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(55:46, Mellow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Beowulf 15:28 2. Ovum Mechanicus 10:49 3. Mene-Thecel-Phares 17:15 4. Tombeau de Cherdak 12:10 LINEUP: Sergey Syomin – arch lute; baroque guitar Alexey Syomin – el. & classical guitars Maris Jekabson – vocals; bagpipes Elizabeth Perecz – keyboards Edgar Kempish – drums Denis Arsenin – bass With: Julia Pecherskaya – backing vocals (1)
Prolusion. This digital long-play, titled “Cherdak”, came from the precincts of Italy’s Mellow Records, while the band that’s behind the creation itself, OLIVE MESS, hails from Russia.
Analysis. On “Cherdak” (which is nothing other than “Attic” in Russian) Olive Mess plays finely crafted, predominantly electro-acoustic, music of a high progressive quality; which, moreover, is full of original and innovative ideas, no matter that some artists – from Minimum Vital/Vital Duo and Iona to King Crimson, Univers Zero and Finnegans Wake – from time to time come to mind while listening to it. With some reservations, the entire album can be viewed as a child of two genres, Folk and Chamber Rock, whose roots are in European medieval music and RIO, respectively. However, this is not an alloy of the styles, since the corresponding colorations very rarely, if ever, interblend with each other, only half (the last two) of the four long tracks on here, Mene-Thecel-Phares and Tombeau de Cherdak, suiting the above idiom: think exactly or rather exclusively in terms of genre, because compositionally each of these reveals something that’s only peculiar to it, as both the others, Beowulf and Ovum Mechanicus, do alike, the disc opener containing no avant-garde features at all. Beowulf generally appears to be its most accessible composition (only don’t think that it’s really simple), which is mainly because the band never leaves the domain of medieval folk music-inspired Symphonic Progressive there, despite very frequently changing their course to say the least. Curiously, the only instrumental piece, Ovum Mechanicus, is also the sole composition in the set that evokes Jazz-Fusion – all over its first third, to be more precise, and by the way the piano-driven moves there bring to mind Air Dance (from Black Sabbath’s 1978 masterpiece “Never Say Die”, the album involving Don Airey – originally a jazz, plus jazz-trained, pianist who was at that time, in 1977-’78, one of the masterminds behind Colosseum-Mk-II!). Later on the music turns into a darker realm, taking the shape of an intricate, sophisticated, as well as rather angular Art-Rock which may bring to mind mid-‘70s King Crimson. Like each of the other tracks, the longest one, Mene-Thecel-Phares (17:15), is a multi-sectional composition, though from its stylistic perspective it can also be viewed as a 5-part suite, whose first, third and last fifths are connected with classic Belgian RIO, whilst the other two both instantly bring us back to the opening track’s style. The same words would have been relevant to Tombeau de Cherdak if the transitions between the piece’s corresponding sections had been as striking as those you know there. That said, Olive Mess plays in a less inexorably dissonant, as well as depressively-aggressive, manner than Univers Zero does. On the other hand, within the arrangements that belong to the recording’s other most widespread style, the Russian musicians reveal more diversity than those in Minimum Vital do, let alone the ones in Iona. Depending mostly on the direction the band follows at any given moment, the sound either embraces, say, conventional art-rock instruments or has two acoustic – classical and baroque – guitars, arch lute and organ in its focus, meaning the bass and drums are most often part of the last-implied movements, too. One of the most distinctive aspects of the album are the vocals, though, and it’s only partly because singing isn’t too typical of RIO. A possessor of a lush and rather powerful voice, baritone Maris Jekabson now sings in a quasi-operatic manner, now imitates a minstrel, especially succeeding in varying the intonations within the genre-related maneuvers where, moreover, the music (as such) very frequently changes its outlines. I only regret that, instead of using lyrics in Latin as he does on the last two tracks, on Beowulf he sings in a language that will make English listeners sick hearing it.
Conclusion. Olive Mess’s music is for the most part highly intricate and yet is never labyrinthine, let alone excessively eclectic. Instead, it always evolves logically and it was wise of the band to locate the compositions in such an order that each of the following ones appears to be somewhat more complicated than its predecessor. Okay, the opening track fails compared to any of the others, but since all those are brilliant, the album is worthy of a masterpiece status. I highly recommend it, and in particular to those who, while having a bent for Rock-In-Opposition, still experience difficulties in comprehending the genre: “Cherdak” might help them finally get into it, meaning completely. Top-2008
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