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Little Tragedies - 2005 - "Return"

(78 min, Musea)

TRACK LIST:                             
1.  Dreams I 5:59
2.  After Death 8:58
3.  Credo 12:57
4.  In the Deserted House 4:33
5.  Games 6:23
6.  Necromantic Fairytale 5:07
7.  The Clever Demon 7:12
8.  Canzone 5:38
9.  Return 8:09
10. On the Themes of Grieg 10:59
11. Dreams II 4:11


Gennady Ilyin - keyboards; vocals
Yuri Skripkin - drums
Alexander Malakhovsky - guitar
Alexey Bildin - saxophone
Oleg Babynin - bass; vocals

Prolusion. "Return", the third album by LITTLE TRAGEDIES, continues a specific conception based on an obvious spiritual connection between the composer Gennady Ilyin and the poetry of the Great Russian poet Nikolay Gumilyov. Along with Azazello, this is certainly one of the best bands (need I say progressive bands?) on Russia's contemporary Rock music scene.

Analysis. Vitaly has heard and reviewed the band's previous two albums, "Porcelain Pavilion" and "Sun of the Spirits". As for me, this is my first acquaintance with Little Tragedies. So it's impossible for me to make a comparative analysis in this case. But even without it, I think, I'll be able to say some well-disposed words about the musicians, who have created this monumental, intricate and excellently performed work. It would be reasonable now to pay attention to Gennady Ilyin's professional education. He graduated from St. Petersburg's Conservatory. This fact can explain the compositional complexity of the album, as well as the musician's technical virtuosity. Analyzing the sources of inspiration of the project's participants, it would be correct to recall ELP, the art-rock legend of the 70-s. Such tracks as After Death, Credo and On the Themes of Grieg have a distinct relationship with that group's style and the musical atmosphere of their creation as well. Powerful, saturated sound, intricate rhythms, the neighborhood of solemn-sounded fragments with anxious ones are the most distinctive features of these three compositions. After Death turns into Credo without pause. Credo is largely instrumental. The vocal parts are in minority here. The thematic development and chord progressions are interesting and unpredictable. The third part of the track has a gloomy atmosphere, but its overall musical palette is more lucid. On the Themes of Grieg sounds like a hymn contrary to its predecessor. The harmonies are diverse and expressive, and of course, the band has made them under the inspiration of the works of the Great Norwegian composer Edward Grieg. The timbre colorations of this track are vivid and inventive. Back to Ilyin's professional education, it is necessary to notice his solid erudition in the field of the history of music. The range of evident influences of some classical composers' experience is wide enough in his works. Vivaldi, Bach, Bartok and Stravinski are only few of them. Talking about influences, I don't mean any kind of imitation or plagiarism, but the depth of musical mentality and a stylistic diversity. The melodically expressive In the Deserted House was performed without rhythm-section. The sad tonality of this composition looks like a bridge towards the next one, entitled Games, the first part of which is anxious and solemn. It turns naturally to a symphonic-progressive instrumental piece. The arrangements on both of these have an obviously academic direction. The sixth composition, Necromantic Fairytale, is vocal-based. There are only passages imitating clavier in the background, without any solos. The Clever Demon is thematically much more diverse and saturated in comparison with the previous track. The expressive vocal part, along with polyrhythmic keyboard solos, reminds me of classical music again and again. Canzone comes as a rest after the kaleidoscopic part of the program. It's fully instrumental and was performed without drums. The guitar and keyboard solos are devoid of virtuosity. But, to tell the truth, any technical filigree would be just useless here. The atmosphere of eternal rest rules throughout the opus and leaves no hope. The next track Return continues in the analogous emotional key. Its sad and low vocal part soon transforms into the instrumental theme. The tension increases and leads the composition to an almost hysterical finale. Dreams II repeats the theme of the opening track, Dreams I, but with some different approach to the arrangement. Both of them aren't complex rhythmically, though their melodic versatility is evident. The last track's emotional coloration brings a sense of the emptiness and global mourning.

Conclusion. The worth of this program lies in its conceptuality and the diversity of its musical language. The quality of the material corresponds to the highest world standards. The only shortcoming here, in my view, is some stylistic likeness with ELP, appearing in places. Anyway, the album comes highly recommended to all the lovers of intricate sympho-art-progressive-rock.

VF: December 20, 2005

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