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Karfagen - Principles and Theory of Spektra CD (album) cover

PRINCIPLES AND THEORY OF SPEKTRA

Karfagen

 

Symphonic Prog

4.02 | 89 ratings

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Matti
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Antony Kalugin has been extremely productive recently. In 2020 came out two Karfagen albums, Birds of Passage in January and this one in December. Not long ago I was deeply charmed by his solo -- literally solo, ie. multi- instrumentalist's one-man performance -- album Marshmallow Moondust, absolutely one of my favourite releases of 2020. It is instrumental, melodic and easy-to-enjoy symphonic prog comparable most of all to WILLOWGLASS. We're in the familiar Karfagen/Kalugin territory with this one too.

Principles and Theory of Spektra was composed and recorded mainly in 2015-16, during the sessions of the albums 7 and Spektra, and finished last year. In advance I was wondering what the relation to Spektra really meant in practice. If these compositions are any sort of leftovers, it's definitely not to be figured out from the artistic level. I think I'll have a mental struggle ahead with the rating. Half of me is ready to name this among Kalugin's finest works (and so five stars would be a natural choice), and the other half of me is slightly more reserved, thinking that his style is by now getting too familiar and cosy for its own good. In other words, that the fast pace of putting out new releases is too much too soon to be fully cherished.

As opposed to Birds of Passage and Marshmallow Moondust that both feature two long pieces, this album contains six compositions roughly of ten minutes' average length, forming two 3-track "Phases". Antony plays only keyboards this time and adds wordless vocals, just a little, while guitars are played by Max Velychko, bass by Oleg Prokhorov and drums by Ivan Goritski. In the classic Karfagen style there are also guest appearances for violin, flute, bassoon and oboe.

I agree with the previous reviewer that 'Levitation' has some connotations to Steve Hackett and perhaps feels slightly stiff here and there (the cynical phrase "prog by numbers" could be used), on the other hand it contains gorgeous soloing and soaring melodies, and the flute adds freshness. Undeniably an enjoyable piece, if not one to blow your hat off. 'Hunter' sounds more old-school neo prog than Karfagen usually does, with its fast and muscular synth work, and I would have preferred it without the voice in the background. 13-minute 'Phantasmagoria' is mostly very mellow. The electro-acoustic soundscape has a lot of space and variety, featuring Dutch guitarist Eddie Mulder (Leap Day, Trion) as a special guest. The calm acoustic sections are very beautiful.

Gentle electric piano opens 'Birth of a Star' that contains relaxed joyfulness indeed reminiscent of Focus. Flute sounds lovely, and also violin and bassoon add nice colour. As the composition also progresses dynamically, this is Karfagen at its most enjoyable! 'Calypso' is not flowing quite as naturally, but contains fine details such as Lesya Kofanova's impressive flute parts. I agree, 'Gravitation' could have included vocals & lyrics, and that would have given the whole album some extra depth and spine.

This is another highly enjoyable album from Antony Kalugen (and his co-musicians). Since I wasn't quite as charmed by the album whole as with Marshmallow Moondust in particular -- I think it's too early to estimate how much the fast pace of releases affects to the initial reception -- I don't give a full rating this time, but I do give my warmest recommendation for those who enjoy mellow, melodic and slightly fusiony instrumental prog in the vein of Willowglass, Camel and Focus.

Matti | 4/5 |

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