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Kaukasus: I

Boasting members of Jaga Jazzist, Motorpsycho, Anglagard, White Willow, The Autumn Ghost and Opium Cartel, the three piece Kaukasus could be seen as some sort of Art-Prog supergroup. However let's not saddle them with such throwaway titles and instead focus on the fact that they've (Ketil Vestrum Einarse, Mattias Olsson and Rhys Marsh) between them conjured up an album that can in places be related to their main musical outputs, while confidently striving to be something altogether more individual. Brazenly melancholic in construction, the majority of I, the Kaukasus debut, brings a doleful introspection and presents it in a forceful and confident manner. It is a true contradiction in terms of just how strutting and swaggerful music that is most comfortable when not showing off, or revealing all of its trick and flicks in one go, really can be.

Instead Kaukasus fuse together vocals which could grace leisurely chart hits onto vintage keyboard excursions and beats which shun modern production gloss. Oozing out of the very pores of this creation come great helpings of ambient swooshes, ticking, clicking electronica and all manner of flutes and horns (the bells and whistles were busy that day). Yet amazingly the overriding vibe these layers of ideas and sounds conjure is simplicity, sparseness and spaciousness. For the more visually inclined, it is easy to imagine these sounds blowing across snow covered slopes while figures wander lost in ever deepening drifts of bleakness. All the while whistling a merry tune as their cause becomes more and more one of hopelessness. For what takes the ideas that make "In The Stillness Of Time", or "Reptilian" and makes them so inescapably engaging is the stabs of casual melody which run throughout them. Sometimes these melodious moments spark jaggedly, sometimes they could smooth sandpaper with a quick glance. However they run deep and are unavoidably, subconsciously, attention ensnaring. Listen to "Lift The Memory" and if you're aren't humming, whistling, singing, armpit parping the melody line for days after, then your throat, lips, mouth and underarms must be dryer than the now blunted sandpaper. However both the closing section of "The Skies Give Meaning" and the entirety of "In The Stillness Of Time" bring antithesis, being layers and layers of scrilling, yet hypnotic flute, keys and sounds that are closer to electronic Jazz than trad Prog. Both offering the variety needed to make the rest of the album hit harder than initially realised.

Probably the best word to describe I is captivating. Possibly the best two words - mood music. However mood music that can be used to alter your mood, not that which requires the correct one to allow engagement.

Sweet, soothing and beautiful, yet snarling, jarring and desolate, Kaukasus are a band who deliver whichever emotion you allow yourself to give in to, but you will allow yourself to be given freely...and repeatedly.

Track Listing
1. The Ending Of The Open Sky
2. Lift The Memory
3. In The Stillness Of Time
4. Starlit Motion
5. Reptilian
6. The Witness
7. The Skies Give Meaning

Added: March 16th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: I at Burning Shed
Hits: 3066
Language: english

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Kaukasus: I
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-03-16 23:37:29
My Score:

Here is another interesting 2014 release that initially slipped under my radar. The band is Kaukasus and their debut album I can be found on Autumnsongs Records.

Hailing from Norway, this is a super group of sorts, at least in the realm of Nordic progressive rock as it contains members from Anglagård, White Willow, The Autumn Ghost, Opium Cartel, Jaga Jazzist and Motorpsycho. The band includes Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (alto and soprano flutes, tenor horn, treated flute, hulusi, electric piano, saxxy, spektrals, EWI synthesizer), Rhys Marsh (voices, electric guitar, acoustic piano, bass guitar, Fender Rhodes, Mellotron, drum machine, pedal steel guitar) and Mattias Olsson (drums, percussion, Mellotron, Orchestron, Optigan, Moog Taurus, VCS3 and Mother modular system, baritone guitar, bass marimba). For only three musicians that is quite a list of instruments and speaks volumes of the trio's immense talent.

This is melancholic Nordic progressive rock at its absolute finest. It is both dark, at times almost sinister sounding and quite beautiful as well. Rhys's vocals are a highlight here as he has such a warm melodic tone in his understated and melancholic delivery. The music often builds slowly in evolving crescendos sometimes culminating in ambient motifs where immersing yourself in the music is the best way to discovery all of its hidden treasures.

From the start of the album opening "The Ending Of The Open Sky" where moody synths and woodwinds slowly fade in before abrupt drums and heavier riffs overtake the listener's senses you just know this will be a fantastic trip. Winding synths, Egyptian accents and powerful stick work round out the package.

The multi-textured "Lift The Memory" begins with a spacious drum pattern that is suddenly overtaken by grandiose orchestrations still carrying a thread of melancholy that pervades this disc. The music builds then eases into more supple ambient-like moods and textures. It is this contrast of heavy and light that make this album so rewarding. Again, exotic Eastern themes abound.

"In The Stillness Of Time" is another track that needs your careful attention . Smatterings of Fender Rhodes piano, big Mellotron laced rhythms and minimalist soundscapes create another delightfully artistic palette of sounds and textures.

In "Starlit Motion" shimmering keys and winding synths combine with lovely trills of flute giving it a little more spaciness.

"Reptilian" is my favourite tune and at over nine minutes long there is enough room to explore different themes and moods. From big orchestral rhythms with plenty of Mellotron to lighter ambient parts there is something here for everyone. At times the music becomes unsettling and dark with eerie whispered vocals creating an ominous-like atmosphere.

Kaukasus has made an intelligent and absorbing debut album that will have fans of melancholic prog clamouring for more. They will certainly be on my radar in the months and years to come.

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