Leave it to the Russian label "Electroshock Records" to release this album without the tiniest liner note explaining what it contains. Even those of have heard the previous collections of music by Edward Artemiev (still best known for his soundtracks to Tarkovsky's classic films "Solaris" and "Stalker" will be at odds figuring out what this bombastic piece of symphonic rock is.
"Ode to the Herald of Good", the first (and longest) of these "Three
Odes", was written for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. It is structured in seven parts and calls for an array of synthesizers (performed by Artemiev), a lead singer Gennadiy Trofimov, a rock group "Boomerang", a classical chamber ensemble "Melody", an orchestra, and three different choirs. It sounds like one of Rick Wakeman's pompous mid-'70s extravaganzas, but written by a keyboardist more fond of "Tangerine Dream".
The lyrics, sung by the classically trained Trofimov, are translations of
writings by Pierre De Coubertin. The piece has all the qualities and flaws
of such grandiose undertakings - including highly compressed sound messing
things up whenever the intensity (or pomposity) level rises. Those looking
for more of Artemiev's delicate electronic music will be disappointed. The
CD is rounded up by two more odes. "Phantom from Mongolia" is a beautiful piece blending Mongolian themes with more "typical" electronics. "There & Here" is a smoochy orchestral musical-type piece (think Andrew Lloyd Weber. Be warned.
Francois Couture ("All-Music Guide")
This new album by Edward Artemiev is something of a surprise - it is arguably the most commercial sounding album in the new batch of Electroshock releases. The composer has dropped his usual semi-classical style for what I can only describe as an over-the-top style of prog-rock on steroids - along with what sounds like huge banks of synths, there are a number of different choirs and solo vocalists - plus an orchestra and a rock band. I have to say that I love it - the overall feel is of an album that rocks mightily.
The album opens with some hard riffing synths and sequencers in "Tangerine Dream" mode - this is the start of "Ode #1: Ode to the Herald of Good". This ode is split into six sections, each with a rich and sometimes highly dramatic (aka: "over the top") synth backing supporting a variety of solo vocalists and choirs. Unfortunately, most of the lyrics are in Russian, so I have no idea what they are singing about. But that aside, the performances are highly robust and up-tempo. The first two sections of "Ode #1, A Torch and Herald of Good", certainly sound as if Rick Wakeman and/or Emerson Lake & Palmer were a main influence. Section Three, "Harmony of the World", is much calmer, ambient washes of sound mix with bubbling synths and a celestial choir to provide a small oasis of calm before "Sport - You are a Perpetual Progress" kicks in with high octane synths and choir. Section Five, "A Beauty of the Earth" goes all cosmic again, chiming sequencers, echo-laden trumpets, "Pink Floyd" style guitar and a wistful vocal. Magic stuff! "Ode #1" concludes with "Appeal", a slow tempo piece where everything comes together. Before the next ode we have a two part interlude ("Interlude" and "Sport - You are a Peace"), with the first part sounding very much like Vangelis crossed with "Tangerine Dream", while part two brings in a mighty choir and much drama. "Ode #2: Phantom from Mongolia (Fantasies on Mongolian Tunes)", drops the synth bombast for a more ethnic feel, oriental percussion vies with ambient drones, more celestial voices ride over the top and it's all very ethereal until halfway through when the rhythms start to kick in. The final tracks is "Ode #3: There & Here (Terzetto)", a more conventional orchestral and operatic vocal track that brings the listener back down to Earth and something resembling normalcy - almost.
This is one very strange album - I'm so used to the music on Electroshock albums being rather cold and clinical sounding, more suitable for art installations than listening for pleasure, yet with "Three Odes" we have an album that merges the worlds of electronica, prog-rock and opera so seem lessly that one wonders why it has never been done before. I can't recommend "Three Odes" highly enough - it is a gloriously mad melting pot of musical styles and pre-conceptions all stirred into something magical by Edward Artemiev and his collaborators. This is my album of the year - I can't conceive of hearing anything as remotely imaginative and pleasurable in the near future. To be heard and not believed!
