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(59:06, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Dreams of Sea 3:25 2. The Overture 5:05 3. Ray of Light 4:40 4. Clouds 7:32 5. A Scarlet Sail 5:48 6. What Are You Waiting For 5:33 7. There Is No Place for a Dream 5:38 8. Five Years Later 5:20 9. And Stars Are Falling into the Sea 5:54 10. A Girl Was Praying in the Old Church 5:30 11. This Belief in Miracles Is Naive 4:41 LINEUP: Andrey Pishchulov – keyboards; vocals Igor Inshakov – guitars Nikita Simonov – bass Ruslan Dzhigkayty – drums With: Vasily Gorshkov – drums
Prolusion. The idea behind the Russian project GROUP 309 was conceived in 2007, when composer Pishchulov discovered the poetry of writer Dasha Yashenko and desired to give it a fitting musical representation. Musicians sharing his musical vision were assembled and songs created. In March 2009 the project was ready to be realized, and in 2010 it was finalized as the Russian label MALS Records decided to release the album.
Analysis. Progressive rock is a genre encompassing numerous stylistic expressions, and many opt to divide it into categories of diverse artists exploring material with a high degree of variation in terms of arrangements, compositional structure and overall sound. Art rock is as good an example of that as any other part of the progressive rock universe, and the symphonic subset of it just as much as any other part. Group 309's constituent members are among the gentler explorers of this realm, with an approach possessing similarities to acts like Camel, but with more of an emphasis on a pop art-oriented sound. A trademark detail of this production is a gentle, symphonic-inspired keyboard texture hovering in the background of the arrangements. The main effect is to add a gentle backdrop and dreamlike atmosphere to the proceedings, as well as providing more depth to the compositions as such. Steady, unobtrusive bass and drums underscore the proceedings quite nicely, with more care for minor details than strictly needed, which is rather typical of an art rock-inspired band, catering for the select few listeners attentive to such relatively minor details. These aspects in total serve as something of a main firmament for gently surging symphonic keyboard motifs, gentle yet often quirky guitar motifs frequently harmonizing with the tangents, the former with a clean undistorted sound. Melodic guitar soloing is added to the mix on regular occasions, the carefully drawn-out variety frequently appearing, and with plenty of vocal passages to boot. As the initial inspiration for this endeavor was poetry, that shouldn't be at all surprising. The most challenging parts of crafting material of such a gentle nature as described is managing to keep the listener's attention. And while personal tastes are always the main factor in determining whether or not that has been achieved, the instrumentalists do a good job in providing subtle details that enrich these compositions, drums and bass to some extent, but the guitarists most of all. Resonances are explored cleverly, and the odd unpredictable additional note or unexpected pattern explored does add a level of sophistication that suits these efforts nicely. And while it would be difficult to describe the material inside any innovative context, ones of finesse and high quality are merited.
Conclusion. Those who prefer their art rock to be of a gentle, melodic nature featuring nods in the direction of pop music will most likely find the symphonic-inspired material explored on Group 309's debut effort "Dreams of Sea" to be of interest. There's a distinct emphasis on harmonic melodies and gentle moods that might alienate those accustomed to and desiring music of a more adventurous nature in general, and the all-Russian lead vocals might limit the commercial potential somewhat too. Other than that, this is a fine release of its kind.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 2, 2011
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