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Eerie, cheesy, emotional, embarrassing - these are all words that accurately describe former Byelorussian folk outfit Pesniary's attempt to bring the epic poem Gusliar to the progressive rock arena. Unfortunately for the folks from the land of balalaikas, the bad outweighs the good in this attempt due to musical passages that are simply outdated. In the end, Gusliar winds up sounding like a mix between bad Italian prog and a high-school production of Hair.
One of the major problems with Gusliar is that the progressive elements sound very forced - every vibe that this work gives off is one of an off-Broadway musical, so when the "prog licks" enter the picture they seems horribly out of place. So to do the dissonant horn section, which makes it sound like Univers Zero or Magma just crashed the party. And to top things off, some VERY 70's sounding guitar and horns pop in on occasion, along with a choir that sounds like lamenting Gregorian monks. So, in a nutshell, Gusliar sounds like a mix between PFM, Magma, the theme from Starsky & Hutch, a 13th century funeral at a monastery, Bela Bartok, and your high school's cast of Hair. Sung in Byelorussian. Got that?
To be fair, the musicianship is very good, and the singers' voices are well-trained also. It's just that the sum of the parts in this case DO NOT equal the parts themselves. The music here just simply doesn't measure up to modern standards, and that causes the entire production to sound very badly dated and nearly impossible to listen to. The Boheme label has had some very interesting Russian releases brought to a wider audience, such as the Epos Group's Ilia, but Gusliar just doesn't cut it as a professional quality release. You'd be better off getting your Russian folk music fix elsewhere.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.