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Karfagen - Messages From Afar - First Contact CD (album) cover

MESSAGES FROM AFAR - FIRST CONTACT

Karfagen

Symphonic Prog


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5 stars The territory of good progressive rock can be easy described as the country of "unspeackable intelligence". The number of albums that might be described this way growes faster and faster last years. There is a few among them that can satisfy me completely. Because the obvious lack of long-term promotion, new Karfagen release "Messages from afar: first contact" can be surprise for you. It was announced as the extremely melodic instrumental symphonic prog and this description perfectly fits the album. Let's look closer now. The album divided into three parts ? messages. First track of the first of them opens the album and reveals the general intro ? kinda announcing the concept that lies ahead. That is the only informative vocal fragment and it is very important for album structure. After the intro makes step beyond, the optimistic and calming movements from the "First contact", the title song, take the scene. Here is a lot of key and guitar melodies, structured with the strong rhythm. Typical Karfagenic sound, similar in some points to "The Seven Gates" from "7" sounds solemn until the fading. After that new bass rhythm arises with the start of "Foreign land" ? a lot of leading saxophone and guitar, enriched with numerous instruments and harmonic phrases. A lot of "sound gaps" inserted in general scheme reveal the strong rhythmic basement of the song. The first message finishes with short but well-ballanced "Curious talk". On the one hand, the song is energetic and major; on the other one, it sounds very carefull, as the final of album part should. The second message starts with a-capella saxophone, that reveals the contouring structure of message II. "Volcano rabbit and the Frog" is probably the most dynamic and techno-aggressive part of the album. In some movements it brings us back to the "Magician's theater". It is quite predictible because of the Frog semantic of the song title. The images, delivered by the "Faces in the Cloud", the next song, reminds us another part of Antony Kalugin discography. It also has a few transmissions to the "First contact" and developes themes from the previous track so it's quite informative for three minutes. The central part of message II shows the main theme on the background, while the song texture filled with a lot of different movements, including cosmic sounds and saxophone solos. "Golden Fields of Rye" after that appears as light and calm song, which drives us to the end of message II ? "Riding on a rainbow". This part is the conclusion of all previous ones in cosmic manner. It also finishes the contouring of the message II with final saxophone sound. Third message consists one track ? "Constant flow". This is the most fragmented song of the album, which combines different dynamic movements in flow of energetic and melodic sounds changing. It finishes with vocal fragment, that closes the general contouring structure of the album and makes the first cycle of messages complete. There is some details that can be improved. Probably, the promotion is among them. There also is some defects on the songs and movements connection and transitions. I wish it to be more fluent. But it means nothing comparing to great quality of the album. To conclude, Messages from Afar is wonderful instanse of symphonic prog. It is intelligent, smart, perfectly ballanced and sounds awesome. It has interesting inner and outer structure and a lot of transmissions. Finally, the design of new album is also great. Thanks, Karfagen! I definitely recommend to listen and enjoy it.
Report this review (#1827390)
Posted Wednesday, November 29, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Our world is quite wonderful in oh so many different varieties: feelings and smells, colors and emotions - all that are in our daily life can also appear in music. All these emotions and feelings you can "taste" when listening to Karfagen's album "Messages from Afar: First Contact". This opus is full of haunting popular motives. With Karfagen's unique individual harmonies and complexity within its compositional structures. From the very first heartbeat it's music takes you to another reality a different plain, where you so easily greet the sky and brush the wind, crossing the night skyline. You are astonished by the evolving change of picturesque landscapes. Ascensional lines of bass with syncopate guitars alternate with magic saxophone and much more mysterious voices from vale of dreams and golden fields of rye. Whilst the music rocks nothing can disturb your flight. However, when the travelling finally ends your mind is fully loaded like a rainbow in the brightest sky: boundless thoughts - that brings us so many messages from afar?Highly recommend to listening!
Report this review (#1840588)
Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Okay, my bad... (Really, really, really bad)... Usually, I will ALWAYS adhere to the listen and delete after 24 hours rule...

