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TRACK LIST: 1. The Lost Path 8:26 2. Dance of the Jester 8:47 3. Romance 4:59 4. In This Puzzled Roundabout 15:04 5. Old Father East / Dance of the Jester Demo 20:03 SOLO PILOT: Igor Sidorenko – vocals; all instruments
Prolusion. The Ukrainian project ARLEKIN is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Igor Sidorenko, and has been in development since 2005 or thereabouts, albeit without any music released until recently, possibly due to his involvement in other ventures such as Krobak and Stoned Jesus. "Disguise Serenades" is the first CD to be issued under the Arlekin moniker, and was self-released in 2014.
Analysis. Igor Sidorenko is upfront and honest about the scope if this particular project on any description stated about it: this is material he started to work on when in his teens, and Marillion in particular is a stated major influence. And for the opening three compositions, as well as concluding piece Old Father East, the spirit of British style neo progressive rock in general and Marillion in particular is a noticeable presence. The compositions alternate between gentler verse passages complete with careful keyboard motifs, plucked guitar details or toned down guitar licks and more majestic, layered keyboards-driven passages with soaring textures, soft supplemental features and often organ as well to create the particular majestic arrangement that is such a feature in many neo progressive bands. Atmospheric guitar solo passages are also natural details in this context, as well as occasional use of acoustic guitar to add a further delicate touch to the proceedings when needed. The centerpiece of this album is the epic length creation In This Puzzled Roundabout, which, despite the title, doesn't have any references whatsoever to Yes. But a dark toned, sparse blues-laden and dramatic opening section gives instant associations to Pink Floyd, and amidst the more neo progressive-oriented passages that follow in this multiple part creation we're also treated to darker interludes with slight nods in the direction of hard rock, with one sequence sporting what I'd describe as vintage stoner rock run through a neo progressive filter and a sequence where gently tortured guitar details further expand the scope of this composition. The hidden track at the end, an alternative version of album track Dance of the Jester in a demo quality recording, is first and foremost interesting as a document on how much work that has gone into the production of this album for me, documenting clearly just how important that aspect of an album is for the end result. Personally I found this to be a pleasant album on most levels. The compositions don't ever manage to create any big thrills, but they are, by and large, a good listen if you tend to enjoy this type of music. Sidorenko needs to work with his vocals though, at least if he desires to produce material that makes a stronger impact in the future. His voice is nice enough, or at least passable, but doesn't manage to master the strengths his particular voice has, which is especially noticeable whenever a sequence comes that requires the vocals to add the tension and emotional impact needed. The different themes and arrangements explored aren't distinct enough to really manage to elevate the listener experience either.
Conclusion. As far as debut albums go, "Disguise Serenade" documents a project with talent, but at this stage, still very much in development. The compositions are pleasant, mix and production are passable, and the vocals are a bit on the weak side. Nothing truly spectacular, nothing truly terrible either, an album that won't expand the interest in the neo progressive rock explored here, but a pleasant addition to the collection of those with a strong affection for this type of music in general and arguably the early ‘80s type of it in particular.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 16, 2015
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