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Karfagen - 2006 - "Continium"

(41 min, Unicorn)

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  A Winter Tale-I 4:27 
2.  A Winter Tale-II 5:34
3.  Silent Anger 4:49 
4.  Old Legends 4:22 
5.  All the Time I Think About You 2:59
6.  Amused Fair 8:13 
7.  Stone Talk 2:08 
8.  Marvelous Dance 3:31 
9.  Muse 2:38
10. Close to Heaven 2:43


Antony Kalugin - keyboards; sampling; vocals
Oleg Polyanskiy - piano, organ, synthesizers
Roman Filonenco - el. & ac. guitars 
Roman Orest - el. bass 
Kostya Shepelenko - drums 
Sergei Kovalev - accordion

Prolusion. "Continium" is the debut CD by this outfit from Ukraine, KARFAGEN, which is the Russian version of the name of the ancient town of Carthage. The band's existence had its inception in 2003, by the effort of keyboardist Antony Kalugin, who is also the songsmith for the band.

Analysis. Apart from the musicians mentioned in the lineup above, "Continium" features the performance of two (male and female) guest singers, who provide occasional vocalizations on Silent Anger and Amused Fair and sing together with Antony on Close to Heaven, which is the only vocal number here. Although accordionist Sergei Kovalev is mentioned in the group's principal lineup, he is featured only on two tracks. These are the two just mentioned Silent Anger and Amused Fair, Sergei's contribution to the latter being more symbolic than actual. Four of the album's ten tracks are quite brief, each not exceeding 3 minutes in duration. The shortest piece, Stone Talk, is the one that made no impression on me at all, developing from unexceptional space music to a set of pointless effects. Apart from vocals, piano and sampled cello, Close to Heaven has an inventive acoustic guitar solo that runs all through it. I would've been much more impressed had this piece been free of vocals, which is not just because the singers' English is strongly accented. My main reason is that whereas the instrumental accompaniment is interesting, the singing disappoints. All the Time I Think About You is a graceful piano solo ranging from classical-like movements to reflective ambient passages - a nice piece. However, best among the shorter tracks is Muse, once and yet again displaying Roman Filonenko's original vision of improvised music, as well as his excellent command of both electric and acoustic guitar. I appreciate Kalugin's effort in songwriting, as well as his technical mastery, but it is guitarist Filonenko and pianist/organist Oleg Polyanskiy who are mainstays in establishing the identity of the group's sound. While the overall musical picture of the album doesn't seem to be unoriginal (an understatement), some episodes are evocative. Antony applies various sampled sounds effectively throughout, but his passion for those of flute, and also his frequent recourse to the Space Rock-related registers of synthesizer, result in the appearance of certain hints of Camel and Eloy on all the longer tracks, except for Silent Anger. This is a dynamic and quite moving piece combining symphonic and folk textures, the latter being woven of strands of several different types of traditional music - Ukrainian, Scottish, French and more. International Prog? In all, the music is in many ways unique, having a distinct acoustic feeling, although guitar, accordion and drums are the only real acoustic instruments here. A Winter Tale's Parts I & II are similar among themselves, representing quite intensive Symphonic Progressive with elements of Prog-Metal and Space Rock. The first part is somewhat less eventful however, due to an overextended space-music intro that covers no less than one third of it. The remaining three compositions are the best of all. The title of Old Legends is in many ways reflected in the music, which is a distinctively vintage organ-, piano- and acoustic guitar-driven symphonic Art-Rock possessing all the principal virtues of the genre. The relatively short Marvelous Dance steers the same stylistic course, but is probably even more impressive, as the arrangements are ever changing, always intense and intricate, revealing plenty of turns and twists. The longest track, Amused Fair (8:13), would be another winner, the music moving back and forth between symphonic Art-Rock and guitar-driven Jazz-Fusion. Roman Filonenko's resourcefulness and technical filigree reach their culmination in the latter department, although drummer Kostya Shepelenko's isn't as impressive on this semi-epic, sometimes keeping pace with his band mates, at other times falling behind in quality. Generally, he should continue polishing his executive mastery.

Conclusion. While not a classic, Karfagen's "Continium" is a strong debut CD and is a very good album overall. Fans of instrumental Symphonic Progressive will find plenty here to enjoy. My criticism is caused exclusively by my desire to help the band orientate their further work and make their next effort free of any flaws, which is certainly within their grasp.

VM: September 24, 2006

Related Links:

Unicorn Records


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