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HAPPY 55

RIO/Avant-Prog • Russia


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Happy 55 biography
Voronezh is a Russian city far south of Moscow which was an important industrial place during the Soviet Union years but after the end of USSR it entered a period of decadence. This is the environment where HAPPY 55 have grown up. Initially a jazz trio but with avantgarde, minimalistic and classical influences since their first days.
Alexander Bityutskikh is a self trained drummer who created his style by looking at other drummers trying to catch the best from all of them.
Yaroslav Borisov, when boy, didn't have enough money for a piano so started studying the accordion. He is a great improviser and has always been interested in exprimenting sounds since his early years.
Gennadiy Chuhlov plays clarinet and originally completed this quite unusual lineup. Currently the band is a quartet completed by Nikita Bondarenko at the effects and electronics on stage, but they have featured a bassist and two flutists, too.

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HAPPY 55 discography


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HAPPY 55 top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Happydarkblue
2007
3.77 | 8 ratings
A Magic Word (ВОЛШЕБНОЕ СЛОВО)
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
Warm things
2016

HAPPY 55 Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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HAPPY 55 Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

HAPPY 55 Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.05 | 2 ratings
Точное время / Precise Time
2018

HAPPY 55 Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Точное время / Precise Time by HAPPY 55 album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2018
4.05 | 2 ratings

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Точное время / Precise Time
Happy 55 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Happy 55 is a band out of Russia, but the lead keyboardist currently lives in the U.S. They have self released a few albums and E.P.s, which I have not heard yet. This is my first experience with the band, and let me tell you, it is an avant-prog party for the senses. "Precise Time" is the newest release to date, June 2018. It is listed under albums, but it only has 3 songs with a run time of only around 16 minutes, so it is really an E.P. But one thing for sure, it will leave you wanting more, especially if you are a fan of Rock in Opposition, or Avant Garde Progressive music.

I call these three tracks "compositions" because they are not songs in the traditional sense as much as they are compositions in the contemporary classical sense or the modern jazz sense. The sound is a combination of both styles with a lot of progressive aspects thrown in. They have quite a list of influences from Stravinsky to King Crimson, though it leans more towards the 21st Century classical music more than the rock influences, though they are definitely there. If anything, to me they sound more like "Henry Cow" than anything else, but even then, that's not completely right either. The best thing about all of this, and what makes me most excited about their sound, is that it is driven by acoustic piano. Drums are also in the mix, and they are used as both a standard rhythm generator and totally non-standard at other times becoming more than just a background sound.

The first track, which is the title track "Precise Time" is a very happy sounding track, but not because it's something you feel like whistling, because you can't. The piano drives this along with some great percussion, with support from electronics and synths. This added all together gives a very unique sound, never annoying, always interesting. They do consider themselves a combination of electronics and acoustics and it usually happens all at the same time. There are no standard sounding melodies here though, as there is a lot of dissonance, which makes it amazing that it is still a very happy sounding track even with all of these strange harmonies, scales, chords and sounds going on. The movement of the driving melodies (if you can call them that) are always moving. At about the 4 minute mark, there is a major change in the sound and things almost get frantic. This part gets me really excited as the speed increases and interesting repeating sounds come out of the synths.

The next track is "All Green" and this one immediately sounds different. There are 3 voices speaking in another language which I don't understand. They continue for a short time and then reverb is added slowly along with music until the voices are taken over altogether. This is more of a dark sound, again driven by the piano at first. About halfway through, the clarinet takes over the spotlight, and then eventually, both the piano and clarinet play notes that constantly move and weave around each other. It all seems to be done in a minor key, though I am not sure if there is a specific key here, and I certainly have no idea what mode they are using either, possibly even 12 tone. That would make sense since Prokofiev and Stravinsky are influences.

The last track is my favorite entitled "Tolk". This one uses the best example of standard pop rhythms at certain times and non- standard at other times. That is the only thing close to standard here because everything else playing here does not necessarily follow the rhythm. This is a very interesting combination. The standard rhythm drops out and comes back occasionally, but the non-standard percussion also continues. There is a lot going on here, lots of dynamics, rhythm changes, nice builds and releases throughout the track. Very enjoyable.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable EP that keeps you wanting more. It definitely has me interested in hearing their other releases. The production is excellent, the sound is mostly bright, but also dark in places. Dynamics are very, very well used here, and that is probably the strongest asset. These guys really know what they are doing, and I would say they sound like they are classically trained with an interest in Jazz and progressive rock. Nothing is predictable here, so don't expect that going in to this one. What it is though, is a lot of fun, which is something you can't always say about contemporary classical music since must of it (not all of it though) comes off sounding rather clinical, where this is anything but clinical. All lovers of RIO and Avant Garde Progressive need to listen to this, it is definitely an excellent addition to your collection. Besides, you are not out much as far as dollars go since it is only 3 songs, but you will probably want to invest more once you hear it. Excellent job by a very talented band.

