VINYL SPRING, DIGITAL AUTUMN Track list: The Snow Of The Rails (4.51); The Face Of A City (5.58); 78 (6.48); Absolute Control (5.06); It is Winter (3.57); Miss The Target (6.30); A Tree By The Wall (6.49); Tuner (3.10); Substance (4.24); Smoke (4.10);
Moscow based Romislokus stated out in Kirov, Russia in 1998 as a group of musicians who were keen to experiment with progressive rock music. Their first album, 'Between Two Mirrors', was released in 2001 and was generally well received by those who heard it.
The band utilise the usual array of drums, guitars, bass - and by adding string instruments (cello and violin) they are able to create a warm, organic ambience within the music. In sharp contrast to this is the starker use of computers which define many of the rhythms used and which, in turn, bring their own mechanical edge. The resulting sound embraces folk, modern, progressive and electronic elements and brings them into a state of equilibrium.
Throughout 'Vinyl Spring, Digital Autumn', the band's second release to date, Romislokus have stuck to their native tongue, rather than falling into the usual trap of trying to sing in English. While it is true to say that the Russian language can have a tendency to sound quite harsh, this actually stands them in very good stead in the long runů
Getting things underway is 'The Snow Of The Rails' which, for the most part, has a smooth electro pop sound. Guitar and keyboards create a light airy feel, while the computerised rhythms that interject from time to time add a touch of discord and unease.
'The Face Of A City' continues with a gentle relaxed style utilising soft guitar play, accentuated by the contrasting textures created by the inclusion of the string section. The unforced vocals sit superbly in the mix, supported by some very well placed backing vocals, which create a real sense of warmth.
There is a nice mix of styles to be found in the more progressive sounding '78'. Along with alternating electric and acoustic sections, the track also features confident keyboard and bass work creating a strongly melodic composition. The one aspect I was not so enamoured of here was the vocals; which at times seemed to work against the mood created by the music.
There is a slightly sinister feel to the dramatic opening of 'Absolute Control', which sets the tone of the rest of the track. The use of violin, combined with mechanical rhythms, gives a very industrial feel and initially the mood of the track is very reminiscent of Steve Hackett's 'Darktown'.
'It is Winter' is another fairly soft, easy going number. The keyboard and guitar parts are again very pleasant to listen to, and the use of tubular bells adds a nice touch, but ultimately the track never seemed to break out and realize the full potential of what, at first, appears to be on offer.
The mood changes with 'Miss The Target', which is a very down tempo track that uses keyboards to create an ambient canvas on which to paint broody cello and electric guitar parts. The vocals here, I found, worked far better with the music and seemed to better reflect the tone of the piece.
'A Tree By The Wall' is another track that shows the band's ability to good effect. Once again the track is fairly low key, but the lack of pace seems to serve well to let the instrumental sections evolve naturally without seeming forced.
'Tuner' continues where the previous track left off, using electronic keyboard sounds punctuated by bass rhythms to create a free flowing format that bubbles effortlessly along. This is another strongly ambient piece that seems to infuse aspects of trance and jazz to good effect - and the inclusion of female vocals works well for the most part.
The last two tracks really give the album a strong finish; we are treated first to the delights of 'Substance', with its powerful instrumental arrangements and string work creating a sound not dissimilar to Van der Graaf; before coming finally to 'Smoke' where light, jangling guitar work is interlaced with violin and cello. The mellow vocals and reappearance of the tubular bells contrasts well with the more upbeat flow creating a very positive finish.
This is a very enjoyable album, although in all honesty it is not really ground breaking in terms of its approach. Nevertheless, Romislokus seem to have developed a style of their own and have managed to create a very well balanced release that delivers the goods in fine fashion. Certainly worth a look in!
8th May 2002