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Saturday, 28 November 2009

Belorukov / Stolyar / Popovskiy / Funtikov - 'Dots & Lines' (Ermatell)

Ever wondered what the avant-garde music students of St. Petersburg are doing these days? Dots & Lines' musicians, led by the young saxophonist Ilia Belorukov, wear their education on their sleeve, at least by naming each track after an Italian musical term. The titles are apt and 'Scherzo' is understandably the highlight, being a staccato bounce punctuated by percussive sax spurts. Roman Stolyar's melodica adds some carnivalesque 'tude throughout the recording, keeping it light and kinda fun. You can tell these guys are having a good time in the recording studio - I can't tell if it's entirely improvised, but it sounds clean and open. The third 'Interlude' track has some annoying CD skipping that I think is supposed to indicate their interest in electronics, but it passes quick enough. While this is certainly an 'interesting' CD, I don't know anything grabs or inspires me. There are moments of real tension, such as the 'Finale' track which uses thunderous piano and squeaking ocarina (I think) to dramatic effect; it's a bit more heart than the first 6 tracks indicate. Overall, Dots & Lines is innocuous and actually enjoyable to listen to; if I have one real complaint, it's that Belorukov (a brilliant solo performer and master of his instrument) rarely gets to let it rip. This has that type of design aesthetic that I've come to expect from this type of improvised music: clean looks, sans-serif fonts, and photos or artwork that is 'smart'. The liner notes are in Russian and English, and contain a quote by Kandinsky (in case you needed to put things into perspective). I thought the label was called Emmental, like the cheese, til I read things more closely.

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