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Rozmainsky & Mikhaylov Project - I Am a Stranger in the Earth CD (album) cover


Rozmainsky & Mikhaylov Project

Eclectic Prog

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4 stars A mostly instrumental affair, with some scattered female vocals bearing no lyrics (but contributing decisively to create harmonic atmosphere), this album seems to lean on titles and cover art to project a sort of "narrative program": we see the stranger coming through a standard cliché "wormhole gate" to our contemporary urban world, and taking it from there, the track titles plot step by step his journey of exploration.

But the actual meat is not so much in the story itself, as in the music setting the scenery. There you have nice experimental interaction between keyboards and guitars, composing a richly embroidered tapestry, which is, for the most part, very calm paced and transparent in harmony (yet abundant in tasty dissonance). There is also a generous portion of classical tinges thrown in, for which every ear should be grateful (as I think they are indeed), and that brings a healthy alternation with the more atonal experimentation. The occasional intervention of the drums seems a bit erratic in those experimental sections (to my ears at least), but getting assurance in pace and timing for the more traditional stuff.

Summing up: a good new experience for me, with a decisive virtue: even sounding so classic in terms of the vintage sound of guitars and keyboards (plus clarinet and violin, of course), this record never sounds dated or indebted with the ubiquitous influences so common in the whole prog genre. Good, but, bringing some fresh air, more than good.

Report this review (#2460001)
Posted Monday, October 26, 2020 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars [Originally published at The Progressive Aspect]

Sometimes it helps to take a break and come back to an album. When I first listened to the new album from Rozmainsky & Mikhaylov Project (RMP), I was still in thrall to Compassionizer's Caress of Compassion, and found myself quite underwhelmed by I Am A Stranger In The Earth. In fact, I couldn't even finish it, and put it aside for another day. Compassionizer is such a stiring and visceral piece of work, that it was hardly surprising that I Am A Stranger? might pale in comparison. Ironically, I suspect the sound of this RMP is more what a lot of people might have been expecting from Compassionizer, as since I wrote my own review I've read several that struggled to reconcile their understanding of what compassion should sound like, with the at times quite unsettling textures of Caress of Compassion.

I Am A Stranger?, despite by appearance (from the cover art and song titles) portraying an experience that would seem to evoke more negative emotions, comes across as quite playfully optimistic. As with anything that Ivan Rozmainsky puts his hand to, there is a touch of the avant, but overall this is a quite melodic feast. What I've always liked about Rozmainsky's music is that his musical points of reference always seem very different to most Western artists who otherwise are creating similar music. I presume this is down to geography, and the intersection of east and west, but regardless it creates something quite unique and special. If push came to shove, and I was forced, I could just about make some comparisons to King Crimson and Pink Floyd, but there are really only hints of those, and it would be stretching to call them similarities.

I've thus far mentioned only Rozmainsky, which is perhaps unfair given the name of this group. However, while it is his keyboard playing which drew me to the Project, and which provides a lot of my enjoyment, there's no doubt that Vladimir Mikhaylov plays some interesting guitar, creating some absolutely wonderful soundscapes at times. Generally I find that the less conventional his playing, the more I enjoy it. But I absolutely have to also mention the clarinet and bass clarinet playing of Leonid Perevalov (who also impressed me on the Compassionizer album). Some of my favourite moments and passages come from Perevalov's playing. The rhythm section of Yuri Groiser (who also played on the Compassionizer album) on drums, and Max Lokosov (who plays some very nifty bass that is almost subliminal in the way it attracts my attention), is also notable.

Mikhaylov also provides samples throughout the album which often provoke more reaction from me than his guitar playing (that is meant as a compliment to both), most effectively (for me) on X-Mas Child. Innocence and ExperiencE. But that track is towards the end of the album. So let's go back to the third track, On a Factory of Broken Dreams, which is the first to offer something a little less assured and positive. It's possibly because of this added edge that it is also one of the first tracks that is a particular favourite of mine. I can't help but be reminded of a long walk home in the dark, alone, when I was younger. I can't really remember much about that night, or even how old I was, or why I was afraid. But the first part of the song reminds me of how I was at first still somewhat confident, though cautious, before fear began to overwhelm me, just as the music becomes overwhelming. There's an interlude of relative peace, before the disquiet returns, and the music remains on edge, and full of trepidation for its remainder. I love it!

