Style : Prog/pop, slightly spacey AOR
Rating : 2.5 / 5
Summary : An adventurous effort from a Russian band that deserves a break
Russian band Romislokus was formed in Moscow by band-leader Yuri Smolnikov – who tells of an interesting background. Smolnikov has played guitar since 1973, but by the time he was ready to break out the disco era had arrived and trounced his chances of succeeding in the world of progressive music. So – in a story that recalls the frustrated painters and writers of past centuries – he traveled to all corners of the Russian sub-continent, writing songs, meeting fellow musicians, and organizing rock-laboratories with hundreds of musicians. The Romislokus project was formed in 1997, and includes artists he met along his travels and in the rock-labs, and Trans Aviation Pilots is their fourth release. Yuri describes Romislukus’s music as 'post rock, new alternative, progressive rock'. Read on for a somewhat more pragmatic description.
On their previous albums Romislokus’s music was very much more pop-oriented. With Trans Aviation Pilots they have moved in a more progressive direction, and prog/pop, atmospheric AOR, or bluesy Eurock might be more apt descriptions. Some tracks have strong progressive overtones while many songs are very commercially oriented. The band makes liberal use of a good variety of instruments – from tubular bells through cello, from synthesizer to Hammond, and from drums to drum-machine. But the signature sound here is the vocals, which are heavily accented and bring to mind a somewhat unrefined cross between Mark Knopfler and Chris Rea.
The best songs on the album are 'In Flanders Fields', a John McCrae poem put to music and sounding rather like Dire Straits, and the not-quite title track 'Trance Aviation Pilots' which includes voice-overs and seems to have a story-line attached.- although reading the English-language lyrics won’t clarify the meaning for you: There’s no doubt Romislukus can speak and write English infinitely better than any of us can speak Russian. But to enhance their market penetration into the West, the band would be advised to recruit an English-language professional to help polish the lyrics, and – by the way – to refine the grammar on their web site.
Those songs that have a pop-orientation are marked by an intrusive machine-driven rhythm section that just may cause you to program your CD-player to skip a few tracks. The 11 songs on this 40-minute CD range between 2- and 4-minutes, two are sung in Russian, and the CD includes a rather nice video if a track called 'Dreg'.
So after his extensive travels and travails, Yuri finally 'found himself' artistically. And what he found was a very approachable style of music that is somewhat out of step with the prog/pop practitioners of the West. And that may be a good thing or a bad thing. Their web site has some very good samples – so try before you buy. You just might be surprised.