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Tracklist: 1. Meditation (Russian Mystery) 14:37 2. Fascination 4:15 3. Chamber Music 3:14 4. To Appreciate the Match 4:46 5. Symphony of Lamentations 11:25 6. Movie Music 4:04 7. Light Melody 1:53 Bonus tracks: 8. Dissonata (1990) 19:57 9. A Pagan Vocalize (1991) 4:20 10. Another Music For Piano (1992) 3:53 Michael Chekahlin - keyboards & synthesizers, synth-percussion, synth-bass, vocal All music composed, arranged, performed (live, in real time) & produced by M. Chekahlin. Recorded by Igor Zamarayev with the use of analog multi-track tape recorder (without recurrence to sequencer technique and computer edition) mainly at "MDM" studio, Moscow, Russia.
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Prologue. As I became a Prog-lover immediately after I've heard for the first time the albums of the genre (the first three were "Jesus Christ Superstar" by A. L. Webber, 1970, "Pictures At an Exhibition" by ELP, 1971, and "Nightingales And Bombers" by Manfred Mann's Earthband, 1975, - the first and the last remain criminally underrated works), I naturally ignored all those spacey men Jarre, Schultze, etc, and even Tangerine Dream itself, having found such music too simple already after a couple of listens. Thus, I have never heard of "the best Russian electronic music composer Michael Chekalin", as noted in the booklet of this CD, until now. Surprisingly, his music (at least on this album) turned out to be different in many ways from what I had expected to hear, though, in my view this album also has some drawbacks. Also, according to the unknown author of the pseudo philosophic article on Chekahlin, using samplers in his music and other electronic projects, and (just synthetic!) electronic music in general, this, unlike orchestras playing Classical Music, etc, is the only real elitist music. I appreciate any kind of music that is at least a little creative, but I will never agree with anyone's categorical opinions that reject everything except their passion, but especially with such maniacal "axioms" that I've read in the introductory article on Chekahlin and an electronically push-button music in the booklet of this CD.
The Album. I have found a lot of positivism in the music of "Concerto Grosso No 1", but allow me to continue the talk on the negative sides of the album since I already began to criticize the introductory article about it (that too, in particular) in Prologue. First of all, here is an opening track, which has two titles Meditation/Russian Mystery, though the musical content fully corresponds only with the first one (Meditation is really just a kind of spacey music for meditations), while it has nothing to do with what Chekahlin has in mind concerning the sub-title. The Russian mystery is by no means as meditatively simple a thing as the music on the first track. I could now quote a lot of great Russian writers, poets, composers, painters and actors, but their concepts about a Russian mystery are, on the whole, too similar among themselves. As for the music, Russian mystery or more precisely the mystery of the Russian soul has been distinctly expressed by the majority of serious Russian composers in most of their works. This way, most of the Russian composers of Classical Music are in the first row of the exponents of the mystery of the Russian soul. To begin with Mussorgsky and Tchaykovsky, through Stravinsky and Rakhmaninov, Sviridov and Schnitke, and to conclude with Artemiev and even Prog-Rock band Horizont, apart from others, all considered (and expressed in music) the Russian soul as deep, profound and, at the same time, dark and inexplicable after all. But Meditation/Russian Mystery is not only one of the weakest pieces on the album, there also is someone's (I guess, Chekahlin's own) quite a powerful male vocal, which most of all reminds me of plaintive howls of Moslem's prayers, going all over the musical events of the piece. While compositionally Symphony of Lamentations sounds similar to most pieces on the album, and A Pagan Vocalize, being just the opposite, is instrumentally almost empty, both of them from beginning to end are filled with the same plaintive, by no means pagan, but typical Mohammedan prayer-alike vocals with distinct Eastern characters (I hear real words, though they must be in another Kobajan dialect). Back to Meditation, which is at the same time Russian Mystery, I just cannot understand where that Russian Michael found a link between Russian Mystery and Moslem's or even (okay) pagan's prayer (that however sounds exactly like a Moslem's prayer)? There is a strange, to put it mildly, conception of Russian Mystery on the mind of that very special lover to sing, apart from his magical, really pagan-like manipulations with synthesizers, buttons, samplers, sequencers, and all the other black and white keyboards. A meditative atmospheric, boring opening track is followed by the album's only (and best) instrumental Fascination that sounds like real Classical Music (of an academic school, that does without such exotic schools of composing as an extremely complex 12-tone row of modern European school or the old 5-note scale of the Eastern classic one), performed with the use of the most enriched sounds of digital keyboards. Track 3, called for some reason Chamber Music, actually has nothing to do with that. This, another very good, on the whole, composition sounds as contemporary Classical Music too, yet only in the first half of it, whereas the second part is obviously influenced by avant-garde classical music. Musically, all the six remaining pieces (i.e. including Symphony of Lamentation and excluding A Pagan Vocalize) stand for a wild blend of contemporary Avant-garde Classical Music, true avant-garde, and a few more various musical forms (spacey, noisy, industrial, etc). A too mixed blend of several musical genres and styles just mentioned, looks very original (though, I've heard too little of electronic music to insist on the latter definition), and personally I find all compositions created in that mixed stylistics really interesting. There are also lots of original psychedelic moments (which are much better with regard to Progressive than meditative landscapes) as if hidden in these pieces for the time being - until some very unexpected (no - truly sudden!) outbursts of supernovas or industrially post-apocalyptic episodes will amaze and strike you like some sinister mirages. This way, I wouldn't recommend those with nervous exhaustion, etc to listen to this album with head phones for avoidance of affectation.
Summary. It is very likely that some lovers of experimental electronic music won't share my personal claims to said vocalizes and vocals, but anyway, two of the three compositions (Meditation/Russian Mystery and A Pagan Vocalize) where that really monotonous plaintive voice goes all over instrumental palettes of the track throughout, are much weaker than all others (especially A Pagan Vocalize, which is almost empty with regard to instrumental music) that, apart from the only composition-masterpiece on the album (Fascination, track 2), are very good pieces, at least. Adventurous heads of all kinds of Progressive electronic music (I doubt that fans of traditional ambient / new-age will be attracted by the music on this album) may find (at least for the most part of) "Concerto Grosso No 1" an intriguing, unusual and very interesting album.
VM. September 10, 2001
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