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(43:20, AltRock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Slavianskaya-1 4:05 2. Endless Chart 5:01 3. Shifting Sands of Time 5:36 4. Rekrutskaya 0:55 5. Slavianskaya-3 3:14 6. Project X 2:12 7. For Glass 3:34 8. Svadebnaya 0:49 9. Slavianskaya-5 4:23 10. Glare of Sunlight 3:27 11. Moonberry 6:26 12. Plyasovaya 0:39 13. Slavianskaya Prazdnichnaya 2:54 LINEUP: Maxim Bulatov – bass Marina Bulatova – piano Sergey Amelkov – clarinets Evgeniy Kryazhev – drums Roman Nikitin – guitars Pavel Bushuev – guitars Maria Kozheurova – vocals With: Olga Ziborova – viola (3, 5, 7, 11, 13) Anastasia Shapovalova – violin (1, 2, 6, 9, 10)
Prolusion. Yet another CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) outfit from the AltrOck Records artist roster, PIKAPIKA TEART is – quoting the band – a postmodern chamber orchestra from the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk, which is located in the heart of Siberia. “Moonberry” is their first official release. In the CD booklet they say they’re inspired by Volapuk, Henry Cow, King Crimson, as well as some Russian avant-garde academic music composers, such as Stravinsky, Shnitke and Shostakovitch, but at the same time they are pretty sure that their work is unique. Unfortunately, they don’t shed any light on the origin of the band’s name. I believe few Russians are in the know as to what it means, and there is no info on the matter in the dusty attic of my memory :-), either.
Analysis. Like Rational Diet’s latest release, which I reviewed previously, Pikapika Teart’s “Moonberry” is a classically long recording that’s made up of concise creations, totaling 13. Penned by bassist Maxim Bulatov, all of those are also complete compositions, even though three of them, Rekrutskaya, Svadebnaya and Plyasovaya (The Recruiting Song, The Wedding Song and The Dancing Song respectively), last for 45 seconds on average. All of these are excerpts from traditional female folk songs, delivered strictly as they are in the Old-Russian manner, without any instrumental support. The album’s main content is in turn all-instrumental. Six of the other tracks, Slavianskaya-1, Slavianskaya-5, Slavianskaya Prazdnichnaya (The Slavic Holiday Song), Shifting Sands of Time, Project X and the title piece, find the ensemble playing a sort of Russian version of Chamber Prog with elements of avant-garde Art-Rock. In other words, they avoid the common RIO style thread – with some less intricate arrangements and more distinct melodic lines in particular. Furthermore, since the main, chamber rock, component of their music is based exclusively on Russia’s neoclassical as well as folk traditions, they also avoid common comparisons, sounding fairly exotic in general. Okay, as hinted above, none of the tracks are as labyrinthine as classic chamber rock/RIO creations (the ones that do really earn the term of postmodern art, at least as I see it). However, they’re still enough complicated to rouse the interest of any connoisseur of the genre, whilst a statistically-average prog fan will certainly come to grief over this stuff. Either way, each of the pieces is a well-developed multi-dimensional composition, full of interesting themes and details as well. For Glasses (which only features chamber and related instruments: clarinet, viola, piano and acoustic guitar), lies entirely within the domain of neoclassical music, while the remaining three tracks, Endless Chart, Slavianskaya-3 and Glare of Sunlight, all come across for the most part as avant-garde art-rock creations. There are fewer contrasting leads on these, which is partly due to the fact that the – otherwise almost ever-present – clarinet appears rarely, and partly because the electric guitar tends to dominate over the other instruments. Nonetheless, elements of classical are still detectable, since the violins (either the violin or viola, to be more precise) and the piano are part of each of them.
Conclusion. By combining the harmonically sophisticated arrangements with their – seemingly natural – original musical thinking, Pikapika Teart has made an excellent debut with “Moonberry”. While there are few fast, dynamically saturated, moves on the album, the music bears an ever-changing character, thus always keeping the level of the listener’s attention high. In other words, it’s only some restraint in the ensemble’s playing that doesn’t allow me to rate the outing as a complete masterpiece, though on the other hand I realize that the matter pertains to the youthfulness of their work and is easily curable if you like. Either way, I highly recommend “Moonberry”, above all to chamber rock lovers: none of those who have a chance to listen to the album will be disappointed with it. Top-10-2010
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