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Yojo - Abduction CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.82 | 11 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars You probably aren't familiar (yet) with this gifted instrumental ensemble from Saint Petersburg. I wasn't either, until being introduced to their excellent second album by a friend of the band, who described them as "one of the most respected and beloved among the Russian musicians performing non-trivial music related to the genres of progressive rock and fusion."

Language barrier aside, I love that phrase: "non-trivial music" three succinct words capturing the essence of Prog better than the long-winded definitions we're all accustomed to. Note also that the music is only "related to" progressive rock and fusion, and therein lies its surprising appeal. You might expect an album filed in these Archives under Jazz Rock and opening with a track named "Weather Report" to favor an ethno-funky Wayne Shorter/Joe Zawinul vibe, instead of the far more atmospheric and evocative sound presented here.

The band apparently survived a dramatic shift in personnel after recording its self-titled debut album in 2013, with only the drummer and guitarist remaining, and with bass player/violinist Georg Ubel promoted from his guest slot on the earlier effort. The core group was then supplemented by a quintet of horns, and hired a full-time bass clarinet player to further enhance an already rich, cinematic style.

The added brass and woodwinds might explain the misleading Jazz Rock label. But in truth the arrangements are more orchestral than jazzy, combined with an electric guitarist capable of extraordinary nuance, and the delicate color of Anna Shmuilovich's keyboard support (my apologies if the spelling of her surname suffered in translation.)

The album itself is very exciting in its own measured fashion, admirably low-key for music related to Progressive Rock but often rising to dramatic bursts of real fire, for example in the genuinely thrilling climax of "Cold Case", and the frantic build-up (with uninhibited sax freakout) to the aptly-named "Swell". Contrast those highlights to the haunting coda of "Hazebook", and the complete package can sound almost Scandinavian in its moody romanticism.

Which I suppose makes sense: Saint Petersburg isn't too far removed, in both geography and culture, from its neighbors across the Baltic Sea. You can draw a nearly straight line from the city to Helsinki, Stockholm and Oslo, all more or less seven degrees of latitude below the Arctic Circle: a clue perhaps to the sometimes melancholy aura surrounding the music, even in the otherwise debonair tango of "Tourist".

As illustrated in the cover image, this is an album that might surprise you with its invisible grip. And, as I learned firsthand over the past week, the embrace only tightens with repeated exposure.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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