Between Two Mirrors (01)
Vinyl Spring, Digital Autumn (02)
I've heard Romislokus' second release, Vinyl Spring, Digital Autumn. I've also read various and sundry reviews on this album on the Internet prog press. It's time somebody came out and said what everyone else has tip-toe'd around to be polite. Most other reviewers have said something very much like, 'this music breaks no new ground'. I'll come right out and say it ... Romislokus is a really nice band, but this release, at least, isn't all that progressive. At their most prog, they sound a bit like The Alan Parsons Project, albeit with Russian vocals and some rather odd synthesizer effects. But most of the time they sound like the Ray Conniff Orchestra (anybody else's parents used to listen to them? It's called 'Easy Listening') trying to sound 'modern', with some rock idioms like drums, electric guitars and synthesizer special effects. Oh, yeah, and a guy singing in Russian instead of a bunch of clean-cut coed vocalists singing harmonies. Romislokus is, perhaps, the next step in what the Soviet regime used to call 'VIA' bands, which were the state-sanctioned 'Vocal/Instrumental Ensembles', such as Pesniary and David Tuchmanov's experiments in the '70's who were trying to be progressive within a stultifying atmosphere of artistic control. Perhaps it's still a bit like that even in the 'new Russia', at least on a psychological level. Still, there are some amazing acts coming out of Russia these days that don't have a sound like this, for example Little Tragedies, who sound nothing at all like the old Soviet musics. OK, it's a little unfair to characterize the entire album as 'Easy Listening'. It's not all like that, but there are enough songs of this sort that it's the overall effect. This stems, I suppose, from the use of a (real) string section playing sweet chords over much of the album. A similar sound is used on the Pesniary and David Tuchmanov albums I've heard. I guess if this was Mellotron instead of a string section, the impression of being extremely 'straight' sounding would be lessened. There are some good guitar sections, on both electric and acoustic guitar, and the vocalist is pretty good too, though there's one song where he sounds a bit out of tune (the vocals are run through a chorus effect for this song ... this may have been an attempt to mask the out-of-tune-ness, or it may actually be the cause of it). The only odd instrument, and I've already mentioned this obliquely, is the synthesizer. The synth sounds on this album are neither the '70's style vibrato-less analog oscillators nor '80's style string pads. There are some digital bell-like synth sections of the sort that might be heard on an 'Adult Pop' album, but most of the noticable synthesizer is very electronic sounding buzzes, frequency-modulated squawks and oscillating-filter noise swoops. This forms an interesting counterpoint to the sweetness of the other instruments, and is the most 'progressive' part of the album. Now, don't read into this that I didn't like the album. I did, actually. But really progressive it's not. I can recommend this album for those who want to hear something a little less challenging, but I wanted you to know what you're getting into if you buy this release. -- Fred Trafton P.S. If this sounds appealing to you, a similar band (Russian orchestral prog) is Er. J. Orchestra. They're doing stuff that's more progressive but in the same vein. And EJO sings in English, if that's a plus for you. A write-up will be forthcoming in a future release of the GEPR.