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(61:03 / AltrOck Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. From the Grey Notebook Intro 0:23 2. From the Grey Notebook-I 5:05 3. Stop Kolpakoff 9:57 4. I Refrained From Closing My Ears 12:15 5. An Order For Horses 8:52 6. Don't Swing the Wheel 10:37 7. From the Grey Notebook-II 13:48 LINEUP: Vitaly Appow - bassoon, saxophone; accordion Maxim Velvetov - el. & ac. guitars Cyrill Chistya - violin Dmitry Maslovsky - bass Nikolai Gumberg - drums Evgeny Alexeyev - keyboards With: Alla Pustchina - cello Maria Lagodich - vocals Cyrill Yelshow - vocals
Prolusion. The recording under review is the eponymous debut release by RATIONAL DIET, a sextet from the former USSR republic of Belarus. The supporting material is entirely worked out so as to describe the album - by listing peculiarities of the group's music along with their numerous influences.
Analysis. It is certainly not accidentally that Yugen (review here) invited this Byelorussian outfit to join their newly established label, AltrOck Records. "Rational Diet" features some of the best RIO and related creations I've heard over the last two years, though it's completely beyond me why the 20-second From the Grey Notebook Intro, while being on all levels linked with, well, the maternal composition, is placed on a different track and therefore is presented as a separate piece of music. So let me please consider the first two numbers to be a single composition, proceeding from which I can instantly arrive at the following inference: Of the recording's six tracks only the opening one, From the Grey Notebook Part I, is purely instrumental. My inner voice tells me I have to go without specifications here, so I only note that the piece brings together rock and avant-garde academic music along with some jazz influences - which amounts in total to certainly nothing other than the aforesaid genre. Electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards work as the dominant forces almost throughout, even though string, woodwind and brass instruments don't seem completely out of place here. Not surprisingly From the Grey Notebook Part II, although taking an opposite place in the recording, comes across as a logical continuation of Part I and can overall be described with the same words, except for the fact that it's the sole track that is relatively rich in real singing. The guest vocalist possesses a deep voice, his vocal style being beyond comparison, but since the lyrics are in Russian (everywhere they are on the album) and aren't provided with English translations, foreign listeners turn out to be deprived of any opportunity to appreciate their poetry and depth. Art Bears would be an apt reference point in the event you would remove Dagmar Krause's aggressively hysterical singing from the picture and replace it with male vocals delivered in a much more academic way, though on the other hand the piece is thrice as long as a statistically-average track from the repertoire of that English group, a Henry Cow offshoot. The four core tracks, Stop Kolpakoff, I Refrained From Closing My Ears, An Order For Horses and Don't Swing the Wheel, while featuring narrated verses and having generally very much in common between them, are all noticeably different from the boundary ones. In a typically RIO manner, the moods range from deeply dramatic and disquieting to dark and even sinister, the abundance in dissonances being the cornerstone of all these too, but it is the acoustic guitar that usually serves as a (sort of) bottom line here, while drums, cymbals included, appear very rarely. Violin, saxophone and bassoon lines weave their sinuous, multi-layered web to the relatively repetitive, yet very complex rhythms of acoustic guitar, from time to time being backed by various other instruments among which, once again, acoustic guitar appears most frequently. So, due to their pronounced acoustic nature, I perceive these to a somewhat greater degree as being the creations of chamber Avant-garde music than RIO. Despite the absence of a distinct rock component however, the music remains both intense and sonically saturated throughout each. I think I should also mention that Stop Kolpakoff and I Refrained From Closing My Ears both additionally stand out for their highly impressive acoustic guitar patterns, while An Order For Horses and Don't Swing the Wheel each feature a few vocal lines provided by two female singers whose sprightly singing strongly contrasts with the music as such. Think the acoustically most pronounced moves from Univers Zero's "313" or "Heresie" with occasional elements of Russian folk music, and you will not miss.
Conclusion. Rational Diet plays highly intricate, yet very cohesive music, most of which sounds to me like it is played from scores. This is a really gifted ensemble whose debut effort will be a sheer delight for anybody whose horizon is wider than, say, Progressive Rock in its most widespread manifestation(s). Personally I find this CD to be delicious listening, so I highly recommend it.
VM: September 16, 2007
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