Electroshock Records: Review:  
Roman Stolyar: "Credo"
(Electroshock Records 2003, ELCD 034)

09 tracks. Total time - 69:25.

The Russian label "Electroshock Records" has chosen an unusual aesthetic realm that encompasses academic electroacoustic music, newage/ambient and progressive rock. In the case of Roman Stolyar's "Credo", all these forms are represented, for better or worse. Hailing from Novosibirsk, Stolyar has included three works on this first solo album. "Credo RS" takes the form of a self-portrait in four parts, for a total of 36 minutes. The composer rummages through his eclectic musical tastes and capacities as an instrumentalist. The piece begins with a solo on melodica, followed by another solo on piano. Gershwin-esque passages lead to a full-scale progressive rock romp, strongly reminiscent of "Emerson, Lake & Palmer's" "Pirates" - all that in the 7-minute introduction! Stolyar plays piano, synthesizers and harmonium backed by a programmed rhythm section. But his original trait is to be found in his use of recorders instead of the concert flute. He displays surprising virtuosity. "Credo RS" moves through swing, improvised, and more prog rock passages. If it does go through all of Stolyar's defining elements as a composer and musician, it fails to truly make sense as a coherent piece. More satisfying is the vocal suite "Songs of the Seasons" (25 minutes) Written for and featuring singer Yelena Silantieva, this work remains resolutely prog rock from start to finish, hinting at Mike Oldfield, "Renaissance" and more "ELP". The "Autumn" section stands out, beautiful and luxurious. Silantieva's accent makes it hard to understand the words at times, but her angelic tone and phrasing largely compensate.

Francois Couture ("All Music Guide")

Roman Stolyar's "Credo" CD is probably one of the most free-jazz releases to have seen the light on "Electroshock Records". Progressive, jazz, fusion, electronics, experimental, ambient, traditional and world music all find a way to be heard on this release, with compositions spanning from '93 to 2000 that prove Stolyar's eclecticism and talent. The Jethro Tullish flute along with the marked seventies' progressive art-rock structures, the freeform jazz improvisations of piano, flute and other instruments, the unusual mixing of the standard ensamble's voices, the nice electronics that lays the grounds for acoustic instruments' improvisation, the occasional quasi middle-age/new-wave/celtic tunes, reverberated lush atmospheres, the almost Zornish nowave bursts of energy, the cheap found fake sounds (bells, brasses, strings, drums), the cymbal-generous fusion drumming, the experimental overall veil, the female vocals and lyrics of William Blake are but some of the pieces of this intricate and sophisticated puzzle. As always the art work is simply superb but this time probably even superior to the contents it represents. I am not going to argue with the choice of the sounds if indeed it was a choice, but I personally wasn't to enthusiast about those above-mentioned fake sounds (maybe live musicians would fix that) and some of the prog-jazz-rock passages of this CD. I am into and around a lot of jazz so it's not a matter of genres. There obviously are several good ideas and nice parts in this CD (for example the first and third of the three-part vocal suite "Songs of the Seasons"), I just didn't seem to find the key to understand it completely. This is the Russian composer's first solo CD but I am sure he's got an extensive background in jazz improvisation so I will look forward to see where this new direction will bring him and how he will develop his newly found electro-acoustic soul.

Marc-Urselli Scharer ("Chain DLK")

One thing can be said about "Electroshock Records" without any fear of contradiction, and that's they're one hell of an interesting electronic label. I'd be the first to say that not all their releases have hit the mark, that would be, frankly, impossible, but all credit is given to them for not sticking to a winning formulae. It's only recently I finished the mammoth task of reviewing their last batch when bang! another five arrive. Not that I'm moaning, anything from this label is always a welcome addition. Roman Stolyar's "Credo" (ELCD034) is a pretty radical departure for "Electroshock", but like I've already said, this is something to be admired. Roman Stolyar is an improviser who hails from Novosibirsk and even in the sleevenotes you'll read that it's the man's spirit and the principle of coexisting within different genres that makes this album, or compilation, one for "Electroshock". Containing pieces from 1993 through 1996 (nine tracks) there are a load of jazz and classical flurries, indeed, at times his piano style reminds me immensely of Keith Emerson! There's no doubting that Stolyar's got talent, and his playing the piano should keep even the most ardent of critics quiet because it's a "proper" instrument! This release is perhaps the bravest that Electroshock have released as, like I've said, it's really a hell of a departure. The more I listen, though, the more of Emerson's influence comes through. If nothing else comes from the album, Stolyar's piano work is superb, and I do believe that the album's a sleeper, or rather, one that eventually grows on you. Incredibly different!

Dave W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")

This is the first solo album on "Electroshock Records" by Roman Stolyar, a multi-instrumentalist and composer from Novosibirsk. The focus on this album is less electronic instrumentation but musical improvisation using an assortment of acoustic instruments such as piano, harmonium, recorder and shanti. There is, of course, some synths and programming going on as well, but this is subordinate to the acoustic instruments. Stolyar brings this altogether in "Credo RS", a musical self-portrait containing all the musical styles that he plays: jazz, rock, ethnic and improv. It's all impressive stuff but it left me unmoved, at times there's just too much going on sonically and the various elements jar the senses. "Songs of the Seasons", featuring vocalist Yelena Silantieva, is a short cycle of songs (in a tribute to poet and painter William Blake) in a more pronounced rock idiom and is much more enjoyable (to these ears)! The final track is called "Meditation" and is the most "electronic" and akin to the "Electroshock" sound one expects from an album on this label. All in all "Credo" is a very mixed bag and while the musicianship is impressive the album didn't really click with me overall - but that's personal taste... you might find it the album of your dreams.

