Romislokus - 'All Day Home'
From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
Exactly one year ago, I reviewed Russian band Romislokus’ debut CD, Between Two Mirrors in Aural Innovations #18. I picked it as one of my favorite albums of the year. Now I have their third, and latest CD in my hands, All Day Home. I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to hear their second CD Vinyl Spring, Digital Autumn. Perhaps it was a transitory work, because I was a little surprised at the much more commercial direction the band has taken with All Day Home.
Now, commercialism is not necessarily a bad thing. What it often means is that a band is simply trying to reach a larger audience, and if they maintain their ideals while broadening their listener base, it can and does work. I have a feeling that Romislokus may reach a larger audience with All Day Home, but may alienate some of the fans they claimed with the more progressive nature of their first album.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that All Day Home isn’t good. Quite the contrary, on their latest album, Romislokus prove that they can craft dazzling pop songs with tasty and creative touches to them, like the opening track, Cool, which starts with a retro 80’s rock sound and injects spacey surges of synthesizer and a warped little instrumental break between verses that takes the song to a completely different level. Dreg, on the other hand, merges mellow, almost adult contemporary style verses with beautiful liquid electronic pools of sound, and a peculiar but fascinating chorus. There is a nice urgency to the guitar work in I’m Tired (which, intriguingly, contrasts the title of the piece!), and the redone version of Captain Zero (originally from their second album), is pure, soaring pop bliss. Despite the change in song writing style, Romislokus keeps one of the integral components of their sound intact throughout: the use of sonic washes of electronic sound that give their music that distinctly spacey feel. Unfortunately they have diminished or completely jettisoned some of the things that I loved about the sound on their first album.
Part of the band’s philosophy is to build upon the ideas of rock’s founders while incorporating new ideas and technology into the sound. They get full marks there. But another part is to appeal to a world audience, rather than just a Western audience. So it strikes me as kind of odd that after two albums sung in vocalist Yuri Smolnikov’s native Russian, he has switched to singing mostly in English (two tracks are exceptions-L’Amour is sung in French, Persici in Italian). I quoted the band in my review of their first album, from an e-mail they sent me: 'To our mind the English language gives the rhythmic basis of rock song. The rhythmic structure of the Russian language is different from English; that's why our music has it’s own specialty.' The Russian vocals gave their music a mysterious and alluring appeal, and aided the band in avoiding Western clichйs in rock music. The music on All Day Home doesn’t pull this off quite as well. Still, I imagine it will make them more accessible to British and North American audiences, two regions where they have not as successfully penetrated as they have Europe.
The other thing I missed was the beautiful cello of Irina Yunaskaya, which was quite prominent on Between Two Mirrors. On All Day Home, it’s terribly underused (I hear it occasionally here and there, like on Persici). It does appear, however, on the last two tracks of the album, Tree by the Wall and Captain Zero, both of which are English versions of songs from their second album.
Now, it may not be fair to spend all my time comparing Romislokus’ latest album to their previous works. A band, after all, must continually evolve to move forward and not grow stale. So judging their latest album on its own merits, it’s an enjoyable listen, and has moments of style and creativity that are pure Romislokus, but I would really have to say that this is no longer what I think of as progressive rock. It is, however, lush, sophisticated, and stylish pop music, with a rock edge to it. I won’t compare their sound to these artists, but the latest Romislokus would likely appeal to fans of musicians and bands such as Brian Ferry, David Bowie, and Ultravox.