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(75:05, Caerllysi Music Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Spirit of Revelation 7:18 2. Magic Moment 4:22 3. Silent Anger-2 6:15 4. Solitary Sandpiper King 5:03 5. Searching for Love 8:32 6. Carpathians 13:49 7. Ode to a New Life 5:27 8. Kingfisher and Dragonflies-2 2:15 9. Mystery 22:00 LINEUP: Antony Kalugin – keyboards; vocals; percussion Alexandr Pavlov – guitars; vocals Sergey Kovalev – accordion Oksana Podmaryova – cello Max – viola Dasha – violin Helen Bour – oboe Lesya Kofanova – flute Alexandr Pastuchov – bassoon Artem Vasilchenko – saxophones With: Marina Zacharova – vocals Roman Gorielov – guitars Kostya Ionenko – bass Alexandr Tyunyakin – bass Kostya Shepelenko – drums &: Three more drummers
Prolusion. KARFAGEN is one of the three-band projects featuring Ukrainian composer and keyboardist Antony Kalugin as a central member. In between his productions with his other bands Sunchild and Hoggwash he's managed to release four albums with Karfagen since he made his debut as a recording artist back in 2006. "Solitary Sandpiper Journey" is the most recent of these and was released in 2010.
Analysis. The internet, or the net as many prefer to call it, is responsible for a lot in this world of ours: negative and destructive websites, lesser evils such as illegal sharing and downloading of copyright-protected material and greater ones such as the terrorist handbook. But for all negative aspects of the digital world there's at least one positive to be found that will balance it all out. One of these stories concerns how Antony Kulagin from Ukraine and Will Mackie from the UK got to know each other, the latter inspiring the former to unleash his creativity to record and release his music. In just a handful of years this has resulted in multiple CDs released by the three band projects, and in addition to that Kulagin has a solo album out from a few years back too. As for the latest Karfagen production, it is a disc that to my ears comes across as pretty much the definition of pleasant. The themes and motifs used are easygoing, melodic and harmonic through and through, the tonal ranges most frequently used range well inside the light and positive, the arrangements are silk-smooth, the production is warm and organic, the latter adding a vintage touch to the proceedings, enhancing the impression one gets from the music itself. While only occasionally similar in stylistic expression, the band that I found myself thinking of most often when listening through the 75 or so minutes of the music to be found on "Solitary Sandpiper Journey" is Camel. It too often explored territories smooth and elegant, and, like Karfagen, also had their flirtations with folk music and jazz. In this case these tendencies are taken further, however. Among the minor army of instrumentalists appearing on this production several use analog instruments that fairly often induce a folk-tinged atmosphere, the flute the most striking of these for this detail. Occasionally we're also treated to passages with something of a chamber music feel to them. Plenty of themes throughout take on a slick and sophisticated jazz rock expression as well, the bass and guitar the most central instruments for those endeavors. Those fond of jazz without the rock added in are served a few treats too, the final part of Searching for Love with its fragile foundation and haunting saxophone being probably the best example of that. But while there are flavors aplenty to be enjoyed, this disc is first and foremost one that belongs in the symphonic part of the art rock universe. Keyboards and synths aplenty craft one symphonic delight after another, occasionally backed by darker-toned riffs, but first and foremost lighter-toned and positive constellations, richly layered just as often as more simplistic, gentle and fragile. The organ and Mellotron are well utilized too, the former extensively and the latter sparingly, but for both of the instruments in a fitting manner that does enrich the arrangements. To my tastes, however, this disc is just a bit too gentle and positive, a tad too polished, if you like, lacking something of an edge. Still, it is good music, well-made and well-performed, with a distinctly uncompressed analog-sounding production as a bonus feature I expect many fans of symphonic progressive rock will appreciate.
Conclusion. If you enjoy symphonic progressive rock and have a soft spot for the 70's version of the genre in general and bands like Camel in particular, Karafgen is a band you will most likely want to explore. Their take on this style is more eclectic than Latimer's, including frequent jazz rock and a select few purebred jazz sequences for starters, and the symphonic scope of their repertoire does cover a lot more ground too. The mood, atmosphere and feel of the compositions are more closely linked in, however, which is why I estimate that particular crowd to be something of a key audience.
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