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5 stars Principles and Theory of Spektra is a sequel to Spektra from Karfagen in 2016. What is amazing about this release is that it was mainly recorded around the same time. Antony took this off his shelf, gave it some tweaks and we have a splendid new album. I cannot believe this was shelved way back. It is first class and the quality of the music is highly rated. Only one other album of shelved music got me as excited, and that was Jethro Tull's Nightcap album.

A lot of familiar musicians return to fulfil Antony's musical vision and give full account in this journey. Including Max Velychko on guitars, Elena Kushiy on flute with Eddie Mulder guesting on the third track, Phantasmagoria.

Containing mostly mid-sized length of tracks. Some earlier released as singles such as 'Hunter' and 'Levitation'. 'Phantasmagoria' is my favourite track at near 13 minutes long. It opens with a tender start by acoustic guitar and piano. Moving into soft keyboards followed with some flute. A slight pick up in speed half way through with a hint of jazz and an air of mystery proceeds. The climax involving guitar and Antony's magical fingers dancing on the keyboard.

'Birth of a Star' evokes just that. You can envisage a star being born listening to this piece. It has an immediate melody that grows into duel electric guitars with parts having the feel of space, again flutes and keyboard delivering this sense of feeling.

Next comes 'Calypso', this has a start that rocks and hits you. More flute enters with soft electric guitar and moody keyboards. A short repeat of the previous album '7' makes a welcome appearance. There is a tribal feel later in the track. A tremendous finish to this album ensues with 'Gravitation'.

A great companion to the earlier album, Spektra. As with all Karfagen albums, a great addition to anyone's prog rock collection.

Antony has created another wonderful musical interlude by digging in his past. He has made a rough diamond into a shining jewel.

Report this review (#2485551)
Posted Wednesday, December 16, 2020 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yet another full-length and fully-packed prog release from Ukrainian prog workhorse Antony Kalugin--one in which he has surrounded himself with some very talented musicians (and, thus, the Karfagen moniker).

- Phase 1: 1. "Levitation" (9:45) feels so stiff and formulaic--as well as an obvious lift of a couple STEVE HACKETT themes (I think from "Carry on Up a Vicarage" or "The Steppes"). Also rated down from feeling incomplete--as if it could have/should have had vocals and lyrics. (17/20)

2. "Hunter" (6:02) sounds dated in both style and sound--as if it came from the 1980s or perhaps 1990s. Nice instrumental performances but nothing new or refreshing here. More 1980s TONY BANKS/STEVE HACKETT sounds and themes in the fourth minute. Still, not a bad song. Cool ADIEMUS final minute. (8.75/10)

3. "Phantasmagoria" (12:58) opens with New Age GOBI-like nylon string guitar for the first minute. Then keys take over in teh second minute: very sparse, slow, and protracted soundscape. At the two-minute mark the guitar returns--with flute and electric guitar. The sound palette and chord progressions here are borrowed from GENESIS: "Can-Utility and the Coastliners" and "I Know What I like (In Your Wardrobe)," mostly. Out of the pause at the three-minute mark we enter into a Mellotron-washed soundscape in which bubbling synths, electric piano, repetitive bass, and other keyboards and sliding guitar echo-effects (reminding me of ROBIN GUTHRIE) turn into a texturized AL DI MEOLA world (think "Calliope" from Scenario) taking us to 7:23 where everything drops away to give us a return to the reflective GOBI-like guitar and synth washed background from the opening. At 8:35 we then launch into a faster, broadened soundscape in which electric guitar solos for several seconds before everything reverts to open space for some more classical guitar fiddling. At 10:15 we expand again as synth and then electric guitar take turns soloing over the gentle pastoral landscape. A pleasant song that falls very closely into the Marshmallow Moondust category of soothing background music. Again, no vocals or lyrics. (21/25)

- Phase 2: 4. "Birth of a Star" (7:04) gentle Fender Rhodes play opens this before full complement of rock band instruments bursts forth around 0:30. In the second minute the sound morphs into a Ska-based FOCUS-like ballad with flutes and melodic electric guitar soloing like Thijs and Jan, respectively. The presence of violin and a variety of keys and a second flute and bassoon make it even more beautiful. Things get a little quirky Steve-Hackett-like in the fifth minute before almost turning Weather Report but, instead, are steered into a very proggy multiple-guitar peak, topped off by nylon string guitar entrance and then taking things over, bringing us back down to Earth. (13.75/15) 5. "Calypso" (10:57) another song that is tailored in a quirky fashion that is most similar to (and perhaps even imitative of) the long-standing habits of Mr. Steve Hackett. Turning once again to principle collaborator guitarist Max Velychko and his gentle-yet-bold classical guitar in the long middle section results in my favorite passage of the album--which we eventually clomb out of in a brilliant way around the 8:30 mark. Great broad prog rock sound palette uspports some wonderful keyboard synthesiser and then electric guitar soloing though to the eleventh minute when things drop off for a pause but then return with the same wonderful palette and themes for a quick but satisfying finish. By far the best song on the album. (19/20)

