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(37:35, ‘Undetermined Nation')
TRACK LIST: 1. Father 3.59 2. Baffled Fly 5.05 3. Bastard Child 4.08 4. Soldier 5.08 5. Animal 3.53 6. Schizophrenic 4.42 7. My Name 3.06 8. Time 3.11 9. Blind 4.23 SOLO PILOT: Andrei Myxa – vocals; all instruments
Prolusion. UNDETERMINED NATION is the project of Latvian musician and photographer Andrei Myxa. Based in Paris since 2000, Myxa released his recording debut under the name Undetermined Nation – a three-track EP titled “En Deux Dimensions” – in 2007. “Schizophrenic”, recorded entirely in English (unlike the previous work), is his first full-length CD, and is available for free download on the artist’s website.
Analysis. It seems to have become increasingly common for artists to engage in solo projects that rule out the participation of other musicians. Far from being mere vanity projects, these veritable ‘one-man bands’ are often the best (if not the only) way to afford the recording of an album. Obviously, such endeavours require the skill to play more than one instrument, as well as some technical knowledge of how a recording studio works. According to his biography, Andrei Myxa is someone who, in spite of having been through quite a lot in his 35 years of life, has always remained true to his artistic vocation. From his first experiences as a member of bands in both his native Latvia and Russia, to the hardships encountered during his first years in Paris, he has never given up on his passion for music, and finally managed to produce something completely of his own. The press blurb for “Schizophrenic” describes the album as “atmospheric pop-rock with mysterious melodies, mellow saturations mixed with well-defined rhythms, accompanied with a voice that, definitely, doesn’t leave indifferent”. In spite of the hyperbole often associated to such texts, the description actually fits the album to a T. What it does not say, however, is that a rather cumbersome influence looms big all over the album, both in a musical and vocal sense. I am talking about Radiohead, one of the few bands who, having successfully managed to bridge the gap between alternative and progressive rock, have now been accepted (albeit grudgingly) into the pantheon of modern prog giants together with the likes of The Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree. Considering that “Schizophrenic” is a totally independent, almost ‘homemade’ production, we cannot help being amazed at the quality of the musicianship. On the other hand, Andrei Myxa’s voice does not indeed leave one indifferent, and not necessarily in a positive way. Those who find the likes of Thom Yorke and Matt Bellamy somewhat on the annoying side will find very little to appreciate in Myxa’s very similar vocal style – which, furthermore, tends to overwhelm the music and detract from its occasional brilliance. The trite, vaguely depressing lyrics do not help either, as is all too common for musicians for whom English is not a first language. Describing the album as ‘pop-rock’ is accurate to a point. The songs, all between 3 and 5 minutes in length, with a total running time under 40 minutes, are quite unlike the sprawling epics produced by the average ‘retro-prog’ band. While opening song Father sounds indeed more mainstream than progressive, with a very straightforward verse-chorus-verse structure, in the following tracks there are steadily increasing hints at something potentially more elaborate. Weird electronic noises lurk here and there, with Soldier (the longest song on the album) offering a few definitely spacey moments and a nicely prominent bass line. Spacey effects are also rife on the slow, somewhat plodding My Name, in which Myxa’s plaintive, drawn-out vocals are used very much like an additional instrument. The title-track is possibly the most interesting item on display, with quite a few shifts in mood and tempo, and a livelier overall pace than most of the other songs. It would be interesting to see what Andrei Myxa could come up with, if he enlisted the aid of other musicians. The talent and the passion are definitely there, and “Schizophrenic” – though far too derivative to get more than an average rating – does offer some promise for future development, hopefully away from the looming shadow of Radiohead.
Conclusion. If you like Radiohead, you will find “Schizophrenic” a pleasant listen at least. However, those who object to Thom Yorke’s distinctive vocal style, or shun any form of pop/prog crossover, will do well to steer clear of this album. Moreover, though Andrei Myxa is indeed a talented musician, he needs to find his own individual style if he really wants to make an impression on an already oversaturated market.
RB=Raffaella Berry: November 16, 2009
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