Belarus band Mission Jupiter blasted into my horizon in 2018 when their debut release, Architecture, blew me away. I love that album so much that I came to new release Talk To Me with just a little apprehension. To paraphrase the opening line of second track Amen, I attempted to come to Talk To Me with no expectations, and thankfully have no regrets. This is not only as good an album as the debut, but even better. After the first half dozen or so listens, I thought I still preferred the debut, but was aware that I’ve spent far more time with that album. There’s no doubt that the production has been taken to the next level with the new album, so that even if I preferred the debut, I could still recognise that this album sounds better. But I couldn’t stop listening to Talk To Me, and one day I suddenly realised I was only fooling myself to think I still preferred the debut. This album is simply amazing, and amazingly addictive. It’s one of those albums that crept up on me and got under my skin, so I was in love with it long before I was even aware that it had me in its thrall.
I think one of the ways it had me fooled initially is that it is in some ways superficially quite different from the debut. For example, I love the almost ambient opening number from Architecture, The Dawn, and the seamless way it leads into the gorgeously poppy tones of I Have To Know which tend toward a metal sound, before being overlaid with some almost smooth jazz. This one song works as a sort of overture, not for the sounds of Architecture so much as the sound of Mission Jupiter. All the various facets that make up their sound are present here, brought to us in carefully constructed sections that flow fluidly and beautifully. These two tracks together are such an amazing opening to an album that I think in comparison with Billion Miles Away, which opens Talk To Me, I ended up underwhelmed in a way I wouldn’t have been if this were the first thing I heard from Mission Jupiter. It is, indeed, a billion miles away from the more delicate and gradual opening of Architecture. At first, it appears to begin similarly, before some power chords blow away that idea. This is a darker, rockier affair, and almost sounds like a different band.
Even Amen, which follows, feels darker than any equivalent on Architecture. Where the electronic nature of the band on Architecture often took on a playful, trip hop vibe, here is it closer to an industrial sound. Yet, the music of Mission Jupiter can never sound truly dark when Nastia Shevtsova‘s vocals soar over the top. Indeed, Shevtsova is easily one of the most impressive aspects of both Mission Jupiter’s albums, as she has such a fantastic voice that ranges from Taylor Swift-like pop to, well, I’m not well-versed in female voices in metal, so take your pick, but I’m going with Simone Simons. Conveniently so, because there seem to be hints of Epica in Mission Jupiter’s music, even if in a very discrete and understated way. And Mission Jupiter are masters of discretion and subtlety. A track like Blizzard exhibits this perfectly, as its title implies something far more dramatic than the almost post-rock sensibilities it presents.
This is an aspect of Mission Jupiter’s music that I really love, as where many bands would fall for the temptation of taking everything to eleven on the dial, one of Mission Jupiter’s greatest strengths is their restraint and use of space in their music. I find myself reminded of the music of Kate Bush and Massive Attack, not just because Mission Jupiter sound (a little) similar at times, but because both of those artists could fill their music with implied drama, without needing to throw everything into the mix. Here, again, the production values shine on Talk To Me, as the sound of this album is so much fuller than the debut, yet there is no more instrumentation. I believe it is the drummer, Eugene Zuyeu, who produced the album and it’s a job well done. As a drummer, Zuyeu is quite understated, always serving the song perfectly, though occasionally he makes his presence more known – such as on a harder number like My Hypocrisy. The rhythm section in any band is usually what I’m most taken by, and I really appreciate the subtlety of Zuyeu’s drumming.
The one difference I noticed most, though, was the comparative lack of saxophone from Dmitri Soldatsenko. I loved the way Soldatsenko infiltrated the music of Architecture, adding a whole new dimension to the songs he played on, and I definitely missed the presence of the sax. But I guess it just gives that instrument more impact when it does appear, making the closing numbers even grander than they already are. Of course, the sax is not all Soldatsenko provides and is in a sense icing on the cake. But the cake would not be anywhere near as appetising without the electronic embellishments and keyboard playing of Soldatsenko. In a way, the keys almost relegate the guitar of Vladimir Shvakel into the background, but that’s again only an initial impression. Like Zuyeu, Shvakel plays his instrument to serve the music, rather than to attract attention to himself. Listen for and to the guitar, and it’s clear it’s as integral to the music of Mission Jupiter – even if Shvakel never really takes the spotlight until the album’s final number.
The album certainly ends strongly, too. Sometimes it feels like the whole album is one glorious crescendo leading to the epic instrumental closing number. As much as I like every track, my favourite sequence is from the quieter, but surprisingly intense, Confession through to Jupiter’s Master – which along the way takes in the surprising Perfect Reaction (wow!), and beautiful Waterfall. Waterfall begins with some beautifully delicate guitar from Shvakel, before a martial beat kicks in from Zuyeu, which might be intimidatingly imposing if it were not for the vocals of Shevtsova, soaring over the top. The song ends in truly triumphant fashion, sounding for all the world like a closing number, and many a band would have finished their album with this song.
It would take quite something to follow Waterfall, but Mission Jupiter do just that. And for all my talk of not turning the dial up to eleven, the band pretty much do just that here – and boy, does it have an impact. It’s almost the first time on the album that you really hear (and feel) the bass of Artem Gulyakevich (although, of course, he’s been doing a sterling job all the whole way through). Shvakel makes the most of being able to show off his riffs and licks, while Zuyeu pounds away in a more overt fashion than anywhere else on the album. Soldatsenko is all over the place on keys and sax. I wouldn’t want to hear a whole album like this, but it makes for an incredibly impressive and affective finale. If this album doesn’t appear in several end of year lists, that will only be because a band from Belarus will find it harder to be heard. If you make the effort to hear this album, though, the rewards are great. Highly recommended!
01. Billion Miles Away (3:26)
02. Amen (4:21)
03. Blizzard (5:35)
04. On My Own (4:44)
05. Adziny Slach (4:38)
06. My Hypocrisy (4:00)
07. Confession (2:55)
08. Perfect Reaction (2:07)
09. Waterfall (4:40)
10. Jupiter’s Master (7:59)
Total Time – 44:25
Eugene Zuyeu – Drums
Vladimir Shvakel – Guitar
Artem Gulyakevich – Bass
Nastia Shevtsova – Vocals
Dimitri Soldatsenko – Saxophone, Keyboards
Record Label: Audio Anatomy
Country of Origin: Belarus
Date of Release: 30th April 2021