Mixing traditional Russian folk tales with modern musical structures, Boheme Music's release "Ilia" by the Epos Group is an excellent presentation on how properly composed music and vocals can transcend languages, and deliver interesting and emotional content to even those who can't understand a word the singer is singing. "Ilia" is the musical re-telling of an old Russian folk tale, combining classic Russian song structures with today's technology to create a truly wonderful experience. This version of the "bylina" "Ilia" was created by St. Petersburg composer Alexander Sledin, who also contributes vocals and some very well-played synthesizer to the recording. A "bylina" is a traditional form of Old Russian and Russian heroic narrative poetry dealing with the age of Kievan Rus in the 10th-12th century. They often center on the deeds of Prince Vladimir I (thus the track "Vladimir the Prince") and his court. One of the favorite heroes, and the one represented in this recording, is the independent Cossack Ilya of Murom, who defended Kievan Rus from the Mongols. Despite the "foreigness" of the story and the setting in which it takes place, the music is composed so that an understanding of the original tale - or even the language - is not required for enjoyment. The chord changes and sonic textures used throughout "Ilia" are more than sufficient to convey the story to the listener.
One track where musical storytelling is especially apparent is in the final track "The Battle". Through the use of driving percussion, intense violin passages, and vocals sung with reckless abandon, Sledin manages to convey a true sense of conflict and chaos through his music. The opening track "Idolischche" (YOU try and pronounce that!) features some fantastic vocals by Irina Nikolaichuk and very effective keyboard work from Sledin resulting in a very emotional and spine-tingling effect.
All in all, "Ilia" manages to present a traditional Russian storytelling using a very effective and modern medium, that should please adventurous music lovers everywhere. Folks having any interest in discovering more about Russian folk music and its structures and textures would be well advised to pick up a copy of Epos Group's "Ilia".