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Five-Storey Ensemble - Not That City CD (album) cover


Five-Storey Ensemble



5.00 | 2 ratings

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5 stars Out of the ashes of RATIONAL DIET rises this phoenix of incredible power and beauty--in my humble opinion, an album ten times better than the very well crafted albums of its predecessor. Yes, Five-Storey Ensemble is the spawn of RATIONAL DIET. RATIONAL DIET founding member and reed player, Vitaly Appow, and keyboard/vocalist Olga Podgaiskaja, of the final two RATIONAL DIET albums, At Work and On Phenomenon and Existences, are principle composers here, while violinist, Cyrill Christya, and bass guitarist, Dmitry Maslovsky participate on several songs. While I thoroughly enjoyed the Avant/RIO/Modern Chamber musings of RD, I was quick to zoom in on Not That City once it was posted on Bam! Was I broadsided! This album blew me away from the opener through to the last song. It's music is reminiscent of RATIONAL DIET but, like ARANIS, it is much more melodic. Plus, vocals play a much more important role in defining their sound. The vocals here are used more operatically--and really only used in the forefront of four different songs. Whenever the male tenor and female soprano voices perform I find myself reminded of Goreki's Third Symphony. Even though vocalists Sergey Dolgushev and composer and keyboard player, Olga Podgaiskaja, respectively, employ operatic approaches stylistically, their vocals are often used almost more as additional instruments--which has the tremendous effect of deepening the conveyance of emotions within each song. And each singer makes such a distinct and different contribution to the songs with their voices--often at the same time--that it has the effect of bringing two very different, almost divergent threads into the emotional weave.

1. "The Harbinger" (5:51) opens the album with some long, sustained note playing from accordion player, Alexander But'ko. He is then gradually joined by violinist, Anastasia Popova, and oboist, Natalja Malashova, all weaving their magical notes together, slowly, deliciously. At the 2:20 mark pianist Olga Podgaiskaja, bassoonist Vitaly Appow, and double bass player Vyacheslav Plesko join in, taking the music into more staccato, rapido mode for several measures before fading back to let the original weave evolve. This cycle of piano- and bass-infused tempo upgrade recurs twice more, before the third occasion, in the third minute, ion which a prolonged, sustained dark theme more suited to PRESENT or UNIVERS ZERO is presented and built upon. This continues until 4:15 when an additional thread of color is provided by male vocalist, Sergey Dolgushev. We then see the song devolve into a final weave coming from Sergey's plaintive voice and Alexander's emotional accordion. Awesome song--though it does get drawn out a bit in places. I've heard this song in three different formats now, album version and two different live performances with two very different instrumental lineups (one more expanded, like the album version). (The YouTube link I provided is to a video recording of the song being performed by the band in front of a live audience.) Each has its strengths and charms. (10/10)

2. "Bondman's Wings" (2:24) is a short, beautiful and powerful 'folk' instrumental using accordion, bassoon, oboe, and stringed instruments (with some military-like percussion) to tell its tale. Charming! (10/10)

3. "The Incommunication" (5:22) uses alternating female and male vocals as if in conversation. It sounds so romantic yet spiritual, almost religious. Sparse instrumentation of long sustained chords accompany the vocal until the two minute mark when a kind of Renaissance courtly music dances us into another dimension. Incredible constructions of seemingly independent instrumental voices all woven into a spacious yet multi-layered tapestry of exquisite beauty! The voices return for the final two minutes, this time woven within the multi-layered tapestry (a bit too much going on here for these ears). (10/10)

4. "To Ringfly" (3:11) begins as a rondo between accordion, bassoon and percussion and plays out very much in that format with the occasional instrument added here or there. One of my favorite instrumentals, very much in the vein of the best of AFTER CRYING. (10/10)