Four days later... This is still blaring through my stereo... I think (correction: KNOW) I'm going to have to shell out the money for this... Think: Pink Floyd - A Momentary Lapse of Reason Part II... But, decidedly different... There are some guitar and compositional bits that so remind me of David Gilmour, Steve Hackett, and then, some bits that remind me of Steve Howe... The album starts of with a vibe of "Learning to Fly", and moves on almost into a mid-period Yes... I'm much better with a guitar than words... All I can tell you is that this is a high quality album, and well worth your time..

I'm a guitar player, and a horrible reviewer of albums... (Sorry)... BUT: I know what I like; and I love this!!! If you can find it, give this a test run...

Well worth the time and money...

As always, your actual mileage may vary...

Grace and peace, Cylli (Jim Calistro)

4.62 on the progarchives score I love this, you may not...

Report this review (#1840643)
Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 | Review Permalink
Han
4 stars The musicly masterbrain Anthony Kalugin has done it again! His child Karfagen grew and grew and reached the point of being adolescent. What a fine album this has become. Ive seen Anthony play live wirh Kargagen/Sunchild at the Progdreams V festival at culuurpodium Boerderij Zoetermeer, Netherlands. Line-up Focus, Mastery, Dave Kerzner, District97 and others. Mindblowing live performance, great musicianship by all members of the band. They deserve to be headliner someday! If you like instrumental prog this new album is a must have. Listen and close your eyes and drift away into a world of messages from afar and make first contact with Karfagen.
Report this review (#1841274)
Posted Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars To begin with: amazing, fantastic, absolutely superb musicianship of the guitarist. This is the first impression from the album. The music bears a faint resemblance to Space Circus and maybe also another Japanese prog fusion band, Kennedy. Unfortunately, when they sing (what occurs, let's say, not too often), they sing in English. There's nothing to be done, I strongly prefer native languages, my apologies. However their English is good (I asked specialists). Not sure that Karfagen provides a correct idea of Ukrainian prog scene/school as a whole. In other words, not sure that Karfagen is representative enough for Ukrainian prog. But anyway this band is very interesting. Golden Fields of Rye reminds me not of real fields of rye (which, I believe, are indeed as golden in Ukraine as in my home village near Borovsk) but rather of water-flooded green fields of rice in Karakalpakstan (before the shrinking of Aral). The final 16-minute track is expected to be an epic but in actual fact breaks the prog standards for constructing epic suites appearing to be no more than just a very long - and very enjoyable - instrumental piece.
Report this review (#1842815)
Posted Sunday, December 17, 2017 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One of Antony Kalugin's 2017 releases. Apparently it's a companion to a soon-to-be-released SUNCHILD album.

1. "First Contact" (7:14) a trip-hoppy David Gilmour song?! That's exactly what the opening music and vocal sound like. After the vocals have played out and the vast instrumental mid-section takes over, it sounds a little more original with some nice non-Gilmourian guitar work from Max Velychko. The chunky fretless-sounding bass throughout is nice. (8.5/10)

2. "Foreign Land" (7:23) bass and sax are the featured instruments over the first ninety seconds of this one as the rest of the band supports by helping to create a kind of spacey, jazzy PINK FLOYD sound. This is even more strongly developed as the song goes on, as the electric guitar solo screams and wails. At the end of the fourth minute things quiet down so that a flute can solo. But then the guitar takes over again and everybody amps up their volumes in support. Unfortunately, nothing very special happens here--save for the Pink Floyd reminders. (7.5/10)

3. "Curious Talk" (3:30) nice easy listening lounge adult contemporary jazz music; nothing very proggy or barely even NeoProggy here. (7/10)

4. "Volcano Rabbit & The Frog" (5:33) some cool IQ-like keyboard sounds and synth work here but that's really what the song feels like: a straightforward set up for supporting showy guitar and keyboard solos. (8/10)