 A Magic Word (ВОЛШЕБНОЕ СЛОВО) by HAPPY 55 album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.77 | 8 ratings

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A Magic Word (ВОЛШЕБНОЕ СЛОВО)
Happy 55 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars HAPPY 55 is an interesting musical act from the southern industrial city of Voronezh, Russia which personally i have never heard of before but appears to be in close proximity to the Eastern Ukraine. While sometimes cited as a duo consisting of pianist, composer and main band member Iaroslav Brisov and percussionist Aleksandr Bitiutskikh, they added a third member Gennadiy Chuhlov to handle clarinet and additional synths. It sounds to me that there is some bass guitar at times but no credits are given so i assume perhaps it was synthesized instead of incorporating a real musician. HAPPY 55 has been garnering attention in their native land as being highly original and sounding like no other musical entity. And indeed i have to say that i can attest to that sentiment.

This music is almost impossible to classify as it covers a lot of territory but for progressive rock lovers it falls into the Rock In Opposition camp as it has that familiar avant-garde feel of the more energetic bands in that world but is firmly rooted in the classical and jazz worlds as well. This is an all instrumental album with lots of emphasis on piano, synthesizers and clarinet interactions with different passages through different moods and sonic textures. Sometimes you get the feel of Philip Glass, sometimes it treads into post-bop territory all with a Rachmaninoff concerto romanticism wending its way throughout the beautiful melodic progressions that twist and turn into new ones that keep a steady stream flowing while still being firmly rooted in the avant- garde. Generally speaking the piano maintains the melodic classical meets jazz feel while the clarinet covers the Rock In Opposition. There are just too many classical and jazz influences to even begin to mention as this stuff changes it up frequently.

While this could be considered rock in some circles there are no guitars to be heard, scarce bass and the drumming style is clearly straddling both jazz and RIO fields. This is pretty complex music as far as both melody and rhythms go and it is ever changing, ranging from the mellowest pastoral passages to extremely energetic outbursts that do bring a rock feel to the table. This is truly music that is outside of the box of orthodoxies in any rock, classical or jazz contexts. The fact that they have somehow qualified to be within the parameters of all these genres is a testament to the high quality and devotion put into every detail. Not only is the music amazingly complex but the production is first rate as well. This sounds like a spiffy modern day recording in the most professional manner.

This was actually quite surprising to hear as i wasn't seeking anything of this sort to fulfill any musical yearnings. I love music that takes you somewhere somewhat familiar on different levels but throws all the rules out the window and totally surprises you. Well, HAPPY 55 has done just that. While true i would love to hear this music more developed with more instruments and encompassing larger thematic possibilities there is no doubt that this particular album as it is has a lot to digest without being totally alienating upon first listen. While the virtuosic musicianship is top notch, it really boils down to the outstanding song constructions and mood building dynamics that make this such a primo listen. I truly look forward to hearing more from HAPPY 55 in the future. And yes i agree with others that the album cover is quite lame but don't let that interfere with letting yourself hear some amazingly performed music.

 A Magic Word (ВОЛШЕБНОЕ СЛОВО) by HAPPY 55 album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.77 | 8 ratings

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A Magic Word (ВОЛШЕБНОЕ СЛОВО)
Happy 55 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Happy new year! HAPPY55 is a new Russian group. The subgenre is one I don't necessarily enjoy much, but it wouldn't be the first time that the album under that category pleases me to a surprising amount. Let's see... The instrumental music here is lively, playful, bright and elegant, and I believe in most libraries it would be categorized in Jazz instead of Rock (especially if the library didn't have a separate and very open-minded Prog section). Yes, I'm certain of that, considering both the instrumentation and the compositions - which is not to suggest that Avant/RIO would be a false choice here; this doesn't sound like Fusion or Jazz-Rock. But categorizing aside, I'll try to describe the music and my reception of it.

The main instruments are piano and clarinet, accompanied by a rhythm section. The synth additions are in a minor role on the album. This extremely anti-rock combo (clarinet is a rare instrument in prog-rock, especially without the presence of other reeds such as saxophone or flute, and so, to a lesser extent though, is also the acoustic piano without the equal presence of other keyboards) makes me to hear this music as modern European chamber jazz rather than as [progressive] rock. Not that the listening experience would need a certain category in mind, but what I'm trying to say is that AS A PROG ALBUM the instrumentation is a bit disappointing, ie. NARROW to my ears.

