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RATIONAL DIET

Rational Diet

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.95 | 45 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While avant-prog and Rock In Opposition (RIO) are often used interchangeably to describe the difficult music section at the prog supermarket, the two terms are actually quite distinct although some bands clearly fall into both camps. Put simply avant-prog is that angular wild roller coaster ride music that finds more inspiration from modern classical and freaky free form jazz than from the rock and roll blues based playbook. RIO on the other describes more accurately specific bands and artists who have performed at the identically named events and often but not always play a wacky variation on the avant-prog sounds laid down by Henry Cow or the chamber rock complexities of pioneering bands like Univers Zero and Art Zoyd. While many of these bands have come from French speaking nations like France and Belgium, the influences of the initial 70s groups has spread far and wide over time.

One of these bands that found its way onto the September 2010 RIO festival in France was RATIONAL DIET that came all the way from Brest, Belarus (situated on the Polish border) and joined company with other outsider artists such as Art Bears, Gong, Caspar Brötzmann Massaker, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Jannick Top / Infernal Machina, Thierry Zaboitzeff (ex-Art Zoyd), Full Blast, Miriodor, Genevieve Foccroulle and Aquaserge at the same event. RATIONAL DIET formed in 1996 and disbanded in 2012 but left in its wake five distinct works that include three official albums and two earlier self-made and promoted albums titled "From The Grey Notebook" and "The Shameless." These two earliest albums have been nearly impossible to track down as they were only released on CD-Rs and are nowhere for digital download or free listening so in effect this debut simply titled RATIONAL DIET should be considered the official debut album.

RATIONAL DIET qualifies as both avant-prog and RIO but express these styles through the art of chamber music which includes a large number of participants. The musicians who appear on all seven of the tracks include Vitaly Appow (bassoon, tenor sax, accordion), Maxim Velvetov (guitars), Cyrill Christya (violin), Dmitry Maslovsky (bass), Eugeny Alexeyev (keyboards) and Nicolay Gumberg (drums) with several others who participate on a a track or two. These include Alla Pustchina (cello), Cyrill Yelshow (vocal), Maria Lagodich (vocals), Andrew Bogdanow (vocals) and Oleg Gorbatiuk (vocals). The band's sound is very reminiscent of the classic chamber rock bands of the past which include Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, Present and Henry Cow but RATIONAL DIET takes on a lot more classical elements than the typical RIO chamber rock band with influences from Stravinsky and Shostakovich as well as home grown Slavic gypsy folk and even some Soviet era poets in the sparse lyrics found spoken and sung throughout the album.

Thanks to the Italian AltrOck label which is home to the avant-freakery of Yugen, RATIONAL DIET which went from a relocated Minsk based local act that toured its native land of Belarus to a more international phenomenon and this eponymously titled album is the culmination of the band's ten years of practicing, gigging and compositional creativity which finds most of the tracks lifted from the "From The Grey Notebook" and "The Shameless" releases. In fact out of the seven tracks that make up this 61 minute album's running time, only "Stop Kolpakoff!" didn't appear in some form on the first two local releases. It doesn't take long at all to realize that out of all the dishes on RATIONAL DIET's menu that the chamber rock / avant-prog complexities of Unviers Zero, Art Zoyd and Present are the sound de jour and the sextet with a few guests for those "extra" touches deliver with all the gusto and dexterity of Cirque du Soleil members at a trampoline factory. In other words, this band has seriously honed its chops.

Despite RATIONAL DIET's appetite to consume the chamber prog of yore, the band did an excellent job of bringing it into the 21st century with some local flavors to keep it from sounding like some sort of hero worship cult album that insinuates posters of Roger Trigaux and Daniel Denis on various band member's ceilings! While the chamber rock is the dominate flavor of this DIET, the actual compositional presentations are a bit more IRRATIONAL than the band's name suggests. Firstly, the band's instrumentation a lot different than its influences with a heavier emphasis on the core instruments of the bassoon (think a more energetic Lindsay Cooper) and a creepy violin (think Paganini meets Can) which conjure up bizarre contrapuntal dualisms that find one taking the lead and the other drifting off and then snapping back to the main gist of things. Second of all, while mostly instrumental, RATIONAL DIET also has vocal sections that find guests vocalists, both male and female reciting avant-garde Soviet poetry as well as "singing" at times in very, very weird styles.

Add to all that RATIONAL DIET dishes out a side serving of local gypsy folk rhythms that create nice harmonic structures although the riffing is clearly rooted in the chamber rock / avant-prog universe which makes for an interesting contrast. The rhythms also have a slight zeuhl vibe as well which at times almost bubble in symmetrical martial bombast. Best of all, the album starts out more in the traditional camp but gets more comfortable branching out into strange new worlds by the time it gets to "Don't Swing A Wheel" and the final "From The Grey Notebook - Part 2." The closing numbers provide not only the traditional but hairpin turns into the frenetically unstable and back again into a more pacifying false sense of calm before the violins screech out in ecstasy and Slavic folk influences in the form of the wild vocal gymnastics are allowed to flitter around in experimental glee. The complexities don't detract from the rhythms and melodic developments that occur nor vice versa. Somehow the band juggles all elements fairly smoothly. When all is said and done, RATIONAL DIET does an excellent job on this debut of paying homage to the greats that came before and by adding its own stamp to the world of chamber rock oriented avant-prog / RIO. Highly recommended.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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