5. "Faces In The Clouds (3:08) spacious slow music that helps support some nice synthesizer and guitar work--probably my favorite sounds and feels, both in the solo instrumentation as well as the support tapestry. I haven't heard this wonderful guitar sound since PAUL SPEER was using it in the 1990s. Piano opening with synth "violins" joining in for the intro before drums and bass jump in and the music falls into line like an good World Music/soft jazz/New Age song from the 1990s. The overall weave and sound palette here is actually quite nice, quite workable. (9/10)

6. "Vale Of Dreams (8:34) virtually a continuation of the previous song with synth-created orchestral and vocal instruments joining into the weave. Again, the Paul Speer guitar sound is used--which I can't seem to help enjoying. Max actually does some really nice soloing here in that second minute. Tempo shift and disco bass at the 2:30 mark should derail my enjoyment but it doesn't. The FIXX-like work in the fourth minute is a bit odd but they make it work okay. Frequent returns to the guitar-led, synth-choral supported melody helps keep me engaged, to be sure. Definitely a brain worm of a melody. The sax in the final two minutes is tolerable. (Not a sax fan.) (9/10)

7. "Golden Fields Of Rye (2:15) bleeds over from the previous song, carrying the main melody, but using a piano and more sparsely instrumented base for support. Pretty enough. (8/10)

8. "Riding On A Rainbow (2:53) the same melody of the previous two songs shifted over to a different group of instruments and woven in with harmonizing second and third instrumental tracks. I'm glad Antony realized that he had, in fact, created quite a nice melody--enough so to try it in a variety of settings and soundscapes. I suppose the listener should have been notified of the "suite" nature of the past four songs. (8/10)

9. "Constant Flow (15:45) multiple tracks weaving together variations on a nice melody. At times in the first few minutes there is a very familiar feeling and sound here--like it's from Todd Rundgren's UTOPIA's "The Ikon," but then it switches to more GENESIS territory (despite the heavy use of "horns" sounds). Again, I wish these compositions weren't so familiar sounding, that they had more fresh, innovative energy to them. Pure Neo Prog if only because of the use and imitation of old sounds and styles. Nothing very special here. (7.5/10)

Antony's projects are always pleasant and sophisticated. My biggest complaint is the use of what feels and sounds like 1990s equipment and sound standards and rarely creating songs that sound innovative or boundary-pushing.

3.5 stars; an album that lovers of old sounds and Neo Prog will probably really enjoy.

Report this review (#1842899)
Posted Sunday, December 17, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars I knew this band (and the other project named "Sunchild" by the mastermind Antony Kalugin) only recently at a festival in Italy. So I cannot say I have followed their evolution so far. Anyway I listened to almost all their music now and I must say that what strikes most is their eclecticism: even though their sound is perfectly recognizable, you can find in it classic prog with many shades of folk, jazz, even some new wave...p In this record I would say the bearing structure is made of symphonic prog. The album begins with "First contact" and both the voice and the guitar sound remind me of David Gilmour (I dare to say Pink Floyd 90's era). But it is only the first section of the song, that soon developes into something different: a long instrumental part and then again some great guitar moments. This emotional rollercoaster will be a constant throughout all the album.p Other strong dish is the trio "Faces in the clouds"/"Vale of dreams"/"Golden fields of rye". The three songs flow as they were one single piece of music (at least it is my feeling) but in this streaming I can find several moods and emotions: everything is in its right place, from an astonishing guitar work to some delicate piano and sax interludes.p The record ends up with the longest track, the 15-minute long "Constant flow". Despite its name, the song is not so "constant", but it is an intricacy of different melodies, among which stand out some Genesis influences (or again it is my feeling). The closure is a sort of reprise of the Pinkfloydesque initial tunes.p I think in this record they focused mainly on the richness, warmth and complexity of the music, more than on some musical research like in other Karfagen works, and from this point of view the result has been perfectly achieved. Everything sounds very warm and emotional, and it is not always common when you play this kind of music. Special mentions for the guitar musicianship, with a lot of different and intricate tunes but always focused on the feelings, and for the wonderful cover art. I know there will be a continuation of this concept in the new Sunchild opus; I am looking forward to listening to it.p
Report this review (#1865071)
Posted Monday, January 8, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my first time to write a review on here as I have just joined, so for my first ever review it has to be this exciting new album by KARFAGEN. And what a wonderful album this is!