Can't say I would have ever enjoyed clarinet that much... It's a nice ADDITIONAL colour if there are several instruments (think of the music of the Finnish composerts such as PEKKA POHJOLA or Anssi Tikanmäki for example). I'm afraid this is why this band or album won't enter my list of favourite new bands.

Do the compositions impress me then? Well, not notably. This music is perhaps a bit too intellectual, as opposed to emotional, to make a deeper impression on me. Later on the album where the synths steal some ground from the clarinet (e.g. 'The Thing That Happened') things get more interesting, but the whole is slightly too unemotional. I can praise this music as intelligent, original and elegant. I just don't think the CD will find its way to my player very often. And the cover design... yawn.

Warmly recommended if you like modern, piano-centred chamber jazz and the sound of clarinet.

 A Magic Word (ВОЛШЕБНОЕ СЛОВО) by HAPPY 55 album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.77 | 8 ratings

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A Magic Word (ВОЛШЕБНОЕ СЛОВО)
Happy 55 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

4 stars This is the debut album from this Russian group. Originally a trio but now a quartet. Basically you could describe Happy55 as a jazz group, but there is enough 'rock' rhythms and electronics to make them more than *just* Jazz. Based in the city of Vorenezh, the music here is a mix of jazz, classical, avant-rock and electronics. The lineup consists of a drummer, pianist and clarinet player (with additional synth playing). Pianist Yaroslav Borisov started playing accordion first and then switched to piano later. Drummer Alexander Bityutskikh is self taught and his playing is very interesting throughout the album. Sometimes there is bass but overall the drums, piano and clarinet drive the music.

"Kotefey" opens the album. For the most part it is rather upbeat and playful interspersed with some mellower and somber moments. Near the end you hear what sounds like bass guitar with wah-wah (but it could just be synth). "En Garde!" is one of the most intense tracks. Building tension through repetition (think Magma). A bit of wordless vocals at one point. "Sharp To The Left" is one of the most diverse tracks, going through different moods and sounds. "Eight" is a highlight of the album for sure. The piano melodies at the beginning and end are superb. The music gets interesting and diverse in the middle; goes through a number of musical ideas in a short span of time.

You notice more synth as the album goes along. The synth being very noticeable starting on the third last track "Whatever Happened." "Generous Fernando" is the longest track and like the second longest "Sharp To The Left" contains a lot of repetition building tension. Very intense and dramatic ending. The title track features the wah-wah bass sound from earlier but it really seems to be a synth here. The album gets better with each listen and is great sounding and very consistent. Highly recommended to those who are not allergic to acoustic oriented jazz with some twists and turns. This album is available on the their Bandcamp. I will give this a 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

 A Magic Word (ВОЛШЕБНОЕ СЛОВО) by HAPPY 55 album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.77 | 8 ratings

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A Magic Word (ВОЛШЕБНОЕ СЛОВО)
Happy 55 RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I was asked to review this CD by this band from Voronezh, Russia. I really don´t know why, since their style of RIO/Avant Prog is not my cup of tea. But I was intrigued enough to listen to it. And I was nicely surprised, The line up is definitely non rock and unusual: piano, clarinet and drums. There is an acoustic bass on several songs but it went uncredited. A few synthesizer lines are also played here and there, but basically this trio is the format throughout the whole CD. And the music is quite fascinating too: Yaroslav Borisov is a terrific pianist and the songs, although often dissonant and sometimes even chaotic, carry a discernible melody most of the time, making the experience of listening the CD much more enjoyable than most artists of the genre, at least to my ears. In fact, I found myself charmed by the whole experience of hearing this CD.

There are the obvious jazz, classical music, avant guard and free jazz influences. But still, as far as I can tell, they are very original, with a unique approach to the music. The performances are spotless, the production is very good and the all the tracks are very strong and captivating. Every tune is quite a trip! Some are better than others, of course, but none is bad or even weak. It´s an all instrumental CD and I´m very happy to be presented to this highly skilled and talent combo.

If you like music that that is original, exciting and unusual (without being too zany or complicated for complications sake), then A Magic Word is for you! Truly progressive music that defies categorization.

Rating: 4.5 stars.

Highly recommended for anyone with an open mind (and ears).

Thanks to octopus-4 for the artist addition.

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