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Karfagen - Principles and Theory of Spektra CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.99 | 115 ratings

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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!

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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