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Fren - Where Do You Want Ghosts to Reside CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.94 | 126 ratings

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4 stars Well if there is one thing learned by force majeure from this pandemic, it's the notion of patience and the importance of rationally accepting that all things cannot be perfect at all times, such as the postal world and it's offspring , that incomprehensible term for many : DELAY. I finally received my copy of Fren's debut album, looking forward to hearing what all the fuss was about, as a few reviewers were pleasantly surprised by the quality of this release. I must say that I am strongly biased, as Polish prog has always been a favorite of mine and also because there are no two ethnically distinct nations who have such a consistent love affair as Poland and Hungary for the past thousand years. This debut all-instrumental album has a unique approach in that it stamps its own distinctive style all over the compositions, with only hints of past glorified influences(Floyd, Crimson, Camel, etc). The attribute that leaped out at me was the rather under-produced style that gives an earthiness to the sound that is most welcome. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) factor is at play here and it makes the entire listening experience fresh, vibrant and realistic. Guitarist Michal Chalota, keyboardist Oskar Cenkier, bassist Andrew Shamanow and drummer Oleksii Fedoriv establish a classic progressive line-up and the tracks are all quirky and enthralling, each in their own way. Simple complexity or complex simplicity, it is entirely up to you to decide!

The gorgeous opener "Twin Peaks" is a gentle entrance that glides forward with lush persistence, laden with dreamy atmospherics a la Crimson King, flute mellotron phrasings and crystalline guitar flicks. It acts like a slowly numbing musical anesthetic as the power slowly builds and the rousing organ enters the fray.

The nearly 10 minute "Surge" is quite the stormy surprise, a compass vector into more experimental zones, hints of Anglagard (booming bass, buzz saw guitar, tons of 'tron and forceful drumming) and yet, very exciting, suddenly pastoral and then fren-etic (excuse the pun).Chalota really shines here, delivering a masterful solo, that sears, soars and scours the heavens (think "The Knife" on Trespass) . The fact that its not over-produced and nicely raw is most appealing to these ears and will remain a constant pleasure throughout. A tremendous slice of music.

"Goraca Linea" is a brief but pretty respite that suggests more of a jazz-rock approach, whilst still being muscular and hearty, rippling piano work from Cienker gives him the stage to shine and that he does very deftly. The piano maintains the captaincy on the epic 12 minute "Pleonasm", a captivating arrangement that seals the deal and steals the show, a phenomenal platform for these musicians to express their craft and their teamwork, as they seem already as a well-oiled machine with passion and technique working in their favour. The piano does a lot of the initial heavy lifting, with a little bass slippage and some clever drumming patterns. Then, out of the blue, a slick guitar passage that harkens back to a jazzier, breezin' style (Benson, Carlton, Metheny and co..) that serves only to add some sunshine into the proceedings. The piano returns to shift the focus once again, the fingers dancing on the ivories with grace and elegance, especially towards the 8-minute mark. Truly fascinating mastery, these are exceptionally talented instrumentalists. Chalota rips off another guitar rampage before the piano mood settles down to restful sleep. Brilliant!

As the title may imply, "Heavy Matter" is a sharp return into more conventional prog landscapes, the bass leading the way, setting down the mood, with the help of mellotron flute patches, and slowly begins the process of ratcheting up the angst. The piano certainly accentuates that Canterbury feel, (think Stewart and Sinclair), shaded by some nasty guitar shavings and a tight rhythm section shoving things along. By this time, I feel totally seduced and even slightly gaga over the quality of the menu here. A rousing axe solo sets the pleasure nodes on fire with a blistering lead that sizzles like a firefly on speed.

The finale sets the final stone, a vaguely familiar theme (Ten Years After- "You Give me Lovin" riff), a sublime rambling bass and more exhilarating piano cleverness. The melodic imagination is often an ingredient in Polish music, as there is always a strong mastery of melancholia in their spirit. I feel perfectly at home here. I would strongly pray that the band maintains this raw, realistic and fresh style and does not fall prey to overblown, candy-coated production that would sap the sheer essence of their musical attributes. A band that is worth watching and hearing more of in the future.

4.5 strangers from Krakow

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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