John Peters ("Borderland")

From Novosibirsk, Russia, Roman Stolyar is a composer and free-improvisational musician who plays a variety of styles including intense and theatrical jazz, classical and progressive rock. The music on "Credo" includes recordings from 1996, and two different performances in 2000.

The CD opens with the four part 35 minute "Credo RS", which is a self-portrait consisting of composed and improvised music recorded in 1996. "Introduction" is dominated by Stolyar's beautiful and expressive piano work which ranges from light melodies, to jazz, to Gershwin styled whimsy and intensity. In its last moments the music bursts into a full symphonic prog rock assault complete with Keith Emerson keyboards. I wish Stolyar would have developed this section a bit more. "In Jazz" opens with a recorder solo that would make Ian Anderson bow his head in respect. Percussion soon joins in and playfully duels with the recorder. And when the keyboards kick in we're in full orchestral/progressive/jazz mode that brings to mind a more tribal version of Shadowfax. Stolyar excels at thematic development and at all times I had the sense that a story was unfolding. Then he launches into a Dave Brubeck "Take Five" bit in which the recorder and piano duke it out and we find ourselves in full band cool jazz heaven. Very high volume and very intense. "In Quiz" features more jazz piano that has that wonderfully theatrical Gershwin style. Really fantastic composition and playing. And "In the Reality" is a flowing symphonic electro-acoustic piece with oriental, jazz and new age sounds, plus seductive melodies and arrangements and head bopping percussion.

The next four tracks, "Songs of the Season", are more recent recordings by Shanti, the duo of Stolyar and his sister Yelena Silantieva. A melodic progressive rock suite with beautiful vocals by Silantieva. The music makes the classic prog rock transitions through multiple themes as it works its way through the four seasons. We hear lush symphonic keyboards, lulling medieval motifs in which Stolyar's recorder fits in perfectly. Kind of a mixture of Vangelis, ELP, George Winston, early Genesis, and hints of jazz. On the closing track, "Meditation", Stolyar reveals his more experimental side. Krafterwerkian electronics and organ create a robotic melody alongside recorder (both meditative and fiery) and symphonics, making for a very intriguing combination. It's a nice piece though the rhythms are strangely off-kilter near the end and the track ends somewhat abruptly.

In summary, Roman Stolyar is a gifted musician and composer who clearly has a variety of stylistic interests, though the "Credo RS" tracks were the ones that excited me the most. I'd be very interested in hearing more of his music.

Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")

The artwork on the cover of "Credo" immediately draws attention. It holds some kind of mystical energy that makes you very interested to listen to the album. The album begins in a strange and again mysterious way, just like the cover hinted. It slowly starts as if some kind of life form is ready to get born but is still afraid to get started. After a while de reservation is over and the music leads itself. Roman Stolyar was born in 1967 and presents "Credo" that is filled with experimental classical music. With piano, flute, and other instruments he creates songs with jazz influences, classical orientations and hints to popular tunes. Sometimes you think a TV show is beginning. We have to wait until track 5 to hear some vocals. That is because the CD is divided in three parts. The second part is called "Songs of the Season" (vocal suite) and holds four songs. The track Meditation ends the album that reminds me of Frank Zappa.

Peter-Jan Van Damme ("Darker Than the Bat")

Roman Stolyar surpasses stylistic barriers and builds compositions where we can appreciate traits from Jazz, from Pop, from New Music, and from World Music - all this under a free focus, without ties, where there is no lack of space for experimentation, either.

Alejandro Hinojosa ("Amazing Sounds")

Roman Stolyar is an inventive composer who embraces so many styles that to deny any blurs the single-minded scope of interlocking hybrids. From the opening piano strains to the "Introduction" of the thirty-five minute suite "Credo RS", it's clear that the piece meshes finesse playing and modern orchestral arrangements with an unfamiliar flare. Comparisons range from Keith Emerson and Vangelis to Lars Hollmer as well as from the Russian homeland. Part two, "In Jazz" is lead by recorder playing a forlorn folk melody that doesn't transition as expected, but that's also part of the appealing unpredictability. Pummeling drums signal a change into a free-jazz section before the mode gets anxious with an upright bassist providing a much-needed root. The closing section, "In the Reality" begins by tubular bells that meander into a modern classical segment and eventually into a Far East sitar grounded section. One wonders after completing this musical exodus, where does one go next? "Songs of Seasons" encompasses tracks five through eight and switches gears to focus on chanteuse vocalist Yelena Silantieva. She adds another creditable component into the knit framework with a vocal delivery not unlike Amanda Parsons from "National Health's" first lineup. And "To Summer" rekindles elements of mid-period Renaissance Scheherezade album with effective song-based storytelling. Overall it's a wide array of styles that forges the final outcome to great success. Highly recommended as one of the best of a new trend of modern Russian composers.

Jeff Melton ("Expose")


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