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(50:21, Mals Records)
Prolusion. ZLYE KUKLY is a band-project serving as the creative vehicle for Russian-born, Israel-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Fred Adra. The first production of this band was issued back in 2000, and in “At the End of Days” from 2006 is their fifth effort, reissued in 2009 by the Russian label MALS Records. “Alien Celestial City” was originally recorded in 2002 and followed two CDR-only releases.
TRACK LIST: 1. Mad Theater 3:42 2. Strange Tomorrow 6:27 3. Blind Man 5:03 4. We Kept Watch over Time 3:46 5. He Walks Along the Seashore 5:26 6. Legend 2:30 7. Teddy Bear 4:58 8. Babylon Is Doomed 6:58 9. Star Path 5:18 10. At the End of Days 6:12 SOLO PILOT: Fred Adra – vocals; guitars, bass; keyboards; drums, percussion With: Natasha Belenkaya-Greenberg – vocals (1, 6, 8, 9) Alexander Waits – flutes (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9) Arie Livshin – mandolin (1, 2, 4, 6) Gennadiy Axelrod – guitar (4, 5) The Glassman – piano (4, 5) Benyamin Harel – violin (8)
Analysis. A common characteristic of people listening to progressive music is an expectation that albums labeled as such contain some form of complexity or advanced expression outside of the norms of mainstream music: Whether it's highly challenging features such as dissonances, odd rhythms, technically challenging themes or slow repeated drones, layers of synths or keyboards or other elements you just generally don't find in music topping the popularity charts. Fred Adra's approach is for the most part pretty different. Simplicity is a defining word for his musical endeavors, at least in this production. The compositions are for the most part conventionally structured; slow-moving affairs with sparse instrumentation and more often than not with a ‘less is more’ approach to themes and passages, and are even pretty predictable most of the time. Despite this he's managed to create a highly captivating effort here. Russian and Israeli folk music appears to be the foundation of his excursion, acoustic guitars and vocals being the main elements of his explorations. The Russian language combined with carefully provided notes does make for an intriguing mix in itself the way they are conveyed here; whether the guitar licks are slowly serving up gentle melodies or echoing notes are gently resonating before the next one is added, both aspects work pretty well, while the vocals either as song or spoken word manage to touch a raw nerve and contain a striking emotional impact, often with a strong melancholy tinge. Mandolin, violin and flute create additional textures, giving the songs a strong folk flavor, and carefully used backing and additional vocals, often non-verbal, add strong emotional aspects to the performance. And careful bass and drums, when used, strengthen the momentum of the compositions. For the creation of majestic or more embellished segments, keyboards of various kinds and/or drawn out guitar riffs are used to good effect; passages containing these additional elements don't appear often, but this also makes them highly effective when present. In particular this occurs on the title track which features those aspects throughout. This track admittedly also takes on a rather different style than the others on this production, closer to Pink Floyd in sound than anything else.
Conclusion. "At the End of Days" can hardly be described as a challenging or complex piece of work. Simplicity reigns mostly supreme on this production and the impact of these songs is on the emotional rather than intellectual level. If a carefully crafted folk-inspired effort with symphonic embellishments sounds like a good thing to you, then this is an album worth investigating, especially if you're fond of gentle and mellow musical expressions.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: January 21, 2010
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