I first heard this band 2 years ago. I was watching EUROVISION (someone has to!) when Ukraine won it and I got curious as to what Ukraine had to offer with Prog, so I googled and Karfagen came up! I listened to a couple of songs on YouTube and was stunned by the sheer quality of their music! My fave band is YES but I wanted some competition and this band is awesome! I bought 3 of their CDs and their last album Spektra was brilliant! So what is the new album like?

Once again they've really delivered some excellent music with Anthony showing how he's the best keyboard player that Yes never had. When I heard their Magician's Theatre album he sounded like Keith Emerson but here he definitely more like Mr. Wakeman. And then there's Max the guitar player; great licks on his guitar with some tasteful touches of wah-wah in places which really add some "extra texture" to the music. Max has all the credentials of being the next in the line of guitar heroes, and it really makes a refreshing change to have this talent from eastern Europe!

The only thing I'm not too keen on is saxophones! And there's some sax on here! But even the sax is very pleasant to listen to as its not overplayed and sounds quite smooth. And the drumming will get your feet tapping as well. In short, this album is FANTASTIC! and I recommend it to anyone who really appreciates Prog that's mostly instrumental. I so want to see this band live!!!

Report this review (#1868847)
Posted Tuesday, January 23, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars What a great suprise. I stumbled upon this release because it was on the frontpage of this website and the albumcover looked great.

To me, this mostly symphonic space prog is exactly what I adore. Adventurous, upbeat, and mostly instrumental. The band combines heavy prog with spacerock and oldschool symphonic rock. So we have influences ranging from Yes, Camel and Ozric Tentacles, Qantuam Fantay and even some Al diMeola/Return to Forever.

With such an eclectic mix of styles/influences you would say it's rather chaotic, but it's not. The music really flows and never bores. I would almost give this five stars, but I'll stick with four stars, because the production is sometimes a little dull.

Report this review (#1869033)
Posted Wednesday, January 24, 2018 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Ukranian keyboardist Antony Kalugin and his Karfagen project have been delivering superb retro-flavoured progressive rock music for well over a decade now, and through the sheer quality of both his vocal and purely instrumental works, it has seen the band step up to become one of the most consistently strong and notable modern Symphonic-Progressive acts currently going. Their latest, 2017's `Messages from Afar: First Contact', a (mostly) instrumental concept tale, is an interesting one - it's proudly in the symphonic mould, but surprisingly very far removed from Seventies sounds this time around. Instead, it more frequently calls to mind the late Eighties/early Nineties `A Momentary Lapse of Reason/The Division Bell' era of Pink Floyd and `The Masquerade Overture/Not of this Earth' period of British Neo-Proggers Pendragon, even down to the icy cool production. For `Messages...', plentiful prominence is given to longtime Karfagen contributor Max Velychko's majestic and fluid electric guitar soloing that effortlessly invokes those two above-mention groups, as well as other recognisable acts such as Camel, Steve Hackett and the Flower Kings. So if any combination of those bands sounds enticing, read on (or better yet, skip this long-winded ramble and just buy the disc!)...

