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(56:09, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Notre-Dame de Paris 7:37 2. Montemartre 5:57 3. Hotel des Invalides 10:28 4. Napoleon 9:21 5. Jardin du Luxembourg 3:56 6. Arc de Triomphe 6:14 7. Moonlight People 2:38 8. Romantic Walz 4:07 9. Relayer 5:51 LINEUP: Gennady Ilyin – keyboards Oleg Babynin – bass Yury Skripkin – drums
Prolusion. The Russian outfit LITTLE TRAGEDIES has been at the forefront of artists from Russia exploring art rock of the symphonic variety for the past decade, with a number of well received releases to their name, all of which have been reviewed at our website previously. “The Paris Symphony” is their latest album and was issued on Musea Records early in 2009.
Analysis. For avid fans of Little Tragedies, the release of “The Paris Symphony” will probably be most welcome. Not because it is the major album everyone has been eagerly expecting though; in this case it is pretty much the opposite. The recordings on this production are the first compositions ever recorded by this band. The symphony that gives its name to this effort, divided into six parts, dates back to 1997, while the final three cuts on the CD were taped back in 1996. In other words, these first tentative ventures from Little Tragedies have been awaiting a release for more than a decade. Those who are familiar with this act may be aware of Emerson, Lake and Palmer being an important influence. On these first creations of theirs the word important should probably be replaced by expressions like major and dominant - anyone familiar with ELP will find plenty of similarities in the performance as well as compositional structure on this album as a whole. The symphony itself is just that, a symphony. Keyboards and synths partially mimic and partially replace the symphonic orchestra, while bass and drums supply the rhythms and to some extent the drive in these explorations. By and large, all six parts of this creation come across as efforts written for the classical symphonic orchestra but performed by a keyboards-dominated rock outfit. And well written too. Illyin does tend to be somewhat too bombastic and dramatic in his expressions for my personal taste, but all parts of the main composition contain several themes and passages that are highly intriguing. With enough complexities to interest most followers of this aspect of the art rock family, Illyin is no stranger to dissonances and disharmonies in his ventures, and while the subtle dimensions may be found lacking in the overall performance on this disc the use of those particular effects are done with care and detail. Still, I get the impression that this entire effort is better suited to the symphonic orchestra, perhaps strengthened by the at times rather synthetic sound. The recording quality isn't the best: apart from the synthetic sound quality the fact that the sound actually gets distorted in the busiest, loud segments of the performances does say a fair bit about this, which is a negative dimension to this production. Some will most likely see this as a major fault, as we're so used to recordings being of close to perfect quality these days. As for the last three numbers on the CD, they are described as bonus tracks on the cover. The very first recordings of this band, they show lots of potential, but are still somewhat unfulfilled. Only the first of these three efforts, the brief mood piece Moonlight People, is brilliant.
Conclusion. With “The Paris Symphony” followers of Little Tragedies are finally presented with the first tentative steps of this long-lasting Russian outfit. There's talent aplenty to be found on this all instrumental effort, but a sub-standard recording quality, somewhat derivative musical features and a sound a bit too much on the synthetic side may be off-putting features for some listeners. Still, there are many highly enjoyable aspects to this production as well, in particular if you can bear with the shortcomings mentioned and generally enjoy art rock of the symphonic variety.
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