I was introduced to RMP with their most recent studio album, I Am A Stranger in the Earth, and I admit to a certain degree of wariness when I took on this live album, as while RMP may stand for Rozmainsky & Mikhaylov Project, a large portion of my enjoyment of their music came from the contributions of Leonid Perevalov – who is absent for the majority of this release. It took seconds before that wariness was dispelled. Perevalov is not missed at all, and this is largely due to the way RMP reinvent their own compositions in any live setting. I say compositions, but this is only partially true for much of RMP’s brilliance comes from their experimentation and improvisation. Their first live album, recorded from three different Babooinumfest(*) shows in 2017, explained that any RMP performance contains “reconsiderations” of studio tracks, absolutely new works, and intuitive improvisations. What it doesn’t say, but which becomes obvious upon listening, is that these aspects are not at all mutually exclusive.
So while Magna Res Est Amor begins with In Forest, A Matter of ChoicE, it is a vastly different beast from the studio version I am used to. Its blueprint is recognisable, but what’s built up from the foundation is a new structure entirely. It’s also a more vibrant and powerful performance. If the manner of travelling through the forest was a matter of choice, then the studio version has the band slowly and cautiously moving through the trees, aware (and almost fearful) of potential dangers within. The live version on the other hand, has them brashly and confidently striding though the forest, without a care (or fear), because the forest is their domain. And it seems the stage is RMP’s domain, because every performance on this album surpasses the studio equivalent. The band come alive in a way that is never shown on the studio albums, perhaps because it allows a further degree of spontaneity, and a variety of extra elements to react to: the audience, the venue, the weather, the possibilities are almost endless in comparison to the sameness of a studio.
In Forest, A Matter of ChoicE is followed by another reimagined track from I Am A Stranger in the Earth, Something HappeneD to My Heart, and again it’s a fantastic reinterpretation (or reconsideration, to use the band’s term) that leaves the studio version (as good as that is) for dust. And again, I feel the need to express how incredible it is to me how much I enjoy these live versions, considering the absence of Perevalov, whose bass clarinet played such an important part in the two studio albums, and also the previous live album. Indeed, I have read several reviews of the previous live album where much is made of Perevalov’s contributions, and particularly when it comes to A Dedication to the Floydian Sun where the spotlight shines upon the improvisation of the bass clarinet. So it was with great interest that I listened to the (first) version of this piece that appears on Magna Res Est Amor. Although it is different, it is definitely no less brilliant. It’s still an absolutely wonderful Floydian homage, which overtly betrays its influences without ever coming even vaguely close to being derivative.
Much of the originality of A Dedication to the Floydian Sun, in my opinion, comes from the way it merges two quite disparate eras of Pink Floyd, the psychedelia of the first two albums with the angst of The Wall. Well, that’s what I hear anyway, but no doubt others will hear differently, and as any performance is never quite the same, it’s possible to hear different things from different shows. As if to prove this point, another version of A Dedication to the Floydian Sun appears later on the album. But first we hear Lucy Does Not Want to Leave the Train, which I absolutely love. It’s a point where I could be listening to an “absolutely new work” or an “intuitive improvisation”, and it’s not clear which this is – but when it sounds this good, it really doesn’t matter. The title of the track amuses me slightly, as remaining on a train keeps you on one set of tracks, yet the piece is quite free form, wandering all over the place and in all directions. It’s an absolute delight to listen to! It’s also the last of four tracks from a 2021 Babooinumfest appearance.
The remaining two tracks come from a Babooinumfest performance in 2019, and as Perevalov is part of the line-up of this iteration of RMP, the sound is greatly different. Although separated by Lucy Does Not Want to Leave the Train, the two performances of A Dedication to the Floydian Sun could have come one after the other, and still be recognisably different pieces. It’s at this point of the album, every time, that I realise that as much as I don’t miss Perevalov on the first four tracks, I still prefer hearing him in the mix. The bass clarinet makes just such an awesome sound, although I’m biased as it’s my favourite instrument to hear in any music. This is possibly my favourite version of A Dedication to the Floydian Sun from those I’ve heard. It’s a hard ask to follow up, but the choice of finishing the album with The Thing in the Light (like A Dedication to the Floydian Sun, coming from RMP’s debut album, For The Light) is perfect. These final two tracks are, for me, worth the price of admission alone – and as this is a ‘Name Your Price’ album, then the price of admission is up to you.
[(*) For those unaware, Babooinumfest is a Russian progressive and fusion festival. A great (free) sampler is available from the festival’s Bandcamp page, HERE. Aside from RMP’s previous live album, Pandora Snail’s Live at Babooinumfest is also well worth your attention.]
01. In Forest, A Matter of ChoicE (5:00)
02. Something HappeneD to My Heart (5:27)
03. A Dedication to the Floydian Sun (6:19)
04. Lucy Does Not Want to Leave the Train (4:52)
05. A Dedication to the Floydian Sun (6:06)
06. The Thing in the Light (6:45)
Total Time – 34:29
Ivan Rozmainsky – Keyboards
Vladimir Mikhaylov – Guitars, Drill
Max Lokosov – Bass
Evgeny Trefilov – Drums (tracks 1-4)
Nikita Petrov – Drums (tracks 5 & 6)
Leonid Perevalov – Bass Clarinet (tracks 5 & 6)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Russia
Date of Release: 16th July 2021