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Uzbekistan trio POPELOFF was formed by Vitaly Popeloff back in 2014, with Al Khalmurzaev and Vladimir Badirov being the two other musicians involved. Their facebook page states that the band started to record their debut album back in 2015, but if that is another and earlier album than this one I have not been able to establish. "Удивительные Истории В Лицах" is the official name of this latest album, or "Udivitel'nyye Istorii V Litsakh" when using letters from the western alphabet, and was released through Uzbekistan based label Iosis in 2020. Those somewhat familiar with the music scene in Uzbekistan will recall that Popeloff as well as his two comrades in arms in this new band were members of the progressive rock band From.uz. Those who expect this threesome to carry on the legacy of that band will be disappointed though, as Popeloff is a band oriented towards a much different segment of the music industry. The band tends to operate out of a rock and hard rock foundation, ranging from blues tinged rock and hard rock to indie and alternative rock, with a wee bit of what might or might not be grunge or post-grunge on a single occasion as well. This latter aspect is described in this manner as it may well be accidental. The range in the foundation of the songs isn't really the important bit here either, but it does document that this is a band capable of covering and exploring a lot of different variations of rock music, if they so desire. The most striking aspect of this album is where the band is heading, once they have started out from their chosen base point on each song. In this case they are in most cases venturing straight into the type of music one might describe as AOR or radio friendly, mainstream oriented rock. The Popeloff threesome takes on these movements in a manner that makes a lot of logical sense for me as a listener aware of their background though, as they more often than not develop their songs from a starting point to a conclusion, by adding and subtracting elements, developing arrangements from a sparse to a more layered arrangement, and in general creating songs that are a journey and an experience to a greater degree than many other bands operating in similar territories. A prime example is the second track 'Бойся Себя' (Boiisya Sebya) that opens in a stark, staccato start and stop arrangement and then gradually transforms onto a much more appealing, smoother and flowing affair by tightening the staccato and start and stop elements as well as adding layers and textures along the way. There are also a couple of creations here that have more of a ballad orientation to them, songs of this type rather comes with the territory for albums of this kind, and the band demonstrates that they have an ear for providing those smaller details that adds more life and a stronger tension to such excursions too. I also note that all the instrumentalists get their moments to shine throughout this album experience, but that Popeloff is arguably the star of the show here with some really tasteful, delicate guitar details flavoring the soundscapes throughout. As well as the occasional spicier riffs and guitar solo excursions. Language will obviously be a major barrier for an album of this kind, and with this type of music to a greater degree than for music with more of an art rock oriented direction . Hence I cannot see this album making a lot of headway outside of a Russian speaking audience. But for the "home crowd", so to speak, this is a fine and elegant example of radio-friendly rock and hard rock, explored and delivered with a few bells and whistles that fans of progressive rock probably will be familiar with. AOR with a subtle art rock undercurrent if you like.
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