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Rubycone - 2008 - "Pictures for Susceptible Housewives"

(41:08, MALS Records)


*****+

Prolusion. RUBYCONE was formed in 2005 in Moldova, by guitarist Stas Starush. The band went through a lot of personnel changes before Stas found the perfect musicians with whom to start recording. “Pictures for Susceptible Housewives”, released in 2009, reworked and expanded on the four tracks contained in the identically-titled, four-track EP that had marked their recording debut in 2008.

TRACK LIST:
           
1.  It’s All About Fashion 3:40
2.  And the Perfect Yellow Walls Would Show You the Magic 4:01
3.  Midnight Broken Heart 1:22
4.  Children ^ Funny Earthquake 2:51
5.  Fisherman’s Story 4:06
6.  Vikings Love Horses 3:57
7.  Cry Baby You Are a Machine 3:28
8.  Porcupine Tree Alone 1:23
9.  Don’t Stop Michael 3:41
10. Downhill on the Bike 3:31
11. When the Rain Is Over I’ll Say to You Hasta la Vista 6:48

LINEUP:

Stanislav Starush – guitars 
Roman Florea – guitars 
Nikita Zaharievich – drums 
Stanislav Pestreacov – bass 

Analysis. Whenever a band has settled for instrumental rock as their chosen genre, you expect the sound of the guitars to dominate whatever material they produce. And RUBYCONE doesn't disappoint in that respect: this production serves up a nice variety of guitar dominated creations. All the compositions here basically contain the same ingredients: passages and themes with either acoustic or melodic undistorted guitars are paired with heavy, riff based excursions. These contrasts work pretty well in creating an interesting tension in each track, and although the themes explored can be a tad repetitive the brief length of each effort sees to it that this doesn't impact negatively on the overall quality. In addition, the guitar patterns woven are generally pretty quirky, with subtle dissonances as a much and effectively utilized effect, and a nice variety between guitar soloing on top of a subservient foundation and melodic embellishments added to more advanced dual-layered guitar explorations. With drum patterns that are pretty quirky as well and coupled with a mostly energetic and at times insistent bass, the tunes stay interesting and intriguing, at least for the most part. The main exception is the final outing, When the Rain Is Over: l have never before heard a song where an opening and ending musical theme is bound together by three and a half minutes of rain and thunder sounds, and I'll have to admit that this particular experiment failed – to be filed under it seemed like a good idea at the time as far as I'm concerned. Apart from that last track the material here is generally strong, and although never managing to create truly stellar creations, Rubycone has made a very promising first effort here.

Conclusion. "Pictures for Susceptible Housewives" is a brilliantly named album sporting some pretty interesting musical endeavors. Instrumental art rock is the name of the game, with frequent excursions into progressive metal territories. Quirky and pretty advanced, at least for a debut effort, it's an album well worth investigating by those who generally enjoy both art rock and progressive metal, especially if fond of instrumental ventures.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 21, 2009
The Rating Room


Rubycone - 2008 - "Pictures for Susceptible Housewives"

*****+

Analysis. The first thing that a casual listener will notice about Rubycone’s debut album is its rather original title and the matching, Fifties-style cover artwork. Then, even a cursory look at the track list will reveal titles reminiscent of a Frank Zappa or Canterbury album. Rubycone displays a sense of humor that, by and large, seems to be sadly lacking in the world of prog (with very few notable exceptions), and not extremely frequent in that of so-called ‘alternative’ rock either. The actual listening experience, though, may turn out to be a disappointment for those expecting some sort of quirky, avant-garde storytelling. In fact, “Pictures of Susceptible Housewives” is a wholly instrumental album, and the only vocals heard come in the shape of voice-overs. This is not incidental: when the band finally found a stable lineup, they decided to eliminate vocals, which had caused numerous problems in its previous incarnations. The album was conceived as a series of sonic vignettes strung together by a common theme – loosely based on the effect of consumerism on ordinary people. However, its instrumental nature makes it difficult to see the connection between the concept and the music, unless the listener has a very fertile imagination. Unlike some works of ‘impressionistic’ classical music, the various tracks are not really descriptive of the various situations suggested by the titles. Anyway, in spite of these misgivings, it was a bold move on the part of the band, and one that can lead to interesting developments if pursued further. Musically speaking, Rubycone occupies that grey area between classic/traditional prog-metal and hard-edged, eclectic prog a la King Crimson. The prog-metal inspiration shines clearly through in the second half of the album: in the slashing, crushingly heavy riffs and machine-gun drumming of the likes of Cry Baby You Are a Machine and Don’t Stop Michael. Echoes of King Crimson are instead evident in Children & Funny Earthquake, especially in the guitar tone. Most of the tracks have a rather complex structure, alternating slower, mid-tempo sections with hectic riffing and spiky, shred-like lead work – perfect examples of this are, besides the ones already mentioned, Vikings Love Horses, featuring some tasteful, Spanish-flavored guitar licks alongside the riffing madness, and the drum-powered Fisherman’s Story. As the whole album runs at 41 minutes, the tracks are short and to the point – the longest, album closer When the Rain Is Over, I’ll Say to You Hasta la Vista, is for more than half made up of sound effects (rain, thunder and lightning), plus a snippet of dialogue from the “Terminator 2” movie, before launching in a full-throttle metal cavalcade. Given the nature of the music, the short running time definitely works to the album’s advantage. There are also a couple of mainly acoustic tracks barely over 1 minute, Midnight Broken Heart and the funnily-named Porcupine Tree Alone (which, incidentally, does not really sound like the titular band), both functioning as a sort of interlude. As can be expected from such an ambitious album, the musicianship is excellent throughout, though the individual tracks can be surprisingly accessible. Unlike other bands playing a similar strain of music, Rubycone avoids clubbing the listener over the head with their technical wizardry, and the outstanding production values make it possible for each musician to be heard and appreciated in his own right. It remains to be seen if the band will choose to pursue the path of instrumental music or will instead decide to throw some vocals into the equation – which might drastically alter their sound and general impact.

Conclusion. Though an undeniably solid debut, “Pictures for Susceptible Housewives” is not always completely successful in the originality department. I also found the frequent shredding somewhat tiresome at times – a pinch more melody in the lead guitar playing would not have gone amiss. Therefore, those who object to anything prog-metal would do well to give this one a miss, while more adventurous souls will find a lot to enjoy. Definitely a band to watch!

TB=Raffaella Berry: September 21, 2009
The Rating Room


Related Links:

MALS Records
Rubycone


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