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KAUKASUS

Crossover Prog • Norway


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Kaukasus biography
Scandinavian Prog Rock legends Ketil Vestrum EINARSEN (JAGA JAZZIST, MOTORPSYCHO), Rhys MARSH (THE AUTUMN GHOST, OPIUM CARTEL) & Mattias OLSSON (ÄNGLAGÅRD, WHITE WILLOW) have joined forces as KAUKASUS to record and release their outstanding debut album 'Kaukasus 'I' ' out on AUTUMSONGS RECORDS via BURNING SHED on 5th May 2014.

Starting life as an experiment into KRAUTROCK style, the project morphed into a fully fledged and modern sounding dark, Nordic, progressive rock album, with elements and excursions stylistically into KRAUTROCK, ART-ROCK, and WORLD MUSIC calling into mind such bands as JAPAN, GENESIS, CAN, Brian ENO and early Peter GABRIEL.

KAUKASUS view themselves as a musical tripod - it's weight firmly in the middle, where the three musicians ideas and styles meet, each band member bringing their own signature to the music, from OLSSON's supple and dynamic drumming and Mellotron textures, MARSH's impassioned vocals and guitar work, to the strange, snakelike and evocative woodwind and synth lines from EINARSEN.

Biography provided by label and used with permission

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II
Import
Autumnsongs Records 2015
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KAUKASUS discography


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3.91 | 104 ratings
I
2014

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KAUKASUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 I by KAUKASUS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.91 | 104 ratings

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I
Kaukasus Crossover Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Norwegian band KAUKASUS is something of a supergroup, at least in a progressive rock context, sporting musicians with backgrounds from bands such as Anglagard, Jaga Jazzist and The Opium Cartel. "I" is their debut album, released by the Norwegian label Autumnsongs Records in 2014.

It is always fascinating to come across a band that does explore landscapes that doesn't have well trodden paths all over them, and the dark, brooding and melancholic art rock-oriented escapades of Kaukasus are a good example of that. Layered keyboards, Mellotron, effects and rock-solid drums combined with bass and guitar to form subtly exotic, world music and psychedelic-tinged dark progressive rock on this album, with occasional lapses into subtly unnerving ambient escapades as the slightly disturbing icing on the cake. It is a compelling and well made production as well, and one to seek out for those who have a fascination for progressive rock of a dark yet not oppressive nature.

 I by KAUKASUS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.91 | 104 ratings

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I
Kaukasus Crossover Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This band is a trio and somewhat of a supergroup you could say with Norway's Rhys Marsh(solo) and Ketil Einarsen(JAGA JAZZIST) being joined by Sweden's Mattias Olsson(ANGLAGARD). Each member plays many instruments on this recording. I enjoyed tszirmay's review on this one because I also was perplexed when I first heard it with those commerical sounding vocal-led passages combined with those experimental soundscapes. An odd mixture but man once I figured it out I was blown away by this. They came into these recording sessions with the idea of doing a Krautrock album but they let nature take it's course and the finished result has me giving this 4.5 stars but rounding up. Marsh(guitar/vocals) and Olsson(drums) both add mellotron to this while Marsh also adds some Fender Rhodes. They both add a lot more though while Einarsen plays flute, electric piano, synths and more. Rhys sounds like David Sylvian at times to my surprise, I really enjoyed his vocal work here much more than on his solo stuff.

"The Ending Of The Open Sky" opens with flute and sparse sounds before the drums kick in and take over. Vocals follow but then they stop before 2 1/2 minutes as it turns heavy. Back to that drum pattern again with flute then the vocals return after 3 minutes. There's an Eastern vibe here as well. Urgent sounding vocals after 4 minutes with a heavy and dark atmosphere. Nice. "Lift The Memory" has these random drum patterns to start before it kicks into gear. Nice drum work here and the vocals arrive after a minute as it settles back. A calm 2 1/2 minutes in as drums, piano and atmosphere standout. The vocals return quickly though then it turns fuller once again. Contrasts will continue. Dual spoken words follow as the drums continue in another calm section. The drums and vocals stop as the atmosphere continues. An Eastern vibe arrives followed by a beat then it picks up around the 6 minute mark. That full sound with vocals is back 7 minutes in then a calm ends it. "In The Stillness Of Time" has this groovy almost jazzy feel to it. Vocals lead the way as light drums, piano and bass support. Things turn more passionate and fuller after 3 minutes but that lasts only about a minute then it calms right down to an even more relaxed soundscape with electronics to end it as it blends into "Starlit Motion". This is such a mesmerizing track as sounds pulse and echo the rest of the way. Incredible!

