Wednesday, December 17, 2014

CD Review: Fractal Control's 'Disconnection Equals Freedom'

Fractal Control
Disconnection Equals Freedom

Links: YouTube, SoundCloud

Fractal Control is Mike Louttit's new release of instrumental rock/metal, surf psych, and avant-garde stylings that are somewhat futuristic, but never dull. The Ohio-native wrestles with technological advances leaving real humanity in a social quandary. Regardless of the message, the mostly instrumental release contains seven thought-provoking tunes. The piano-driven, "Already Ourselves," is an instrumental ode to humanity that contains brief atmospheric washes and an artificial intelligence voice that describes an introspective analysis of life. "Awakened And Aware" opens with a mind-numbing, instrumental guitar, bass and drum composition with metal aspects abounding. The instrumental tune contains glittering guitar work, punchy melodies, and a driving rhythm that is full of aggression. "Retrace" contains a drowned-out guitar or bass solo that is very improvisational or avant-garde. It does not contain any other instrumentation. It sheds the metal characteristics of other songs and it is relatively short at only one-and-a-half-minutes.  "Hidden Truth" begins with a psych, surf rock instrumental that goes into a finger-frenzied, guitar experience that is rich with sparkling guitar notes in true rock fashion. There are robotic, spoken words near the end of the song. Overall, Fractal Control does a great job awakening the human spirit with Disconnection Equals Freedom. The music is great for fans of instrumental rock, experimental, new age, improvisational, and contemporary ambient sounds. 5 Stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, December 11, 2014

CD Review: Vasily Evhimovich's 'Hurdy Gurdy, Accordion, and Vasily Evhimovich'

Vasily Evhimovich
Hurdy Gurdy, Accordion, and Vasily Evhimovich
Sketis Music

Vasily Evhimovich is a talented vocalist, accordion player, and hurdy-gurdy specialist on his latest recording, Hurdy Gurdy, Accordion, and Vasily Evhimovich. Vasily brings in a few other vocalists for acapella singing. Most of the time, Vasily plays the accordion or hurdy-gurdy along with the vocal segments. Based on the Volga River, Vasily recorded the album in his studio workshop. The folk songs originate from the Oka River region, as well as Belgorod, Northern Russia, Siberia, and Tatarstan. The drone of the accordion or hurdy-gurdy provide contemplative and entrancing moments between purely vocal parts. Over seventy-minutes of music and nineteen songs round out the album. The song titles are translated in Russian and English on the album back. Fans of Russian vocal music, folk music, and traditional instruments will find it most satisfying. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Stranniki's 'Light Moon'

Light Moon
Sketis Music

Stranniki is a Russian folk group that resurrects Slavic folklore songs by utilizing an array of folk music instruments and ancient melodies. The vocals are often arranged like chants with several singers singing at once in a choral fashion. The result is a sound akin to Finland's Varttina. The instruments are performed in a very artistic manner by paying close attention to historic styles and folk arrangements. Besides vocals, there is a gusli, okarina, jaleika, whistle, bansuri, bawu, kalyuka, quena, kaval, gajde, guitar, bass, drums, and assorted percussion. The contemporary instruments are a great companion to the traditional instruments. Each tune is fresh and inventive. There are only forty-two minutes of music on the album, but it is never boring. Fans of folk music, Slavic and Russian vocal music, traditional instruments, and contemporary Russian music will love the history presented by Stranniki. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Baraka's Double-Disc 'Shams'

Shams [2-CD]
Sketis Music

The Latvian band, Baraka, brings us a double-disc release of music celebrating the contemporary styles of Tajikistan. However, the music incorporates the help of Latvian, Russian, Tajiki, Lebanese, Nepalese, and Afghani musicians for a truly world music result. The Farsi or Tajiki vocals are used sparingly in ballads, folk songs, and jazzy songs throughout. There is a strong element of world jazz and lounge music, but some of the songs incorporate more of a Middle Eastern vein. Nevertheless, there is something for everyone here--from hip hop vocals to swaying jazz and funky Tajiki melodies. The songs are all very solid compositions with clear vocals and instrumental splendor. There are some traditional instruments, including the iconic dutar, setor, rubab, sitar, duduk, dilraba, and saz. The contemporary sounds stem from keyboards, guitars, bass, piano, and horns. Baraka does a great job blending the past with the present by not resorting to ho-hum melodies and rhythms, but rather bringing to life various instruments and styles indigenous to the Central Asian Republics, the Middle East, and Western Europe and Russia. Nearly two-hours of music are included with liner notes. ~ Matthew Forss  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

CD Review: The Grass Harp's 2-CD Self-Release

The Grass Harp
The Grass Harp [2-CD]
Sketis Music

The folk music of Western Russia is diverse from a vocal and instrumental perspective. The Grass Harp proves music is a thing of beauty with the release of their new double-CD, self-titled album. There are Finno-Ugric leanings to to the music, as well as musical styles from Moldavian, German, Russian, and West African regions. Stefan Charisius is a teacher and composer with playing abilities on the kora, as well as Maria Korepanova on vocals, Matthia Schneider-Hollek on computer programming, Andrej Mikhajlov on percussion and wind instruments, Leonid Immenich on accordion, and Sergej Misjurev on other instruments. The blend of delicate rhythms, melodies, and instrumental interactions are beautiful, improvisational, and historic. It seems as if the music from centuries ago comes alive throughout both album discs in a very organic and trouble-free manner. There are metallic sounds, crystalline noises, and animal-like sounds that emanate from the various instruments. The vocal traditions are definitely of the folk music variety with various chants and tunes presented in a rather abrupt and solid way. Fans of Russian folk, Finno-Ugric musical styles, vocal traditions, shamanic styles, and music with a sort of fusion backbone will love The Grass Harp. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Algambra's Self-Titled Release

Sketis Music

Algambra is a Russian music group with a knack for improvisational and instrumental styles that incorporate South Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and contemporary forms of fusion in one exciting package. The primary instrument is the hang, which is a metallic idiophone in the shape of a UFO that is played with hands and it is an instrument that was invented only fifteen years ago in Switzerland. The hang sounds are multi-faceted and sound similar to the udu, ghatam, and steel pan instruments. The sounds are fluid and softer than a steel pan, but a great accompaniment for the other instruments on the album, including the harp, cello, caisa, guitar, and assorted percussion. The album is mostly instrumental; except for "Made In India." The music is sparkling, bubbling, and entrancing with new age, improvisational, and avant-garde arrangements that are very likable and a welcome addition to and world music percussion collection. If anything, buy it for the hang. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Vasily Vecher's 'Siberia Land - Russian Traditional Songs Of The Western Siberia'

Vasily Vecher
Siberia Land - Russian Traditional Songs Of The Western Siberia
Sketis Music

Named after St. Basil's Day Eve, one of the most popular Russian traditional feasts, Vasily Vecher perform and study the culture of Western Siberia's peasant culture from the 16th to 18th centuries. The music contained herein is purely vocal without any instrumental accompaniment. Anyone interested in world chants, liturgical compositions, European folk music, and Slavic singing traditions, in addition to Siberian and Russian musical styles, will love it. The entire album is nearly fifty-five minutes long. It is a mix of solo and group vocal accompaniment. The songs are sung in Russian with English title translations on the back cover. There are Cyrillic Russian notes and lyrics throughout the liner booklet. This is a great ethnomusicological recording of historic significance, since it highlights the musical and vocal traditions of a bygone-era, but it is produced in a contemporary time. ~ Matthew Forss