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TRACK LIST: 1. Twin Peaks 4:41 2. Surge 9:44 3. Goraca Linia 2:59 4. Pleonasm 12:02 5. Heavy Matter 6:24 6. Time To Take Stones Away 8:41 LINEUP: Oskar Cenkier - piano, organ, synthesizers, Mellotron Michal Chalata - guitars Andrew Shamanov - bass, guitars, synthesizers Oleksii Fedoriv - drums
Prolusion. Polish band FREN was formed in the fall of 2017, and following their initial EP "Heavy Matters" in 2017, they self released their debut album "Where Do You Want Ghosts to Reside" at the start of 2020.
Analysis. When giving their Facebook page a check, it seems clear that the band have a deep interest in classic era progressive rock of a great number of varieties, with bands as different as Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant and Mahavishnu Orchestra cited as influential. Hence it's probably not a big surprise that this is a band with something of a retro sound to their music either. Fren is a band that is rather eclectic, but at least on this occasion they opt to separate their material into creations with somewhat different character traits. The album opens with a dark, atmospheric laden affair with Mellotron and keyboards given dominant slots, adding in a more modern touch at the end with guitars and rhythms adding a tighter and harder overall sound. They foursome are staying put in somewhat similar waters for the second track, but now adding more of a jazz-tinge to the proceedings earlier on and then segueing over to a more majestic arrangement that for me gives associations to bands such as early 70's Eloy, Deep Purple and, to a lesser extent, Hawkwind. And following this rather retro-oriented and atmospheric laden one-two retro punch, Fren decides to get expressive and adventurous. The piano is central in the quartet of compositions that follow, all of which ebb and flow, twist and turn, start and stop and generally moves around quite a bit. Often with a distinct jazz-tinged orientation, given additional emphasis by rhythms as well as guitar, but also segueing into more folk-oriented territories as well as crafting folk-jazz amalgams. Guitar riffs come and go, alternating with both plucked guitar details and flowing guitar solo details, with the organ, Mellotron and other keyboard details adding flavors that by and large have a retro-oriented feel to them. A certain playful jazz and folk music oriented vibe sticks though, if not as a constant then at least as a recurring element. The band has a tendency to build their songs, then collapsing them into a gentler or more delicate section and then rebuild, to a much greater extent than relying on more direct transitions. They will add some harder riffs and more majestic sections that have a bit more of a contemporary character into their creations as well, while only rarely exploring a set arrangement for an extended period of time. My impression is that the band is more expressive in an improvised tradition than in a composed material tradition, at least to some extent, which gives these creations a stronger tendency to ebb, flow, twist and turn than many other bands that by and large are exploring a retro-oriented sound and approach to progressive rock. That this is an instrumental band perhaps also indicating this ever so slightly. For my sake I was most captivated by the songs where the band managed to balance their expressive nature with a somewhat more cohesive flow, with the elegant epic length 'Pleonasm' as the standout creation on this album as far as my own taste in music is concerned. In addition I'll add that I found the use of the piano as a mostly mainstay instrument in the final four songs to be a highlight in itself, showcasing how elegant an instrument the piano can be when used in the right manner. I'll rate this as a promising album with some clear highlights, as there were songs here that didn't engage me on a deeper level, but at their very best this quartet creates some truly elegant and captivating landscapes.
Conclusion. Those with an interest in retro-oriented progressive rock has another band to take note of here. Where Fren differentiates from many other such bands is that they are an instrumental band, and that they appear to have a stronger focus on jazz-oriented escapades as well as adding folk music elements into the mix, with the word Canterbury being obvious to namedrop for these reasons; at least as far as the concluding four compositions are concerned. Obviously, those who feel intrigued by such a description will also be the likely key audience for this album in my personal opinion.
Progmessor: July 2020
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