"Reptilian" is such an interesting song with the atmosphere and World-music feel to start. Vibes join in then a full sound as vocals follow. Vocals do stop as it becomes more powerful after 2 minutes. Check out the drum work. Great sound here. The organ helps out as voices whisper in the background and it turns atmospheric. Mellotron 4 minutes in as it calms right down briefly before kicking in with mellotron and drumming leading the way. Themes are repeated. I like the vocal melodies before 6 1/2 minutes then a spacey calm ends it. "The Witness" is the one song that really reminds me of David Sylvian, especially his "Secrets Of The Beehive" recording. Picked guitar almost echoes as the flute joins in. Beautiful melancholy as the vocals join in, love the atmosphere here. Just a gorgeous tune that blends into "The Skies Give Meaning". Drums and lots of atmosphere early on and it's so good. Lots of emotion. The vocals cry out before 4 minutes as the guitar grinds it out with passion. My God! So much tension here but then it finally breaks as spoken words arrive.

Once I figured this album out(yeah okay) it has blown me away. I'm really looking forward to what this band has up it's sleeves next. Innovation is the word.

 I by KAUKASUS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.91 | 104 ratings

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I
Kaukasus Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Kaukasus is one of those albums that completely threw me for a loop, unable to get my creative juices flowing and write a decent review. I had little difficulty in admiring all the sundry elements that jump out so obviously at first glance, such as the background of the storied musicians involved, the cool Nordic gleam of the music and the murky yet compelling artwork. The seven mid-sized tracks are drenched in copious amounts of mellotron, sultry electronic detailing and solid rhythmic propulsion. So why all this procrastination? Well, the main reason is that it's all quite experimental and yet commercially endowed, a collision between the concrete and the unreal that can really complicate the description of the music that is unleashed to the unsuspecting audiophile. There is a song within each song, some sonic exploration that is quite unexpected and stunning, making for a rather complex assumption on the merits of this project. Rhys Marsh, Mattias Olsson and Ketil Vestrum Einarsen have concocted a rather unusual mixture of styles and sounds, many beyond the scope of comfortable prog (surges into electronic soundscapes, mystifying world music tendencies and odd instrumental observations). Individually the pieces are exploratory and significantly adventurous.

"The Ending of the Open Sky" is a great song but as an opener, it asks more questions than one could possibly hope for and deal with. Brooding and chaotic in that very pristine Norse sense that we all enjoy, the syncopated almost primal urgency expressed by the Olsson drums blends nicely with the bombastic synthesizer cascades, the suppliant voice of singer Marsh that winks at Landberk's Patrik Helje and some dark and somber atmospheres.

A colossal masterpiece like the nearly 9 minute "Lift the Memory" is of world class pedigree, a true wizard of a track that settles comfortably into the brain and provides immediate and incredible pleasure. The lead vocal is particularly exalted, a wispy drugged-up cottony wail, loaded with unbridled pain and serenity. Marsh is a truly first class vocalist, as well as a supplier of guitars, bass and keyboards. Mattias Olsson spares little effort in bashing long and hard as only he can. Einarsen then infuses some Eastern/Asian tendencies that shoot for the distant stars before a brutal bass and drum attack reintroduces that plaintive and soaring theme.

"In the Stillness of Time" and "Starlight Motion" are twin and blending tracks that combine to keep a similar style and yet compelling enough to visit new musical galaxies. The first has an almost piano-led Joe Jackson jazzy urban cool a la "Stepping Out", with subtle electro colorations and a downright sweet Rhys Marsh vocal. Mellotron squalls enter the fray only to heighten the anguish, the bombast equally up to the task. The latter half is interesting in that there are some cavernous ambient passages, ultra-electronic scapes laden with effects and veiled voices as well as more conventional prog details to keep the edge honed and sharp. There are slight hints of Eno, Can and various similar audio-experimentalists.

