Gleb Kolyadin: Gleb Kolyadin – album review
CD / DL / vinyl
Released 23 February 2018
Following the success of two highly-praised albums with chamber prog duo iamthemorning, Russian virtuoso pianist Gleb Kolyadin affirms his musical authority with his self-titled debut album.
Solo albums. They get a bad press. Especially from musicians who’d be classed in the progressive rock genre. Look at the history; the outlook is bleak with the occasional sunny spell. So Gleb Kolyadin – pianist in iamthemorning, winners of Prog magazine’s 2016 album of the year – may well be prejudged guilty by association. But hang on…
Mountains of mounting accolades have already appeared in the music press for the Kolyadin solo debut alongside testimonials from his peers – Anathema’s Daniel Cavanagh, drummer Gavin Harrison, Nick Beggs and Marillion’s Steve Hogarth (the latter duo also feature on the album) all speak in glowing terms of the man’s ability. It’s a record that comes as a collaborative work with the musicians, each highly regarded in their own right and not forgetting to mention (as many have) Gleb’s iam percussionist Evan Carson, recording their own parts separately, starting with Gleb recording himself on grand piano in Moscow in the Winter and Spring of 2017 at the famed Mosfilm studio.
What’s been flamboyantly described as “an emotive exploration of self-identity; a story of two parts with interweaving leitmotifs,” the album’s central concept weaves through an elaborate tonal and thematic structure and accented at various points by vocal contributions. You can guess that for the musos and those with a suitably technical musical vocabulary, there are going to be moments of mouth watering intensity. However, for those of us who can simply sit and admire the dedication and craft of a musician who has been classically trained, there’s still more than enough to appreciate at our own level.
First impressions arise within a few moments of Insight striking up; have you loaded up ELP’s Works Vol 1 or 2 by mistake…and as the piece progresses, there are earworms that recollect the style of the great and late Keith Emerson while the flying synth work is very Wakeman-esque. It’s a compliment though to be able to reference the instrumental vitality and flair of those two prog rock masters in the work of young Gleb who turns out to be very much his own master. Kaleidoscope is exactly that – flying again, Wakeman-like across the electronic keys with diversions into the piano while Theo Travis’ flute weaves a path in and out. Again, dig out your Tarkus, Trilogy and Wakey albums and admire some exceptional drumming flown in by Gavin Harrison and the evocative presence of Tatania Dubovaya.
As you’d maybe expect from a classically trained musician, there are various piano interludes that pepper the album that range from the grand and stately – White Dawn – to pieces with a more classical edge and the dramatic arrangement cum music hall/silent screen medley of Echo/Sigh/Strand. Elsewhere, as the solo aspects start to evolve, there’s the impression that while the collaborators have been left to add their own interpretations, they’ve certainly been pushed to the limits of their skills by the quality on show.
Antimatter’s Mick Moss adds the first vocal contribution to Astral Architecture; a title that suggests something grandiose, yet it’s a stark and emotive piece, otherworldly and flowing. Steve Hogarth adds a contrasting presence to the lengthy and more experimental Confluence and Best Of Days. The former has a bare, hold your breath, quality during the prolonged spaces before a more swaying cinematic feel takes hold, Hogarth briefly adding a spoken word part, yet he’s much more in his comfort zone on the latter. A piece favouring a strong Marillo character, it carries some of their recent F.E.A.R sentiment, singing of the storm beyond our bubble, alongside a slowly building and swirling carnival texture.
Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess, himself no slouch, joins on Storyteller – a meeting of minds where the contemporary electronic jiggery pokery he favours, flows from a device as a steady rhythm provides a sturdy foundation.
Prolonged exposure confirms that this is the work of a genuine virtuoso breaking new ground while keeping a finger on the pulse of familiar reference points. Part riveting, part intriguing and part dazzling, a century ago they’d be hailing “bravo maestro.” For now though, the unassuming young man will be content that hopefully, as Steve H proclaims in Best Of Days, “it all worked out like I hoped it would.”
You can watch the lyric video for The Best Of Days from the album here:
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