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TRACK LIST: 1. Whos Flying Over Me? 4:55 2. Menuetto 6:03 3. A-Theist Hacker 5:55 4. Heavy Water 6:18 5. Hoop 5:34 6. Turn-A-Round 5:01 7. Pilgrim 6:27 8. Whole Lotta of Patience 5:26 9. Grass of Blue 3:49 10. No Fears 13:28 LINEUP: Alexander Kostarev guitar Ekaterina Morozova keyboards, bass pedals Roman Bobrowsky drums Gennadiy Javrentiev violin Jury Lopuchin flute Dmitry Lavinchuk bass
Prolusion. Alexander KOSTAREV has had a long career on the Russian music scene, starting out in 1976 as the guitarist in The Crossroad. From 1978 and onwards he has also composed his own material, and according to the website of the "Russian Association of Independent Genres", he has been a highly influential artist. However, his compositions have not been available on CD until recent years, and "Works 1978 - 2006" is actually the sophomore release of this veteran Russian composer and musician.
Analysis. "Works 1978 - 2006" is a rather unique recording as compilations goes. Often these kinds of releases consist of songs one or more persons see as the best tunes by an artist, and often best in this setting means the most commercially successful songs by said artist. Some compilations include previously unreleased tunes to add to the commercial potential of the album, but the main focus will still be on popular songs. In some cases there's another approach to these releases - a compilation consisting of notable compositions from the start of an artist's career until the date of the compilation. But in this particular case those unwritten rules are turned around completely. As Kostarev has only issued one disc previously, most songs on this recording find their way onto a CD for the first time here. None of the tracks are notable in a commercial aspect, being previously unreleased, and the track selection is in reverse order - the newest song is the first track on the album, and the album finishes off with the oldest recording. And breaking and bending rules and taking the unorthodox approach is pretty much what the music on this release is about as well. Although several styles are covered in these tunes, avant-garde is a common denominator for all the songs here, with off-beat structures and rarely used rhythms as well as a mix of harmonies and instruments you don't come across too often. Six of the first seven tracks here have a distinct spacey keyboard sound as a common trait. Who's Flying Over Me combines them with influences from folk rock and classical music, Menuetto goes back and forth between pure classical symphonic chamber music (Baroque style) and a psychedelic folk-influenced soundscape with spacey keyboard textures. Heavy Water combines the outer space inspired keyboards with distorted guitar sounds and an intense rhythm section in a track structured pretty much like a fusion composition, and on Hoop symphonic elements are added to this mix. The fusion elements take a back seat and pop music structures are added to the space symphonic mix for Turn-A-Round, while Pilgrim is a mostly mellow symphonic space composition exploring dark musical moods, gradually evolving towards fusion in style. The third track, A-theist Hacker, is the one exception here, combining folk music elements and psychedelic patterns in a tune with strong fusion touches to it - with psychedelic fusion being a tempting description of the style explored. Whole Lotta of Patience, the eighth track, contains distinct avant-garde playing in a symphonic fusion landscape. Grass of Blue comes next, sounding pretty much like a free-jazz improvisation, while the epic last track, No Fears, combines structured jazz solo with distinctly unstructured free-jazz improvisations, and ends with a brief '50s rock and roll segment. The skill and musicianship is unquestionable in all these tunes, and the musical experimentation is bold and unique. Kostarev's approach to performance and composing has to be admired, even if not all of his efforts do succeed. Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder it is said, and how much you like or dislike music is an individual matter. So for some this release will be seen as a hidden gem, and will be treasured and loved. Others might find this totally uninteresting, longing for more traditional approaches to the art of music. Personally I find some of the compositions here highly intriguing, while others come across as flawed. But I admire the artist for pushing at boundaries and trying to create something original.
Conclusion. Followers of the avant-garde branch of progressive rock and fusion should be the ones that will get the most listening pleasure out of this release. The offbeat and quirky approach to the music performed should appeal greatly to those particular listeners. The spacey keyboard textures used on many compositions should make this CD one of interest to the more adventurous space rock fans too, in particular those who'd like to explore a new take on that particular style of music.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 27, 2008
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