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Nurkostam - III Of Dreamers CD (album) cover





3.08 | 16 ratings

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3 stars Once again, I'll preface this by pointing out that I was asked to review this album by a member of the band; I've tried not to let this affect my judgement, but I wanted to put this caveat in just so you know where I'm coming from here.

As on their previous album, Nurkostam kick off with a piece that shows a strong King Crimson influence, filtered through Anekdoten. I noticed immediately, however, that the production on the song seemed murkier and fuzzier - as though the group didn't have access to as advanced a studio as they had used on XIII.

Though this is disappointing, it isn't as damaging to the material as it might be, since III of Dreamers is a murky album which deliberately works to establish a spooky atmosphere, both with the driving, almost Zeuhlish rhythms of the Overture and the quiet, mysterious Camel Song (which features sudden Mellotron-led interjections which put me in mind of early King Crimson). A shadowy, mysterious tone asserts itself with the first tracks of the album, and though once again the vocals do very little for me, at least this time around they don't upstage the gorgeous instrumental work.

The moody opening gives way to gentle nostalgia in the placid Ocean, which has a sort of Sigur Ros quality to it and is really quite charming, with its muffled guitar sound contrasting against clear, twinkling tones. In similarly post-rock-influenced territory is the quietly dramatic The Dreamer, whose piano- and strings-led instrumentation travels from the calmness of Ocean back to the more troubled moods of the album's opening. It's certainly a decent track, and whilst I would usually think it a bad decision to sequence two instrumentals which don't involve full band instrumentation back-to-back, the emotional journey this part of the album takes you on is ample payoff for such an approach.

The second half of the album is somewhat less impressive. Almost Famous begins with a "tuning up" section followed by gentle acoustic guitar and restrained keys, before breaking out into a full band piece at the two minute mark, in a manner reminiscent of early Yes (it sounds like an earnest attempt to do their take on the sound of the Yes Album). Whilst pleasant, I think the acoustic guitar intro lasts slightly too long, and whilst the synth work in the outro is certainly tasteful, I think the vocals unfortunately show up the limitations of the band's vocalist once again. The inclusion of Polyphonic Spree-styled backing vocals is a help, no doubt, but when your backing singers are upstaging your lead singer then you've got a problem.

This is followed up with "Dike", which sounds to me like a careful tribute to Stupid Dream- era Porcupine Tree, especially with its inclusion of electronic drum rhythms and the guitar sound. Again, like so much of the material on XIII, it's a competent exercise in mimicing the style of a successful band, but it doesn't exactly help stake out what makes Nurkostam uniquely Nurkostam - if, indeed, the band has any identity at all separate from its influences. The louder, harsher Motherside that follows up Dike, in its allusions to later-period Porcupine Tree, only underlines this point. The album does at least finish on a high note with Anon, which includes a few jazzy influences and a certain foreboding atmosphere which creeps in over the course of the track, reminding me of the higher standards set earlier on.

I realise that doing a simple track-by-track review of an album isn't always the best approach, but with this material I struggle to find other ways to approach it; once again, Nurkostam have come up with a collection of songs that are all going in different directions, demanding that they be assessed separately rather than as a whole. On the whole, I'm going to give III the Dreamer a three-star rating: it's a definite and clear improvement over the debut, but it's let down a little by uneven production standards and, in particular, a few weak tracks in the second half.

Warthur | 3/5 |


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