6. "Gravitation" (7:26) opens with a long 90 second intro which seems to ramble and flounder before being rescued by the entrance of the full band and the song's two main themes--both of which could easily have been joined by vocals (but are not). There is beauty and satisfaction in this instrumental version of the song, but something in me wants Antony to "prove" his symphonic prog "mettle" by injecting lyrics/libretto into his operatic tunes. (No easy task, I know.) Another tune that occasionally feels as if previously-discarded "prog-by-numbers" themes have been somewhat unnaturally spliced together. However, Antony has here done one of his better jobs of synthesis and integration. (13.25/15)

Total Time 54:12

Though often derivative, Antony's creativity and preponderance of energy is to be admired. I just hope he's not thinking that it's his sole job to keep Prog World afloat in these stark and barren times--like a prog super hero.

B+/four stars; a strong submission to the prog lexicon and my favorite release of 2020 from indefatigable prog professional Antony Kalugin (& Co.) In fact, it is my opinion that Principles and Theory of Spektra is far superior to either Birds of Passage or Marshmallow Moondust. A very nice finish to the year!

Report this review (#2485639)
Posted Thursday, December 17, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars KARFAGEN is the group of multi-instrumentalist Antony KALUGIN who released at the end of last year one of the best prog albums for a long time, at the beginning of the year a very good album, a superb personal album a few weeks ago and therefore there this new album, his 12th, composed-recorded in 2015 - 2016 at the time of the release of "Spektra" and revisited for the holidays. He is always accompanied in his musical research by Eddie Mulder. Remember also that GENESIS, Mike OLDFIELD, UK, CAMEL and THE FLOWER KINGS form a kind of musical reference framework; for the rest, I will let you immerse yourself in his last columns which I had the honor of writing. The pandemic and the containment will have this paradoxical to know an overflowing activity at home. Let's go see what's inside.

Two phases of three tracks with a "Levitation" intro HACKETT on "Horizons" very soft then flight of fruity electric guitar of Max followed by keyboards which come to flesh out the sound; The Génésienne influence is obvious to me with Bankian keyboards, quite energetic instrumental which denotes pleasantly. "Hunter" sets off on a rapid, more frenzied tune, the keyboard solos still in a breathtakingly enjoyable vein; no big news but fresh airs, a bit of JARRE for a few moments, a bit of OLFIELD at another, a bit of INVADERS OF THE HEART at another. "Phantasmagoria" more complex with sequences of drawers, more difficult to integrate with a jazz- rock foray and a mysterious spatial opening making you forget the absence of voice, yes we are of course an instrumental! The end becomes symphonic with a solo in a duo then an acoustic return to seal this title.

Phase 2 begins with "Birth of a Star" with synths and guitar paired for a spatial melody, the flute following bringing its burst of openness, spontaneity; plaintive notes at one time during childbirth? Meditative atmosphere with a few notes of spleen, introspection then crystalline acoustic finesse, oh so imaginative title, remember to close the door at the end the wind arrives. "Calypso" starts off on a heavier and darker rhythm, schizoid I would say with Crimsonian hints, plaintive notes with a moment of digression to the melancholy spleen of the flute; it even becomes tribal, devious and then you suddenly feel yourself sailing on a sea of ​​ sound (dixit) on this musical boat, the plaintive guitar mingling with the other instruments for a series of drawers. "Gravitation" ends the album on a more playful, dynamic pace; the synths eyeing SPOCK BEARD'S or some GENESIS tracks, it's dynamic, enticing as much by the melody as by the riffs and other devastating solos which form a magnificent finale; a musical pearl as I like to say in front of so much prowess of the fingers.

Antony released a record that sounds good in the vein of the 70's, more raw, less creative, less elaborate in the sense of the sound of the 2000s. An album written more than 5 years ago, instrumental, leaving in intoxicating universes, convoluted sounds, charming worked symphonic melodies plunging into what was done very well at the height of progressive rock. Keyboards and guitars can get nervous at times, but they get mixed up almost obviously with classical wind instruments; symphonic art-rock at its highest level, a bit of new-age, folk and a lot more jazzy twists on some tracks. Antony says he is drawn to the retro-regressive melodies of the 70's rather than the technicality and the deluge of notes of current sounds; deep compositions, solos here and there, fruity and spatial keyboards, easily assimilable, integrable melodies make it an undeniable plus. I reduced my analysis of his tracks in view of the tunes they will produce on you, but this release is a definite plus for his discography. His sentence is worth more than my speech: "I produce music that I would like to hear as a listener", it is done.

Report this review (#2487211)
Posted Wednesday, December 23, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a lousy year 2020 has been! Makes you wonder if anything good came out of it! So did any good come?

Yes it did! Apart from a lot of people showing much community spirit, there were 3 CDs that really made you feel good! Karfagen's CD at start of year, then a solo album by Antony Kalugin, and now another CD by Karfagen, and this is an absolute scorcher!!