The mellotron-shrouded "Reptilian" shakes the tree and veers off into another zone, perhaps more immediate and pulsating than the previous, more ambient pieces. Syncopated and oblique, the coiling arrangement has as much dissonance as it has direction, a gruesome desolation at times that hint at the deepest abyss, seduced by some fluttering flute expectation. This is a combination of profound, jarring and unsettling melancholia, yet also quite romantically seductive and appealing in a way. Hard to finger it in simple terms but its smart music to say the least.

"The Witness provides the answer" aches the despondent voice of Mister Marsh, a gloomy and solemn piece that flirts with late Talk Talk/Mark Hollis minimalism. Echoing pools of light, lugubrious shadows that momentarily shroud the view, a solitary flute searching out some respite and a timeless sense of escape are all characteristics that leap out from the speakers.

"The Skies Give Meaning" shuts this one down, an 8 minute escapade fueled by some manic drumming and lush percussion work, a slowly building vortex of emotions and rhythmic splendour. Half way in, the mood intensifies to the point of volcanic explosion, a psychotic Marsh howling like a midnight wolf, violent, disturbed and angry. If you like your prog dark and shadowy, Kaukasus is where you need to travel to.

I see this as autumnal music, which may explain why the sunny and hot summer did not bring out all the intoxicating aromas and delicate flavors of this Norwegian debut. A difficult indoctrination perhaps at the outset but repeated patient returns will flesh this fine release out to anyone's satisfaction.

4 central Asias.

 I by KAUKASUS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.91 | 104 ratings

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I
Kaukasus Crossover Prog

Review by Progulator
Prog Reviewer

4 stars If they haven't already gotten your attention, they should. Kaukasus, a new band out of Scandanavia, unites Mattias Olsson (White Willow, ex-Anglagard), Rhys Marsh (The Autumn Ghost, Opium Cartel), and Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (Jaga Jazzist, Motorpyscho) for a distinctive debut record which blends elements of prog, kraut, and even world music. This album by the star-trio, titled I, is an infectious dive into dark, catchy, and meaningful music done in a style of prog that is recognizably Nordic and makes extensive use of vintage and analog gear such as we can expect from the aforementioned musicians. That said, Kaukasus is no mere clone of these musicians other projects, be it ones they have worked on separately or together; I is a thought provoking and original album that comes as a breath of fresh air as it marries classic sounds of the past to our modern 2014.

I starts off very raw as woodwinds make way for a sort of primordial psychedelic feel juxtaposed with Rhys' slowly sustained vocal lines. When a huge crash comes in and stacks up old school string machines with synths over a pounding kick we finally get a sense of the fantastic possibilities that Kaukasus has to offer. "The Ending of the Open Sky" certainly clues us into the fact that this is a record that drips unsettling moods, but that doesn't mean that Kaukasus is all about bleak atmospheres. The followup "Lift the Memory" certainly provides the overall dark tone of the album with a few rays of sunlight. This single, while more or less being "the pop song," is really all a catchy track should be. It's emotional and contains everything from great vocal melodies and expression to a huge chorus that's embodies a sense of upliftingness (albeit in a melancholy way). It really capitalizes on its rich wall of analogue timbres that clearly accentuates the chord changes and even lays down a great droney middle section that leans towards world music. All of these elements intersect to make "Lift the Memory" one of the most memorable songs on the album and a great piece to use when you want to introduce your friends to prog that is meaningful but still accessible.

