortniychuk (guitar)
Evgeny Kazantsev (bass)
Andrey Nadolskiy (drums)

OtZvuki Mu (1997 – to date)

Alexey Bortniychuk (guitar)
Alexander Lipnitsky (bass)
Pavel Hotin (keyboards)
Alexey Pavlov (drums)
Alexander "Fagot" Alexandrov (bassoon)
(with rotating cast of vocalists)

Brand New Zvuki Mu (since 2015)

Pyotr Mamonov (direction, vocals, guitar)
Grant Minasyan (drums)
Ilya Urezchenko (bass)
Alex Gritskevich (electronics, keyboards)
Slava Losev (wind, keyboards)


LANDC 07, LAND C07 Звуки Му - Zvuki Mu album art Zvuki Mu* Zvuki Mu (Album) Opal Records, Warner Bros. Records LANDC 07, LAND C07 UK 1989 Sell This Version
ОМ-01 Звуки Му - Транснадежность album art Звуки Му Транснадежность (Album) Отделение Мамонов ОМ-01 USSR 1991 Sell This Version
MR 94073 MC Звуки Му - Крым album art Звуки Му Крым (Album) Отделение Мамонов MR 94073 MC Russia 1994 Sell This Version
MR 95040 CD, OM-04 Звуки Му - Грубый Закат album art Звуки Му Грубый Закат (Album) Отделение Мамонов MR 95040 CD, OM-04 Russia 1995 Sell This Version
MR 96157 CD, OM-08 Звуки Му - Инструментальные Вариации album art Звуки Му Инструментальные Вариации (Album) Moroz Records, Отделение Мамонов MR 96157 CD, OM-08 Russia 1996 Sell This Version
dMR 31900 CD Звуки Му - Простые Вещи album art Звуки Му Простые Вещи (Album) Moroz Records, Отделение Мамонов dMR 31900 CD Russia 1996 Sell This Version
MR 96173 MC Звуки Му - Жизнь Амфибий, Как Она Есть album art Звуки Му Жизнь Амфибий, Как Она Есть (Album) Moroz Records, Отделение Мамонов MR 96173 MC Russia 1996 Sell This Version
MR 97166 CD, OM-09 Звуки Му - Грубый Закат (Dance Mix) album art Звуки Му Грубый Закат (Dance Mix) (Album) Moroz Records, Отделение Мамонов MR 97166 CD, OM-09 Russia 1997 Sell This Version
MR 99342 MC, ОМ 07 Звуки Му - Шкура Неубитого album art Звуки Му Шкура Неубитого (Album) Moroz Records, Отделение Мамонов MR 99342 MC, ОМ 07 Russia 1999 Sell This Version
OM-011, В150 Звуки Му - Шоколадный Пушкин album art Звуки Му Шоколадный Пушкин (Album) Отделение Мамонов, Отделение ВЫХОД OM-011, В150 Russia 2000 Sell This Version
RMG-OM12-02, OM12 Звуки Му - Шкура Неубитого - 2 album art Звуки Му Шкура Неубитого - 2 (Album) RMG Records, Отделение Мамонов RMG-OM12-02, OM12 Russia 2002 Sell This Version
RMG ОМ-13-01 Звуки Му - Электро Т. album art Звуки Му Электро Т.(CD, Album) Отделение Мамонов, RMG Records RMG ОМ-13-01 Russia 2002 Sell This Version
RMG 010 MP4 Звуки Му - Шоколадный Пушкин album art Звуки Му, Петр Мамонов Звуки Му, Петр Мамонов - Шоколадный Пушкин RMG Records RMG 010 MP4 Russia 2003 Sell This Version
OM-14 Звуки Му - Мыши 2002 album art Звуки Му Мыши 2002 (Album) RMG Records OM-14 Russia 2003 Sell This Version
RMG OM-16 Звуки Му - Зелененький album art Звуки Му Зелененький(CD, Album) Отделение Мамонов, RMG Records RMG OM-16 Russia 2003 Sell This Version
RMG OM-15, OM-15 Звуки Му - Великое Молчание Вагона Метро. (Стихи) album art Звуки Му Великое Молчание Вагона Метро. (Стихи)(CD, Album) RMG Records, Отделение Мамонов RMG OM-15, OM-15 Russia 2003 Sell This Version
RMG OM-17, OM-17 Звуки Му - Сказки Братьев Гримм album art Звуки Му Сказки Братьев Гримм (Album) RMG Records, Отделение Мамонов RMG OM-17, OM-17 Russia 2005 Sell This Version
В 503 Звуки Му - Live In Liverpool album art Звуки Му Live In Liverpool (Album, Maxi) Отделение ВЫХОД В 503 Russia 2019 Sell This Version

Singles & EPs

LANDTO 2 Звуки Му - Zima (Dance-Mix) album art Zvuki Mu* Zima (Dance-Mix) Land Records LANDTO 2 UK 1989 Sell This Version
PRO-A-3661 Звуки Му - Zima (Winter) • Arms Akimbo album art Zvuki Mu*Hugo Largo Zvuki Mu*Hugo Largo - Zima (Winter) • Arms Akimbo(12", Promo) Warner Bros. Records PRO-A-3661 US 1989 Sell This Version


MR 97072 CD Звуки Му - Легенды Русского Рока album art Звуки Му Легенды Русского Рока (Comp) Moroz Records MR 97072 CD Russia 1997 Sell This Version
MR 00342 MC, none Звуки Му - Набрал Хороших На Один Компакт (Сборник 92-98) album art Звуки Му Набрал Хороших На Один Компакт (Сборник 92-98) (Comp) Moroz Records, Moroz Records, Отделение Мамонов MR 00342 MC, none Russia 2000 Sell This Version
GCR 050, 0149 Звуки Му - Grand Collection album art Звуки Му Grand Collection (Comp) Квадро-Диск GCR 050, 0149 Ukraine 2001 Sell This Version
RMG 828 MP3 CD2 Звуки Му - MP3 Коллекция, Диск 2 (MP3 Collection, Vol. 2) album art Звуки Му / П. Мамонов* Звуки Му / П. Мамонов* - MP3 Коллекция, Диск 2 (MP3 Collection, Vol. 2)(CD-ROM, Comp, MP3) RMG Records RMG 828 MP3 CD2 Russia 2002 Sell This Version
RMG 828 MP3 CD1 Звуки Му - MP3 Коллекция, Диск 1 (MP3 Collection, Vol. 1) album art Звуки Му MP3 Коллекция, Диск 1 (MP3 Collection, Vol. 1)(CD-ROM, Comp, MP3) RMG Records RMG 828 MP3 CD1 Russia 2002 Sell This Version