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Shalash are a Russian duo comprising Dmitry Karavaev (keyboards) and Maxim Smirnov (drums, percussion) who released this their debut album "Shalash" ("Øàëàø") in 2018. Just a few things to note even before starting the review, in that they have an informative website which is in both Russian and English, and this is a self-released digipak which they sent all the way down to New Zealand for me to have a physical copy even though I had said I was happy with the digital files. Dmitry also sent me loads of links to different sites, as he wanted me to have as much information as possible – given that some bands seem to deliberately it make it hard for reviewers, it is a refreshing change. Dmitry and Maxim have actually been working together since 2001 in the band Aurum, Argentum and Skumbrium (who have also released numerous albums), but they decided to record and perform as a duo in 2016, taking the name Shalash which apparently is Russian for Hut. There is something really enjoyable about this album, which is uplifting, fun and a bloody good time all at once. There are times when it is quite bombastic, almost in an ELP sense, but even when it is not quite at that scale there is still a driving force behind it. One of the reasons for this is that what we have here are a series of rock songs, not just keyboard meanderings, and although Maxim does let Dmitry have his own space here and there it is normally only for a few bars and then he is back driving it all along. Dmitry uses sounds and styles which are certainly dated, and if I had been sent this and been told it was a reissue, I would have pegged it between 1968 and 1974 in terms of original release date. Keyboards are used to emulate the bass, but here in terms of what a bassist would do with complex runs as opposed to something being produced just with a left hand, such as used to be the case by Vincent Crane. Given they gig as a duo I presume this means they use sequencers as I can’t see how Dmitry can provide what needs to be done unless he has at least three hands and given the additional layering of keyboards he probably needs four. They bring in folk influences here and there, Russian speech at others, psychedelic at yet others, and overall the result is an incredibly easy album to listen to, and one I have really enjoyed playing. The band have also made it available through Bandcamp so why not give it a try?
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