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TRACK LIST: 1. Dance of the Pleiades 5:38 2. From Mars to the Stars 5:08 3. Empty Vessels of Infinity 4:32 4. Stellar Override 8:18 5. Black Hole of Your Soul 5:21 6. Turn Away into the Sun 5:44 7. Stronger 6:02 8. I Saw the Flames of Orion 6:41 SOLO PILOT: Mikko Muranen – all instruments
Prolusion. The LOW BUDGET ORCHESTRA (LBO hereinafter) is one of the creative vehicles of Finnish composer and instrumentalist Mikko Muranen, and the only one catering for the progressive rock oriented parts of his compositional repertoire. The first CD issued under this moniker appeared in 2006, and "Innerstellar" from 2011 is the third and most recent production to be released using this artist alias.
Analysis. A decade ago this album would have seen quite a few praising remarks thrown its way for sounding so good, despite being put together by a single musician. That was my initial thought after inspecting this disc, and says a lot about the possibilities modern technology have given musicians these days: self made, self mixed and self produced, and in a manner unimaginable just a few years ago. These days we tend to take it for granted that one man bands sound just as good as the real thing, and due to that it's useful to remind oneself that it wasn't always so, unless you had a major budget at hand of course. LBO doesn't come across as an aptly chosen name if judged by the end result, as neither the arrangements/ instrumentation nor the CD and cover art indicates anything of the sort. Well produced and well performed throughout, and while the avid listener will find some tell-tale signs of this being a studio only creation, there's no lack of quality due to this. The instrumental skills may not all be at the very highest level, but then due to a lack in the subtle, finer details rather than performance as such. I've come across many bands over the years with instrumentalists less skilled than Muranen. And this all instrumental production has many fine traits to enjoy too. He opts for a majestic, richly layered sound throughout, with a multitude of keyboard and synth textures forming a permanent symphonic backdrop throughout. Different from one composition to the next obviously, but by and large, constructed in a similar manner, usually a firm, stable, but perhaps subtly fluctuating backdrop, with an array of subservient motifs adding details and a majestic, grandiose effect, frequently with a wandering piano motif as a tie in with the additional instrumentation. The dominant theme is then set up by additional keys, guitars and rhythms, with mid-toned wandering guitars and dampened, darker-toned riff patterns dominating some parts, while other sequences see these instruments take on a more subservient role as the foundation for soloing runs by either guitar or keyboard. In style, this is a blend of neo prog, symphonic progressive rock and progressive metal, very much depending on whatever instrument that has been brought to the front of the soundscapes. The end result is a set of pleasant, majestic instrumental excursions, generally harmonic in nature, and with one detail that for my sake degraded the overall impression ever so slightly, the aforementioned symphonic backdrop smoothing out most rough edges and many of the finer nuances supplied by the different instruments and motifs, an aspect of this production that comes down to personal taste more than anything, for me resulting in a pleasant disc with a slightly unfulfilled potential. Others might and will probably see this as an additional strength, each to their own as the saying goes.
Conclusion. Instrumental progressive rock residing in the twilight zone between neo prog, progressive metal and symphonic art rock is the style explored on "Innerstellar" by LBO. The emphasis is on harmonic melodies with majestic arrangements, richly layered themes, constructed by a plethora of textures. A likely key audience might be those who own and treasure music by the likes of Arena and Joe Satriani, at least if they tend to enjoy grandiose, instrumental compositions.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 1, 2012
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