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Tracklist: 1. Galatea 5:18 2. St. Augustine 3:54 3. In the Tents of the Magyars 5:15 4. Hungarian Song In Cm 5:30 5. Lime Kiln Dock 5:50 6. Shark Reef 2:14 7. Ocean Song 4:49 8. Heceta Head 6:28 9. Nabagon 4:07 10. Cape Disappointment 4:07 11. Night On the Volga 8:53 All tracks by R. Rigoni. Engineered by R. Rigoni mainly at "Brown Pelican" studios. Produced by R. Rigoni. Line-up: Rob Rigoni - electric & acoustic guitars, mandolin Ray Hayden - keyboards & piano Eric Montgomery - drums & percussion Sid Anschell - fretted bass
Prologue. "Letters From Afar" is the debut album by Budapest West, which is an American band led by Rob Rigoni. To all appearances (see also track list), this music should feature the tunes of Magyar folk music. Ancient Hungarians, Ungres, were originally living in the northern outskirts of Russia's river of Itille ([I'til]: known as Volga since the middle of the last millennium) and came to Europe exactly from there (as well as Bulgarians, though). Although their migrations were natural, the motives of them still remain obscure for scientists. Back to the hero of this review, according to Rob Rigoni, "Budapest West is an instrumental World / Rock project, but it definitely fits the spirit of progressive music".
The Album. . In reality however, the music that is presented on "Letters From Afar" has nothing to do with the so-called World Music, as well as Rock as it is. (All we know what a musical production is currently called Rock: AOR!) Although this music is, overall, not of an extreme complexity, it is pronouncedly progressive and breathes with freshness from the first to the last note of the album, which, in its turn, is one of the most original and unique albums that I've heard in the new millennium. In a general context, the stylistic definition of the musical Letters from Afar should, in my view, sound the next way. This is a blend of Classic European Progressive and Modern Hungarian Art-Rock (why not?) with elements of Prog-Metal, Classical Music, and those of music of East. Certainly, a general definition can never be used to describe in detail an album, which is not of a unified stylistic concept. So, to give you a more or less clear idea of what the contents of this album are about, I have to divide them into parts. Although all the basic arrangements that are featured on Shark Reef and Heseta Head (6 & 8) are, overall, quite slow, they develop almost constantly and contain just a few repetitions. The second of them, Heseda Head, entirely consists of the piano passages and represents a piece of Classical Music with elements of Modern Hungarian Art-Rock and those of music of East. While Shark Reef, which features slow interplay between passages of piano and synthesizer and the fluid solo of guitar, is about a traditional 'European' blend of Symphonic Art-Rock and Classical Music. Both of these compositions were performed without the rhythm-section. Ocean Song (7) is of the same stylistics as that of Shark Reef, though it was performed by the band as a whole and with the use of unusual meters, complex stop-to-play movements, etc. As for mood, it needs to be said that most of the arrangements on the album are of a dramatic character. Apart from the rhythm section, the main soloing parts on Ocean Song are presented by passages of acoustic guitar, piano, and synthesizers, solos of electric and bass guitar, and rhythms of mandolin. As well as a few of the other letters from afar, Ocean Song contains a couple of simply astonishing episodes, both of which are full of magic. Surprisingly, Hungarian Song In Cm (4), as well as St. Augustine (2), is about a very original and complex Symphonic Progressive where there are no Hungarian tunes at all. (Really, I can't find anything Hungarian in that Hungarian Song. Which, of course, doesn't much matter.) Whereas Nabagon (9), which, both stylistically and structurally, is almost completely in the vein of both of the said pieces, is, nevertheless, marked with light shades of Hungarian music. The contents of all five of the remaining tracks: Galatea, In the Tents of the Magyars, Lime Kiln Dock, Cape Disappointment, and Night On the Volga (1, 3, 5, 10, & 11), conform to a general stylistic definition of the album. In other words, a blend of Classic European Art-Rock and Modern Hungarian Progressive with elements of Classical Music, Eastern music, and Prog-Metal is the predominant stylistics of "Letters From Afar". Though the longest and the best composition on the album, Night On the Volga, features, besides, the elements of Waltz and even those of pagan music. All eight of the compositions that were performed by the band as a whole contain the complete set of essential progressive ingredients, all of which are well known for you dear readers. So, instead of listing them, I'd better draw your attention to those details of the album that, in my view, are the most important. As I've already mentioned above, "Letters From Afar" is filled with the music that is not only distinctly original and unique, but also very fresh and truly inspired. What's central however, is that no less than half of the tracks on the album feature amazingly polyphonic and wonderfully eclectic arrangements that, in addition, are sometimes marked with some indescribable magic.
Summary. "Letters From Afar" is an absolute masterpiece. Rob Rigoni, the leader and the main mastermind behind the American band Budapest West, can easily be regarded as one of the brightest hopes of Progressive's future. According to Rob's last name (as well as his music, of course), he is most likely the descendant of Hungarian emigrants. His parents should be proud of their son, as Rob is a very talented and outstandingly inventive composer. The textures of Hungarian music are interwoven with those of Classic Symphonic Progressive so effectively on "Letters From Afar" that I am inclined to think that another new brand of the Art-Rock genre was born along with this album.
VM. October 2, 2002
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