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Er. J. Orchestra - The Unicorn CD (album) cover

THE UNICORN

Er. J. Orchestra

 

Prog Related

3.36 | 4 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Prog Specialist
3 stars Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Eastern Europe countries opened to a musical market that was limited during the years of the cold war, as a consequence of this events, the musicians of this countries started to create music inspired in the 70's icons but added something special and unique, their own ethnic identity, creating in many cases a delicate blend between soft Symphonic and their native Folk.

ER. J. ORCHESTRA from Ukraine is one of this cases, being that the former Soviet Union placed emphasis in Classical Music formation of the young (Give to Cesar what belongs to Cesar), it was not hard for the keyboardist Alexei Alexandrov to gather a group of competent musicians in order to create a small orchestra with Prog leanings.

I managed to get "The Unicorn" (their third release), because of a request for their inclusion in our site, and from the start it was a huge problem. This good album is clearly Prog Archives material but it blends so many styles and genres that is very hard to classify.

As in any orchestra it's easy to find Symphonic elements but too light even for Neo Prog, maybe closer to Neo Classical, but the cocktail is not ready. you must add a clear Jazz/Fusion influence, Slavic and oriental ethnic sounds, too soft for Prog Folk and too elaborate for World Music plus a bit of New Age and Ambient.

A very interesting blend of flavors and sounds that after long debate lead to ER. J. ORCHESTRA'S inclusion in Prog Related, at least until they release one or more extra albums that could lead to their inclusion in another sub-genre.

The album starts with "Adular's Wondering", incredibly the introduction is a collision of sounds that seems closer to a hard form of Avant Prog, but as a mirage this first impression changes radically, the violin first and the orchestra later join creating a jazzy melody sweetly surrounded by accordion or Argentinean bandoneon (Maybe synthesized) and some kind of flute or dulcimer, vaguely resembles the style of Mike Oldfield but much more diluted, the vocals mainly sounds in the style of the softer songs of Focus helps to get into the atmosphere, the track goes on with few surprises, relaxing, nice but not spectacular.

The second song is a five part epic called "The Unicorn". The first section "Magic Woods" starts with a French Horn as lead instrument that creates the atmosphere of a dark forest, more than a first section, "Magic Woods" works as an introduction and fulfills it's role, maintains the listener interested as expecting something else, very beautiful.

"Madrigal" as it name implies is a pastoral track leaded by the flute and perfectly backup by the rest of the Orchestra, specially the piano that keeps the tempo and adds a jazzy atmosphere, at this point I listen the first soft Rock sounds with a subtle percussion and the band in crescendo the best track up to his moment .

The third part of "The Unicorn" is "Battle-Hunt", now we're talking about Prog Rock, a beautiful and well elaborated crash of sounds at last this guys seem to let themselves go further and allow a controlled cacophony that has more than casual reminiscences of "Relayer", an excellent song, the climax of the epic.

Now we are reaching the end of their epic, the fourths section "The Coming Home - Pastoral" is another soft gentle track that flows gently toward the closing section, but don't believe it's useless, by no means it's a bridge to the coda and works perfectly as that with their oriental kind sounds.

"The Unicorn" ends with "Dance of the Unicorn", starts as a recapitulation of the past sections but suddenly the orchestra explodes with unusual (in them) Symphonic strange that again in a fraction of second turns in a jazzy tune, but that's not all, for a hoird time they change the track in a Folksy tune with Oriental-Arabic flavors, as if they were taking us in a tour through all the styles they are able to play.

"The Dance of the Unicorn" ends with the orchestra hitting us with all they have mixing now all the past sounds, perfect arrangements and well developed structure, it's more than evident that we are in front of real musicians, all I can say is brilliant.

When I received the mail asking for the inclusion of ER. J. ORCHESTRA I was asked to pay special attention to the third song "Eljzao", I did as indicated and was the introduction was my first disappointment, a soft orchestral piece that limits with muzak, around the seventh minute the band seems to have reached the climax, but is another mirage, again they fall in the same repetitive and boring melody. Due the fact that the songs also goes in crescendo they gather more strange while advancing but I'm sorry to say it, I can only listen slight variations on same melody. The only weak track in the album.

The album ends with "Where do the Angels Go?", because of the title I was ready for another semi muzak track as the previous but in this case there's a difference, still soft and dreamy but the arrangements that surround the piano are brilliant, the atmosphere is darker and a bit Baroque with the chords and soft organ, but still with hat slight New Age aroma that didn't allowed us to include ER. J. ORCHESTRA in another sub-genre. Good but not the best they are able to give.

This review may seem hard by parts and too enthusiastic in others, but that's the reality of the album, in the compositional area the material is a bit uneven, there's at least a weak track and it lasts 14 minutes, but the brilliant parts are outstanding

If we talk about musicianship, performance, arrangements and production I must say all are perfect (maybe too flawless for their sake), everything fits exactly but music and specially Rock is a dirty business, sometimes musicians must sacrifice aseptic quality for brilliance, in many the beauty relies in an overblown song that impress the listener, ER. J. ORCHESTRA is almost always in absolute control of everything and that's beautiful but unreal.

I encourage fans of good music to get the album, it's nice to listen real musicians playing brilliantly and encourage them to keep releasing albums, much more in the case of ER. J. ORCHESTRA who have enough skills to surprise us with a masterpiece in any moment, it's just a matter of time and confidence, they need to let themselves go, to avoid creating so perfect structures and give a bit of space for improvisation.

My rating is 3.5 stars but because this option doesn't exist in Prog Archives, I will be moderate this time and stay with 3 stars.

I would love to rate a 5 stars album by ER. J. ORCHESTRA and I feel they are able to release it, sadly this moment has not reached yet, hope they also believe in themselves.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 3/5 |

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