5. "A Disappearing Road" (4:42) To pulsing bassoon, and drum are soon woven in with accordion and other woodwinds. The first third is very Baroque/Renaissance processional feeling, but then structure shifts at about the two minute mark, taking on a more squared, constant feel, and then again at the 3:20 mark in which cacophonous strings play wildly over a woodwind section that holds long, long notes in strange discordant harmonies. Interesting and unusual. (9/10)

6. "The Unpainted" (7:57) is a haunting, even disturbing song beginning with simple piano arpeggio, double bass, and intermittent injections of string or woodwind instruments. Just after the one minute mark, the discordant tones of a female vocalist enters in low registers, then slowly climbs, octave by octave, until a minute later she is singing her dirge in her highest soprano register. Piano, strings, and woodwinds work themselves into until at 3:35 drums join in to accentuate the drama. A few seconds later and all has calmed down to 'solo' piano attended very sparsely by injections of winds, strings, percussives and, in the sixth minute, an electric guitar(!)--all painting a picture of the most ominous and despondent tones. The most UNIVERS ZERO-sounding song yet! (12/15)

7. Yesterday Dormant" (5:40) is a classical sounding discourse between male and female vocalists. Very powerful. I love music like this (no matter that it's being sung in a language I neither know nor understand.) It kind of reminds me of a more classical sophisticated version of Jon Anderson's "Chagall Duet," a conversational duet he did with Sandrine Piau from 1994's Change We Must. Beautiful music! Very powerful in the way that Sergey's tenor is so strong, staccato, and positive while Olga's soprano is so delicate, melodic and pleading. (10/10)

8. "The Protector" (3:22) uses oboe and piano over rapid hand drumming--all of which makes me feel very at home, as if I were at a Renaissance Faire. The slowed down piano chord hits with cello and percussion section that begins around the 2:20 mark is quite devastatingly sad, a mood that is then quickly dispelled with a return to the opening section. But the song then concludes with a half-a-minute of some very ambiguous chords and feel. (9/10)

9. "Fear-Dream" (3:47) piano, strings and bassoon dominate this one, though accordion, oboe and a little percussion are also involved. It's very powerful and emotional. Electric guitar even joins in for some soloing a couple of times--especially during the last minute. This one reminds me of the music of one of my favorite modern groups, KOTEBEL. (9/10)

10. "Amid the Smoke and Different Question" (6:31) starts out sounding like a Broadway/operetta, even Moulin Rouge-ish. A male vocalist sings over the simple support of long, sustained accordion chords, and later is accompanied by an almost-separate woodwind dance, then another separate, discordant thread comes from strings, and then yet another seemingly unrelated theme arises from the deeper woodwinds. It's as if several small troubadour groups are parading through a town center, criss-crossing at the center, each playing its own little diddy as it passes by where the tenor continues, unphased, singing his plaintive dirge. Brilliant and gutsy! (9/10)

11. "Not That City" (6:57) (YouTube link is to a video recording of the song being performed by the band live [before a "dead audience"!]) The recording of the band performing begins as a rondo between oboe, cor anglais, and bowed double bass and then accordion. Then harpsichord takes over! The other instruments join in in a frolicking folksie tune with the accordion and cor anglais kind of dominating the twin melody lines. The at 2:15 all stops and piano enters to take over lead melody and rhythm making while all other instruments slow down in long languorous sustained notes in gorgeous harmonies. At 3:32 it happens again, everything stops and adjusts to a section in which strings lead the basic rhythm while all else pulse and dance around them (even the double bass and viola). Another shift allows the song to play out its final minute in a very dreamy, mysterious but beautiful way. Incredible song! My favorite on the album. Were I a music theorist I might appreciate and enjoy this even more?it seems so bold and daring. (15/15)

Without a doubt Not That City is one of my favorite album of the albums I've heard from 2013. It's music excites and mesmerizes me, its constructs surprise and delight--they raise my hopes for the possibilities of music and for the possibilities of humanity.

5 Stars, unquestioned; six if it were allowed (occasionally). I've not been this excited about a new album since MAUDLIN OF THE WELL's Part The Second blew me away back in '09. Stunningly creative and fresh.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


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