Oddly for a primarily instrumental disc, things start off with a sole vocal piece, and the laid-back and easy-to-enjoy title track `First Contact' instantly calls to mind Pink Floyd's 1987 song `Learning to Fly' (some of the melodies drift awfully close too), with both Antony's smooth lead voice capturing David Gilmour's dulcet tone with uncanny precision, and his leading lady, keyboardist Olha Rostovska's sighing harmonies also reminding of the female backing singers from that stage of the band. Programmed beats also clip through the track, bubbling washes of Antony's keyboards coat the background, Oleg Prokhorov's bass grumbles sweetly, and Velychko offers the first signs of his tastefully chiming and searing heroic guitar runs.

Then it's onto the instrumental home-run of the rest of the disc. The sophisticated `Foreign Land's slinking synths, sweetly murmuring bass and Michail Sidorenko's hazy polished saxophone float together, and Max's guitars effortlessly glide between mellow strums and fiery histrionic wailing. `Curious Talk's dreamy jangling guitars, sparkling electric piano and wispy Mellotrons are spiced with a light eastern flavoured mystery (and it's a little bit funky too!), `Volcano Rabbit & the Frog' is a brash and delirious up-tempo sprint of reprising heavy blasting guitar, Kostya Shepelenko's bashing drums and whirring keyboard themes, and `Faces in the Clouds' is a blissful dreamy Floydian come-down of ringing guitar shimmers with some restrained soaring bursts.

The almost nine-minute `Vale of Dreams' is especially given flight by lengthy, crisp and joyful guitar heroics and uplifting sax, the piece home to so much momentum and positivity, and it's easy to imagine the band with big smiles on their faces dashing through this one! `Golden Fields of Rye's creaky Mellotron flutes and sparkling piano bring a touch of New Age prettiness, and `Riding on a Rainbow' is a synth n' guitar-heavy reinterpretation of the same musical themes that compares nicely to the music found on those older romantic Pendragon albums. But then it's all down to the sixteen minute closer, and `Constant Flow' achieves a near orchestral grandness through diverse range of sounds and styles, some heavier bursts and a welcome balance of differing tempos. It frequently reminds of the eclecticism of Steve Hackett's solo works, and there's no shortage of a smorgasbord of tasty soloing from all the band.

Some will perhaps find the album too guitar heavy, and admittedly it's happy to invoke comfortable memories of some well-loved prog bands of old as opposed to really standing out like many of the best Karfagen albums such as `Lost Symphony' and perhaps `Spektra', meaning some will instantly dismiss it as mere imitation or simple `hero worship'. But if lavish arrangements, impeccable technical ability (and it's admirable that, despite Karfagen being his baby, Antony refuses to hog the attention and is happy for his fellow band-members to take plenty of the spotlight), skilfully reprising musical motifs and colourful grandiosity that isn't afraid to labelled `Prog' with a giant capital P is your thing, then `Messages from Afar: First Contact' is a cracking modern Symphonic disc and a standout instrumental prog-rock album of 2017.

Four and a half stars - and watch out for a second part/continuation of the concepts of this disc in Antony's song-based crossover prog band Sunchild in the coming months.

PS - Just look at Igor Sokolskiy's sublime fantasy art...nice of the band to include it as a smaller fold out poster in the CD booklet, but how about some full-sized posters Antony?! ;)

Report this review (#1870464)
Posted Monday, January 29, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars I heard about this band from Ukraine, but never listened to them. Apparently, they are not newbies in the world of prog music. They sell their latest opus on Bandcamp, and I really liked samples and art work of their CD, so I ordered it. I wan't disappointed!

If you are missing Camel (Moonmadness/ Rain Dance era), Happy The Man or Finch, you should check Karfagen! It mostly consists of lush, keyboard/guitar based instrumental symphonic prog, but also has tasteful parts of woodwinds that add jazzy flavor to their musical stew.

The album is instrumental, except of the first and last tracks. They sound similar to Learning To Fly from Momentary Lapse of reason.

Overall, this album was a very nice surprise, and I'm sure will check their past catalog, and also their future releases.

Report this review (#1941056)
Posted Sunday, June 24, 2018 | Review Permalink

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