Steps. Loneliness in the CrowD is perhaps closest to a more conventional instrumental, albeit full of dissonance and difference. Mikhaylov's guitar playing even approaches being called Floydian. Of course, this can't last, and the track sort of disintegrates and trails off into ambience, which continues into the introduction of Something HappeneD to My Heart. Like much of this album, this number can sound on first listen to be similar to Roz Vitalis, but more beautiful, simple and melodic. This is only superficial, though, as the music of RMP is still quite intriguing and layered, with subtle atmospheres and textures. There's still plenty of darkness and discordance to be found ? it's merely more well hidden.

Blot Out All Mine Iniquities is another favourite, and again quite possibly because it sounds quite different from what has come before. It sounds quasi-religious, with bubbling church organ-like keys, that tinkle as if played by a sugar plum fairy whose halo has dropped somewhat, before the final 45-seconds bring a surprisingly fuller sound. Loss of Watchfulness, which follows, is also bubbly, though in quite a different way. This track at first reminds me a little of the angular jazz that one can often find on the MoonJune label, before going off on another tangent entirely. It's left to Uphold Me With Thy Free Spirit to calm things down, but it's possibly a little too calm, and a little too beautiful for me. Thankfully, as should probably be expected, nothing remains the same too long in a Rozmainsky & Mikhaylov Project number. On the other hand, it should probably go without saying that I love the track titled Strange Area. Something's Wrong Here.

Overall, I'm far more impressed with the Rozmainsky & Mikhaylov Project than I was initially. They appear to fill a gap wonderfully between the melodic and the avant garde ? the two creating a quite beautiful collision. It was that beauty that I initially found off- putting, but I think that was purely because my head was still caressed by Compassionizer. Their sound is far more multi-faceted than I initially thought, and had I persisted in listening to more of the album originally, I may well have come around. The varied moods and textures really work well, and the delicate way darkness and dissonance is introduced is quite delightful. It may not be as in your face as Roz Vitalis and Compassionizer, but it's definitely still there. I'll now be going back to check out RMP's debut and live album, which have been on my "to listen to" list for far too long now, and likely still would be had I not taken on this album for review.

Report this review (#2489784)
Posted Saturday, January 2, 2021 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Team
4 stars Here we have the second studio album from Ivan Rozmainsky (keyboards, Roz Vitalis) and Vladimir Mikhaylov (guitars, percussion, drill, samples, Enine, Algabas). As with their debut album, 2017's 'For The Light', they are again joined by clarinettist Leonid Perevalov (Yojo, Pustotsvet) and drummer Yurii Groiser, and this time have utilised bassist Max Lokosov as well as some guests. I have long been a fan of Roz Vitalis, who are surely one of the most consistent and innovative bands to come out of Russia, and RMP allows Ivan to work with a melodic partner to take his modern classically inspired music into far more experimental and innovative directions.

There are times when the musical threads feel somewhat disconnected and unconnected, and it takes time for the brain to fathom what is really going on. The band themselves describe this album as almost instrumental (with rare female voices) progressive rock combining avant-prog, space-rock, psychedelic rock and improvisational music, yet while all that is true there are also elements of free jazz and even some RIO. Ivan produces a melodic base, often with piano, while Vladimir sometimes follows or goes off at complete tangents, Leonid may or may not be involved at all, while Yurii follows a path all on his own and Max tries to provide a link between them all. There are times when the music is complex in its arrangement that it feels like it has been scored for a modern orchestra and others when it feels so free as musicians go where they feel the need to explore. There is a great deal of space within the music, allowing everyone to come together or move apart as the need arises, and the listener is never sure where they are going to be taken except that the journey is definitely going to be worthwhile.