John Peters ("The Borderland")
In "Three Odes" we can listen to the master lines of the style of the Russian composer Edward Artemiev, one of the first musicians in the world to use a sinthesizer to approach new ways of understanding music, and a world pioneer of the New Musics. Throughout his long career, Edward has gone beyond all the frontiers among genres. He had the daring initiative to do this when nobody dared do it. In this CD we have good samples of his wide musical vision. Instrumental classicism, Symphonic Rock, Space Music, SynthPop, World Music, electronic experimentation, and other paths, appear as those travelled by the artist throughout the pieces here included. In all the cases his talent is most remarkable, though his condition as a visionary is made more obvious in the least conventional passages. For instance, his approach to Space Music reflects a strength that only a few stars of this genre have succeeded in transmitting. Melodies that impress from the first moment, unearthly ambiences whose absolute clarity provides them with an overwhelming realism, powerful rhythms capable of transmitting all the magnificience of an epic tale, and a perfect coherence among all the elements.
Jorge Munnshe ("Amazing Sounds")
Artemiy's father Edward Artemiev's "Three Odes" is a collection of old works including an Ode originally and especially composed, recorded and used for 1980's "Moscow Olympic Games", an Ode written (but remained unused) for the film "Urga - Territory of Love" (1990) directed by Nikita Mikhalkov and Ode recorded in 1997 for the opening ceremony of the "Teffi" prize (Russian nomination for best production in TV-industry). Edward's unbelievably vast cinematic experience leaves the stage to a bombastic mixture of classical and opera music, space electronic and prog rock. The grand symphonic sound of the State Orchestra of Cinematography, the State Russian Choir, the State Moscow Choir and the Children's Choir of Moscow Choir College; with the additional support of four singers (one of which is a tenor); together with the work of the modern sounding Boomerang group; plus the lofty avant-garde electronica of one of Russia's pioneering fathers of the entire electronic movement, make for a highly ambitious batch of compositions that bring together influences spanning from the past two centuries to the past two decades (Rick Wakeman, Vangelis, ELP, Tangerine Dream, Rondo Veneziano). I don't understand the Russian lyrics, but at times it sounds extremely patriotic and proudly nationalist (texts are by Pierre De Couberten): I say this just to give you an aid as to what the movements' pace is like. If you know Edward Artemiev for his calmer electronic pieces often used to score film soundtracks (among the most popular ones are some Andrei Tarkovsky's) or if you are looking for another example of the electroacoustic sound that Electroshock Records has grown to be known for, then you might wanna check this out before you spend your money, as this is not your average Artemiev Family sound, and even though it ultimately is electroacoustic in it's nature you are better off thinking of it as an electronically face-lifted classical/opera music on the rocks!
Mark Urselli-Scharer ("Chain D.L.K.")
The 'old' fella, Edward Artemiev (Artemiy's daddy!) takes his turn with "Three Odes" (ELCD 030). This is a boisterous and 'fun' album, and the first track, who the hell is that guitarist! Sounds like Bill Nelson on speed! Amazingly complex beats and rhythms fight it out as a choir become almost orgasmic and before you know it, we're lying together, smoking a cig! One or two of the tracks have vocals on, and, as before, don't really work too well for me, a bit too dramatic and I can't understand Russian too well! In some respects the album doesn't come as a surprise as "Electroshock Records" constantly stretch this way and that - you can get one album that defies categorising, and then you get this one, which is pretty straight ahead dramatic rock. Not one of Edward's best for the label I will say. Again, whilst a couple of the tracks are really fine examples of how Edward can add a dramatic sound (his work on film soundtracks helps no doubt) to the whole. And credit should go to the so-called "Boomerang" Band who 'assist' on a few of the tracks, hell, who is that guitar player?
David W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")
Edward Artemiev is Russia's answer to Vangelis (without the upbeat swelling of keyboards), and while not heavily versed in his catalog this release has left me befuddled. "Three Odes" is, at times, both very good and very bad. The first ode is broken up into seven parts; stating them would eat up my word count. It sounds like Rick Wakeman trying to be pompous. And as Wakeman has done, it was written for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. Outstanding synth playing by Artemiev (although he uses the cheese setting at times). Loads of poseur guitar and a croed, yes a chorus of thousands, and finally an operatic vocalist. It's a tribute to all things excessive, but given it was meant for an Olympic stadium, you have to just move on. This album is so different from my previous encounter with Artemiev I am amazed. "Ode #I. Part III" is a sweet confluence of synth, a wonderful respite from the surrounding tracks, but that soothing interlude is quickly lost to more bombast. The "Phantom from Mongolia" section is better; ethnic tinged electronics. However the last ode loses me completely; a true Russian opera. Considering Artemiev's credits there might be more here than I am willing to look for, I just couldn't listen to this.
Dane Carlson ("Expose")