As the record continues on we get a bit more of the krautrock influences with some of the use of electronics, drum effects, filters, and things of that nature. "In the Stillness of Time" certainly demonstrates several of these aspects while nicely molding them around Rhys' passionate vocals and subtle Rhodes piano. But my oh my, the real treat here are the moments when this song gets absolutely huge and wide on the chorus and beyond, particularly after the second one where we are launched into the pure bliss of epic Mellotron melodies. The followup, "Starlit Motion," basically shouts out 'bring in the arpeggiator!' and definitely puts it to good use as it grows increasingly powerful as a backdrop to swirling synth leads and fluttering flutes, creating a sea of organized commotion. Then there's "Reptilian," quite possibly the coolest song on the album, a track with great old school vibes that opens up with a nice beat from Mattias and some chillax vocals in the first verse from Rhys. What isn't apparent from the start, however, is the level of darkness that this piece is headed for; when the first verse ends and the Mellotrons come in this song oozes with sinister and foreboding melodies. A strong Crimsonesque presence is noted although calling it a KC ripoff would be far from the truth; Kaukasus firmly maintains its own identity throughout the track. In the end, if you're looking for a sort of global picture of the record summarized in one song, you need not look past "Reptilian" seeing as how it spans across some of the most relaxing and brutal moments on the album and finds ways to subtly incorporate world and spacey influences at various points of the song.

Finally, the album takes us on a ride through two complimentary pieces, "The Witness" and "The Skies Give Meaning." The former references the latter in lyrical content but is a shorter track done in a completely atmospheric and non-rock style, featuring guitar, woodwinds, piano, and subtle synth textures. The transition to "The Skies Give Meaning" is slow, steady, and methodical. Here, Kaukasus takes time to build up the ambiance and provides plenty of time for Mattias to have fun with different percussion (probably of his own make) while carefully growing his drum part. The atmosphere gets more and more dense, synths growing, reverby flutes swirling, and guitar feedback creating a slight sense of unease until more defined chord changes eventually lead to a full on doomy drumbeat over thick, distorted guitars and powerful ad-lib vocals from Rhys. At this point the piece is really dripping with emotion that has been marvelously crafted through meticulous building of minimalist material into a huge wall of nearly tangible sound that leads into a finale of Rhys uttering some echoing metaphysical dialogue. All in all, this duo of songs is a splendid and powerful ending to a great album.

Despite the fact that we've seen these musicians work together before in various contexts to make fantastic music, Kaukasus is perhaps their first collaborative effort to exhibit a truly deep level of prog appeal. Furthermore, there's something special about this group that clicks, the way they sort of take the best of Rhys' singer songwriter style but place it in an extensive environment that Rhys, Einarsen and Olsson have, quite frankly, turned into their prog playground. I give huge compliments to all three in saying that I is a spectacular album that has a strong sense of emotional weight, an record to be taken seriously and reckoned with in and of itself, and a release that while not being perfect, clearly demonstrates that if these guys produce a second album it is sure to be a masterpiece. Kaukasus is surely to be considered one of the best new bands of 2014 and I is likely to rank up there with the best albums of the year.

 I by KAUKASUS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.91 | 104 ratings

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I
Kaukasus Crossover Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars This is an album debut offered by a ... yeah, you certainly can say super group from Norway, consisting of Ketil Vestrum Einarsen, Rhys Marsh and Mattias Olsson. The KAUKASUS members are very busy musicians, while having worked with bands like White Willow, Änglagård. Motorpsycho, Jaga Jazzist, Opium Cartel and The Autumn Ghost. Looks like they can sum up a lot of experience alltogether, right?. And you can be sure that each of them individually brings his own signature to the music. On this occasion they provide modern keyboard laden art rock - though based on a widely ranged vintage instrumental equipment.

The sound is featuring dark mooded melancholic leanings, sometimes reminding me of the band Japan respectively their side project Rain Tree Crow. Apart from this reference though this clearly is equipped with a distinct flavour. I must admit I quite often have problems to differenciate what is flute or keyboard generated within the sound. In any case this is really varied, dramatic and orchestral here, heart-melting melancholic there, brilliantly confirmed by Lift The Memory for example, which is distributed by two alternating moods. Olsson's powerful drums and Marsh's singing voice have a big share too.

Swirling flutes and synths are dominating the ambient styled Starlit Motion leading over into the ethno/oriental coloured Reptilian which after a while starts the engine again and evolves to another highlight. Due to excellent song-writing abilities and a rather unique implementation this album grows very promising. Although located in different parts they succeeded to write and record this in a short amount of time, only two weeks precisely, which proves the presence of a special chemistry among them. If they should decide to continue and take their time, I would say there's a lot more to be expected from this fruitful threesome - 4 flickering stars at least for that.

Thanks to kev rowland for the artist addition. and to The Bearded Bard for the last updates

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