Yet another extremely enjoyable progressive album from Russia, and I look forward to the next one with great interest.

Report this review (#2595368)
Posted Saturday, September 18, 2021 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars First of all, the little "mistery" about the capital letters at the end of some words in the tracks titles. What do they mean? DDENE may be combined into "ENDED", but that's all.

Second, the album art: instead of an alien, as the album title may suggest, an ice age man comes to a city through a portal. This may help to understand the concept. I know that speaking of concept on instrumental albums may sound strange, but music is emotional and when the composer takes inspiration from a concept, this is an added layer.

Third, more important: the music.

I admit that I've taken very long before attempting a review. The album is not challenging, but requires attention and time before clicking. A hint: take the track title in mind while listening.

Now let's start the review.

The title track is not just an intro. The bass of the guest Ruslan Sobonin is the rhythmic element on a base made by a good fusion of keys and guitar. Leonid Perevalov's clarinet is barely perceivable but quite fundamental, unless my ears are wrong and it's a keyboard.

"For The Sun Of Righteousness" is calm and maybe newagey in the beginning, with the strings played by Ksenia Vaganova, another guest, setting a classical mood. Later it becomes a little darker. It sets the mood for the next track: "On a Factory of Broken Dreams". In the beginning, in background you can hear the last notes of the previous one. A three chords progression in crescendo after 1 minute and half is turned into something more "Crimsonian" that's introduced by drums. When bass and drums stop the initial progression is back but in a dreamy way. The track title is "On a Factory of Broken Dreams". It gives the idea. The track proceeds on a 2 chords progression. Daily Doug would say 1->3 then there's a remind to the previous track.

Again three chords, but it's the guitar this time, with some background vocals. It's "Steps. Loneliness in the CrowD". Imagine a stranger walking down a crowded street in a city night. This is what this music makes me think to. A bluesy guitar/keys duo to which later bass clarinet is added. Steps and rain close it.

"Something HappeneD to My Heart". A sad music reminding of the atmospheres of the Ucrainian band Yojo. The depressing view of a smoky city in the winter for the second longest track of the album. "Blot Out all Mine Iniquities" has a keyboard and church organ intro of the kind that remains impressed in the mind. In the same time, it's a very complex track full of different things and evolves into the following jazzy track "Loss of Watchfulness". Also this changes suddenly into something different.

"Uphold Me with Thy Free Spirit" an initial sequence of 8 notes then bass and guitar, then voices (or keyboard's ooh?) create something between Mike Oldfield and Peter Bardens. three intense minutes. It's a pity that this theme hasn't evolved into a long suite.

"In Forest. А Matter of ChoicE" is built around four bass notes. Probably the easiest and catchy track. I underline the guitar work: essential, never selfish, Just the needed notes. It reminds me to Camel. The ending forest sounds lead to "Strange Area. Something's Wrong Here". Now it's time for a dark ambient and strange keyboard sounds, with different things going on. It really gives the idea of the track title. Cinematic.

"Summer Haze. Lazy Dreams" emerges from the darkness of the previous track. Even with major and "7+" chords it gives me the idea of a wood in a mountain environment. The following "Night Flight. Еxperience of LevitatioN" has more rhythm, it's a proper rock track. Very enjoyable. It ends slowing down and becoming more atmospheric.

"X-Mas Child. Innocence and ExperiencE": by coincidence I'm writing this review on the X-Mas day. A nice guitar harping with soft drums and keyboard repeating a short theme. Children voices, bells sounds. I don't know how it fits in the album's concept. The last 30 seconds make me think to Vangelis.

Now the ending track. A female voice starts but soon leaves the scene. A bluesy guitar alternates with dreamy sounds, between newage and Pink Floyd.

As I have written initially, this album requires time and attention. Relistening to it while I was writing, taking the time to analyze every single track has transformed my listening experience, while I have to admit that initially I struggled to get into it.

An excellent album, very well played, arranged and produced if you have enough patience and time to dedicate to it.

Report this review (#2655401)
Posted Saturday, December 25, 2021 | Review Permalink

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