Antony displays more amazing sounds from his keys, taking us on a wonderful journey with glorious melodies, riffs, solos, counter melodies, showing us his full "musical personality" with sheer versatility. Does this guy ever sleep? And the music creates a superb feel-good factor, which is something we all need right now!

But there's more! Guitarist Max Velychko also shines on this album! I always thought he was a little restrained on previous albums but not here!! He really is "firing on all cylinders" with some great riffs and solos of his own! He plays in total harmony with Antony, neither trying to outdo each other, just playing their hearts out to create the best Prog in 2020! There's plenty of growling guitar, and at other times, very laid back guitar too. Some interesting spacey sounds in the right places to create a tapestry of beautiful music,. And if you like a bit of wah- wah on guitar then the last track Gravitation features tasty bits of that! There's also some very impressive drumming from Ivan Goritski as he proves he is the backbone of this album whereas Antony and Max are heart and soul, and Oleg Prokhorov's bass is the pulse. My favorite track? Has to be track 2 - Hunter. This is Prog at its best!!

So 2020 has ended on a good note (no pun intended) and got 2021 off to a good start!! Now UK is in 3rd lockdown, I'll have more time to spend listening to this album!! If you want some real good tasty Prog of pure quality and excellence, then buy this CD ASAP!!

Report this review (#2490523)
Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2021 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#2493270)
Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars It is quite astonishing to hear from contemporary progressive rock band that it is capable to produce more than good album per year (in fact, it would be perfect to have at least one per year). So when Antony Kalugin announced the third album of him in 2020 it became quite questionable if someone can produce this amount of good music in long-term prospective. Well, the answer is yes. The "Principles and Theory of Spectra" is not worthier (or somewhere better) than excellent "Birds of Passage" and "Marshmallow Moondust", though at the beginning this wasn't obvious for me. What you should know about this album: 1. You should give it a chance! Indeed, Antony made a great piece of music again! 2. The album sounds close to the "Spectra" from 2016. In fact, most records have been made by Antony and his team during this time. On the one hand, his is not the great news for me because I'm not a huge fan of "Spectra". On the other hand, this fact assures us that the team of musicians is great again and the symphonic sound is of highest quality. 3. You will feel that the tune of the music is quite different. Though the sound in general is similar to recognizable "Spectra-like" sound, the mood is completely different. Moreover, album is not bounded to the pathos of antiquity in the way "Spectra" was and I consider that this is good. The only thing that left from the concept of "Spectra" is the division of six songs into two "Phases". 4. Even with the compilation of previously recorded songs Antony managed to conceptualize the album into clear prog-rock frame. So you will be pleased by the number of references, reprises, quotations and other 'smart' things that are important to any prog-rock listener. 5. All tracks are well-balanced and help each other to do their best. The most dynamic and aggressive "Hunter" is changed by the harmonic and accurate "Phantasmagoria". Btw, these are the most interesting part of the album for me, though all of it sounds quite great. 6. Indeed, I prefer more complex and monolith storytelling, more vocal and some composed rock-suites. I'm waiting for a new Sunchild album... But the "Principle and Theory of Spectra" is still awesome. Long story short: Antony did it again; he is a true master, even in a complicated 2020, when many legends screwed-up. His albums sound great and definitely worth to be listened and estimated by any prog-rock fan.
Report this review (#2500467)
Posted Sunday, January 31, 2021 | Review Permalink
3 stars Good Album through and through 3/5.

The album is solid, music always lovely but in places becomes forgettable. Particularly I find myself losing interest midway through track 1 and for the entirety of track 2. Fortunately track 3 is a great calming piece of music, lots of acoustic guitar. The song reminds me of a dance with gentle twists and turns, it has nice pacing and is done well. Track 4 has a more classical feel then the previous tracks, containing flute, violin, glockenspiel and other classical instruments to give the song a grand feel. Track 5 starts bombastic with lead guitar/para-orchestral backing and maintains the second sides more classical influenced sound. I find track five sadly returns to the more forgettable nature of this album after the opening and until the acoustic guitar takes the spotlight. This marks a change for the better as calm but engaging parts occur, synth pads/piano give way to bubbling bass which comes together to provide an opening to the songs energetic ending. The final track gravitation is introduced by guitar arpeggios and a wobble synth then chime keys allow electric guitar and friends to enter the composition. This has the same sound as the electric guitar parts in much of the album and by the last track comes off as more of the same which is lame and a shame. The synth work on this track is what stands out and it would be nice if they were allowed to shine more.

Overall this a solid nearly wholly instrumental album. My favourite moments are definitely those replete with acoustic guitar, I wish there was more acoustic guitar on this album and more bass (it is present but frequently is unnoticeable). (Also amazing album cover as always with Karfagen)

Report this review (#2577955)
Posted Saturday, July 10, 2021 | Review Permalink

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