Sometimes it helps to take a break and come back to an album. When I first listened to the new album from Rozmainsky & Mikhaylov Project (RMP), I was still in thrall to Compassionizer’s Caress of Compassion, and found myself quite underwhelmed by I Am A Stranger In The Earth. In fact, I couldn’t even finish it, and put it aside for another day. Compassionizer is such a stiring and visceral piece of work, that it was hardly surprising that I Am A Stranger… might pale in comparison. Ironically, I suspect the sound of this RMP is more what a lot of people might have been expecting from Compassionizer, as since I wrote my own review I’ve read several that struggled to reconcile their understanding of what compassion should sound like, with the at times quite unsettling textures of Caress of Compassion.
I Am A Stranger…, despite by appearance (from the cover art and song titles) portraying an experience that would seem to evoke more negative emotions, comes across as quite playfully optimistic. As with anything that Ivan Rozmainsky puts his hand to, there is a touch of the avant, but overall this is a quite melodic feast. What I’ve always liked about Rozmainsky’s music is that his musical points of reference always seem very different to most Western artists who otherwise are creating similar music. I presume this is down to geography, and the intersection of east and west, but regardless it creates something quite unique and special. If push came to shove, and I was forced, I could just about make some comparisons to King Crimson and Pink Floyd, but there are really only hints of those, and it would be stretching to call them similarities.
I’ve thus far mentioned only Rozmainsky, which is perhaps unfair given the name of this group. However, while it is his keyboard playing which drew me to the Project, and which provides a lot of my enjoyment, there’s no doubt that Vladimir Mikhaylov plays some interesting guitar, creating some absolutely wonderful soundscapes at times. Generally I find that the less conventional his playing, the more I enjoy it. But I absolutely have to also mention the clarinet and bass clarinet playing of Leonid Perevalov (who also impressed me on the Compassionizer album). Some of my favourite moments and passages come from Perevalov’s playing. The rhythm section of Yuri Groiser (who also played on the Compassionizer album) on drums, and Max Lokosov (who plays some very nifty bass that is almost subliminal in the way it attracts my attention), is also notable.
Mikhaylov also provides samples throughout the album which often provoke more reaction from me than his guitar playing (that is meant as a compliment to both), most effectively (for me) on X-Mas Child. Innocence and ExperiencE. But that track is towards the end of the album. So let’s go back to the third track, On a Factory of Broken Dreams, which is the first to offer something a little less assured and positive. It’s possibly because of this added edge that it is also one of the first tracks that is a particular favourite of mine. I can’t help but be reminded of a long walk home in the dark, alone, when I was younger. I can’t really remember much about that night, or even how old I was, or why I was afraid. But the first part of the song reminds me of how I was at first still somewhat confident, though cautious, before fear began to overwhelm me, just as the music becomes overwhelming. There’s an interlude of relative peace, before the disquiet returns, and the music remains on edge, and full of trepidation for its remainder. I love it!
Steps. Loneliness in the CrowD is perhaps closest to a more conventional instrumental, albeit full of dissonance and difference. Mikhaylov’s guitar playing even approaches being called Floydian. Of course, this can’t last, and the track sort of disintegrates and trails off into ambience, which continues into the introduction of Something HappeneD to My Heart. Like much of this album, this number can sound on first listen to be similar to Roz Vitalis, but more beautiful, simple and melodic. This is only superficial, though, as the music of RMP is still quite intriguing and layered, with subtle atmospheres and textures. There’s still plenty of darkness and discordance to be found – it’s merely more well hidden.
Blot Out All Mine Iniquities is another favourite, and again quite possibly because it sounds quite different from what has come before. It sounds quasi-religious, with bubbling church organ-like keys, that tinkle as if played by a sugar plum fairy whose halo has dropped somewhat, before the final 45-seconds bring a surprisingly fuller sound. Loss of Watchfulness, which follows, is also bubbly, though in quite a different way. This track at first reminds me a little of the angular jazz that one can often find on the MoonJune label, before going off on another tangent entirely. It’s left to Uphold Me With Thy Free Spirit to calm things down, but it’s possibly a little too calm, and a little too beautiful for me. Thankfully, as should probably be expected, nothing remains the same too long in a Rozmainsky & Mikhaylov Project number. On the other hand, it should probably go without saying that I love the track titled Strange Area. Something’s Wrong Here.
Overall, I’m far more impressed with the Rozmainsky & Mikhaylov Project than I was initially. They appear to fill a gap wonderfully between the melodic and the avant garde – the two creating a quite beautiful collision. It was that beauty that I initially found off-putting, but I think that was purely because my head was still caressed by Compassionizer. Their sound is far more multi-faceted than I initially thought, and had I persisted in listening to more of the album originally, I may well have come around. The varied moods and textures really work well, and the delicate way darkness and dissonance is introduced is quite delightful. It may not be as in your face as Roz Vitalis and Compassionizer, but it’s definitely still there. I’ll now be going back to check out RMP’s debut and live album, which have been on my “to listen to” list for far too long now, and likely still would be had I not taken on this album for review.
01. I Am A Stranger In The Earth (3:46)
02. For The Sun Of Righteousness (2:52)
03. On A Factory Of Broken Dreams (7:20)
04. Steps. Loneliness In The CrowD (3:44)
05. Something HappeneD To My Heart (6:43)
06. Blot Out All Mine Iniquities (3:06)
07. Loss Of Watchfulness (2:36)
08. Uphold Me With Thy Free Spirit (3:18)
09. In Forest. A Matter Of ChoicE (5:00)
10. Strange Area. Something’s Wrong (6:37)
11. Summer Haze. Lazy Dreams (3:35)
12. Night Flight. Experience Of LevitatioN (5:15)
13. X-Mas Child. Innocence And ExperiencE (3:10)
14. Do Not Postpone For Later (3:04)
Total Time – 60:08
Ivan Rozmainsky- Keyboards
Vladimir Mikhaylov- Guitars, Percussion, Samples
Leonid Perevalov – Clarinets, Bass Clarinets
Yurii Groiser – Drums
Max Lokosov – Bass
Ksenia Vaganova – Violin
Dmitry Chichagov – Additional Keyboards (tracks 1,9,10 & 13)
Anastasia Mikhaylova – Voices
Philip Semenov – Drums (track 9)
Ruslan Sobinin – Melodica, Acoustic Guitar (track 10), Additional Electric Guitar (track 9), Bass (track 1)
Record Label: ArtBeat Music
Country of Origin: Russia
Date of Release: 21st September 2020