The dark lockdown days of 2020 needed some musical light to shine on our lives and many of the highlights from that time came from unexpected sources. One such album came from Antony Kalugin, the symphonic prog multi-instrumentalist from Ukraine, who I was aware of from his group work over the last couple of decades as the driving force behind Sunchild, Hoggwash, Akko and particularly Karfagen.
Karfagen have released some fine albums over the last couple of years, including Echoes From Within Dragon Island, Birds of Passage and Principles and Theory from Spektra (all highly recommended and available from Caerllysi Music and Bandcamp). However, I was pleasantly surprised when a solo album from Antony, entitled Marshmallow Moondust, was released in October 2020 and became one of my favourite (and most played) albums of the year.
Instrumental symphonic prog albums can often be overwrought with dense pieces of work lacking in warmth and emotion. Thankfully, Marshmallow Moondust does not come into that style. Over two 20:20 epic tracks (I see what you did there, Antony!) we have fresh, uplifting and joyous symphonic prog full of melody, great instrumental playing, an abundance of musical motifs and ideas, along with repeating themes and shifts in style. Antony plays all the instruments himself and he demonstrates that he is no mean guitar player in addition to his more well-known flowing keyboard work.
Fans of Camel, Focus, Genesis, Yes, Mike Oldfield and ’70s prog will find something in this album to delight them. There are even jazz influences amongst the light and shade over the whole album. From the atmospheric start of the title track we get the main theme on searing guitar followed by swirling keyboards and then Antony takes us on an eclectic journey through musical styles and melodies that just flow over you repeatedly. One minute there is a Cream-like guitar riff, but then Snow Goose vocal harmonies appear half-way through, followed by a short burst of Banks-style keyboards and a quieter, contemplative Focus-like section before it all ends atmospherically prior the companion piece takes up reins.
Moondust starts with faint ‘mission control’ sounds and then launches us into the realms of outer space (a common theme in many of Antony’s works). Here the Oldfield influence is the strongest, along with Flower Kings overtones. Another catchy keyboard/guitar motif is introduced, but it continues with the same instrumental interplay through celestial harmonies. A touch of Vangelis shows itself at times too and there is even a short appearance of the Ukrainian Carol of the Bells just after half-way. A short late-night jazzy interlude is followed by peaceful saxophone and flute sounds, moving through to a grandiose proggy ending before you drift out into the stars. As before, no musical idea overstays its welcome, as if Antony is hell-bent on getting as many different themes and styles in the running time. I probably have a very minor preference for the first track, but with the quality so high, it is rather like splitting hairs.
The digital version of the album has two bonus tracks – nicely condensed 7:20 medley versions of the two epics – which I would like to think allow Antony to gain more radio airplay – and played after the main album, it is warm reminder of what you have enjoyed the previous 40 minutes.
Marshmallow Moondust is uplifting and joyous slab of instrumental symphonic prog rock from the ridiculously talented Antony Kalugin and it is highly recommended. It sounds like he had great fun making this solo album and he certainly transfers that feeling to the listener. The album artwork by Igor Sokolskiy is worth a place on the music room wall as well!
He clearly doesn’t sleep much, as this year he has followed up Marshmallow Moondust with Stellar Gardener. So, if Antony’s solo work strikes a chord with you, there is definitely much more to come and enjoy.
01. Marshmallow (20:20)
02. Moondust (20:20)
03. Marshmallow Medley (7:20) – digital version
04. Moondust Medley (7:20) – digital version
Total Time – 55:20
Antony Kalugin – All Instruments
Record Label: Caerllysi Music
Country of Origin: Ukraine
Date of Release: 10th October 2020