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Roz Vitalis - 2007 - "Compassionizer"

(51:50, 'Roz Vitalis')


*****+

TRACK LIST:
           
1.  Tragic Fate 7:05
2.  Autumn of Hypocrisy 3:58
3.  Compassionizer 5:21
4.  Elusive Goodness 4:24
5.  Wakatte Kudasai 7:27
6.  Annihilator of Moral Hazard 6:22
7.  Dances of Lost Opportunities 5:37
8.  Disruption 3:41
9.  Train of Parting Compassion Version 7:55

LINEUP:

Ivan Rozmainsky  keyboards, sampling; recorders; percussion
Sydius  guitars 
Yuri Verba  clarinets 

Prolusion. The Russian band ROZ VITALIS, which first and foremost serves as the creative vehicle of composer and musician Ivan Rozmainsky, has been an active one since its inception back in 2001. Five studio albums and two live productions have been issued by this act so far, of which the latest are the studio effort "Compassionizer" from 2007 and the concert recording "Live at Mezzo Forte, Moscow, September '09", issued towards the end of 2009.

Analysis. As far as challenging and adventurous music goes, Ivan Rozmainsky's project Roz Vitalis has opted to explore a rather peculiar branch of it, at least on this production. The musical foundation, or at least the initial movements of the compositions, seems to be rather strongly inspired by classical music. Wandering melodic piano motifs and digital strings are used extensively for the opening sequences of most of the creations. The emphasis is on melody and atmosphere for these opening moments, but the proceedings soon start changing. Flutes are used in adding folk-inspired flavors; synth textures of various kinds further enrich the proceedings, with guitar and clarinet providing additional flavors. More or less subtle disharmonies and dissonances are common features from this point on, with occasional atonal excursions and the odd visit into the realms of cacophony by way of extravagant noise sculptures or multiple layered dissonant motifs. The guitar is mostly used to add distinct psychedelic touches, often following synth textures of a space-inspired nature. A common denominator throughout is the use of drums, other percussion and rhythmic sounds as tools to craft a challenging environment. Exploring the dynamics between the pace setting and melodic effects of different types of rhythm and melody providers is something of a key feature, be it in the shape of piano and drums or other constellations of rhythm and melody suppliers used slightly at odds with each other piano textures with a strong emphasis on rhythm creation deployed at a different pace than the drums for instance. The compositions as such tend to be distinctly melodic, despite such effects being utilized, but the sonic tapestries woven are quirky, elaborate and demanding to listen to. There are many facets and nuances to follow, and especially the addition of the psychedelic textures by way of the guitar helps craft an environment demanding an attentive listener.

Conclusion. The musical universe of Roz Vitalis isn't as hard to fathom and enjoy as it is to describe, and of the bands regarded as belonging to the avant-garde part of the progressive rock universe they are among the more accessible, at least if "Compassionizer" is a fair representation of their overall approach. This should make it a good starting point for those who'd like to take their first, tentative steps into the realms of truly challenging and adventurous music as well as an enjoyable album for those who generally enjoy this style of music.



Roz Vitalis - 2009 - "Live At Mezzo Forte"

(53:43, 'Roz Vitalis')


******

TRACK LIST:
           
1.  Warm Tuesday / Giver / Ascension Dream 10:07
2.  Wooden Bear / Annihilator of Moral Hazard 6:31
3.  Autumn of Hypocrisy / Disruption 9:51
4.  Destiny Dethroned 5:14
5.  Flown With the Wind / Insecure 10:27
6.  Painsadist 3:42
7.  Autumn Crocus 4:23
8.  Outro 3:28

LINEUP:

Ivan Rozmainsky  keyboards; winds
Vladimir Efimov  guitars 
Philip Semenov  drums 
Vladimir Semenov-Tyanshansky  bass 
Vladimir Polyakov  voice; keyboards; horn; percussion

Analysis. Live albums have been and will probably always be something of a curiosity for me. Mostly because of the tendency of artists to try to reproduce their studio efforts as closely as possible on such ventures, where the main additions to the compositions are elongated soloing passages and perhaps a sound slightly rougher than on their studio efforts, in many cases done by adding a slight emphasis on the guitar in the mix and also playing it with more distortion on stage than in the studio. Anyhow, cases where live albums add something beyond additional nuances to the creations of an artist are few, or at least much more of a rarity today than a few decades ago which makes it all the more satisfying to come across a band whose live albums have a purpose beyond bearing testimony to the fact that the musicians can replicate on stage what they have done in the studio. At least if compared to the latest studio effort by them, Roz Vitalis comes across as an act well worth experiencing in a live setting due to performing their songs in a different manner. For a band that many place within avant-garde territories, this Russian act is among the more accessible of the kind. And on this occasion I think it's fair to state that the avant-garde tendencies have been left in the studio. And with the additional synth and percussion layers making up the most experimental facets of their sound left behind, their overall style now appears to be of a more obvious psychedelic nature. The piano and later on also the organ are the main providers of the themes explored. Synths add space-tinged textures to the proceedings, while the guitar ventures back and forth between supplying psychedelic licks and slow, atmospheric guitar soloing. The latter also combines with the drums to add in sequences of a jazz-oriented nature, at times resulting in passages that can best be described as psychedelic fusion: a sound much more intriguing than you might expect. The vocal parts, or rather the sequences containing spoken monologues, add an additional element of variety to these performances. Theatrical and rather bombastic, these occasional occurrences provide me with strong associations to Hawkwind's classic number Sonic Attack. Roz Vitalis is a rather more sophisticated act, but the overall resemblance is still strong and distinct. One aspect of this production that some might feel as negative is the overall quality of the live footage. Some instruments seem to drown in the mix, which might be the reason why this disc comes across as distinctly less avant-garde than the band's previous studio releases, and the audio footage doesn't hold the quality we're accustomed to by many western artists. Whether this is attributable to equipment, budget or just a deliberate decision, the rough edges to this live footage don't feel distracting at all for me. As a matter of fact I find it suits the material at hand quite nicely, to the point where I'd describe it as an asset.

Conclusion. Those who find themselves curious about this effort, expecting it to be a refined, boundary-breaking production, set in the heartland of avant-garde territories, will most likely find themselves somewhat disappointed. True enough, Roz Vitalis is a band that many place within that realm, but at least on this occasion the material at hand resides within the psychedelic and space-oriented parts of the art rock realm: Arguably of the more challenging efforts within this stylistic expression and not of the kind fans of later day Pink Floyd will fancy, but those fond of the more freaked-out efforts by Hawkwind might just be a good target audience for this disc.

OB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 11 & 12, 2010
The Rating Room


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Roz Vitalis


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