Electroshock Records: Review:  
Valery Siver & Kiryll Trepakov: "Midway"
(Electroshock Records 2003, ELCD 035)

12 tracks. Total time - 57:22.

Starts out like a Michael Hedges composition with a Spanish flavour only to evolve into this electro-ambient soliloquies with deep lounge bass lines, lush beats, shy synth pads, world music instruments and tasty found sounds organized with meticulous artistry to originate a sophisticated spell of blended impressions and expressions. Valery Siver (composer as "Migrator" and dance remixer as "Love Unlimited") is a multifaceted St. Petersburg native musician who has focused his career on the study of guitar and who brings the richness of his instrument in "Midway's" playground to meet with Moscow based Kiryll Trepakov (part of "K.U. Street" and "Medusa7" as well as founder of "Expedition Zero") who also studied guitar but who later concentrated on folk string-instruments plucking, drums, audio engineering, sound research and manipulation and the study of the characteristics of sounds. From such team players you can of course expect great things in terms of quality of compositions, wideness of palette, variety of moods etc. Personally I'd expected or hoped for a little more of those enchanting Hedges-like atmospheres for acoustic guitar and reverb only, but the duo has decided to make use of such passages only as a mean to introduce more complex pictures of auditory elements, and the result is but gorgeous and regenerating. By the time I listened to this album half way down for the first time it had already become one of my new favourite soundtracks for relaxation and of the best ways I can think of to represent the essence of the electro-acoustic music that "Electroshock" so promptly and magnificently sorts out.

Marc Urselli-Scharer ("Chain DLK")

This collaboration between Valery Siver and Kiryll Trepakov is
smoother and more easy going than anything else released by "Electroshock Records" up to this point in time. Newage instrumental with touches of space music and light techno, the music hovers over the listener's head without ever actually engaging him or her - which may or may not be a bad point, depending on what you are looking for. Siver claims melodies, ideas and guitars to his credit, while Trepakov is declared responsible for composition, arrangements, keyboards and synthesizer effects (the "space" element). Without a doubt, their music has elegance. Special care has been put into sound design. Some of the tunes are extremely cute, but nothing else "Dansing" [sic] epitomizes this aspect of the duo's work). Other
tracks delve deeper into intelligent newage, but then they loose their melodic purpose. "Thirty Seconds" hints at Tibor Szemzo's music with the "Gordian Knot Company", replacing flute with guitar. Siver's acoustic guitar playing sticks to a laid-back instrumental folk style, enjoyable but somewhat faceless. To sum it up, "Midway" is well-done but leaves no significant memory once the CD stops spinning.

Francois Couture ("All-Music Guide")

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. Valery Siver and Kiryll Trepakov's "Midway" (ELCD 035) had me hooked straight away. I think it was down to the instruments used on the opening track, "N-Tro". As crazy as this sounds, it reminded me of "Hatfield" - it definitely has that 'Canterbury' feel, which is crazy because both composers are Russian! Also, the rear CD piccy and the inside one of the abandoned farm really helped the imagery. Classic opener, let's see what else happens.... Well, I'm not disappointed! "Stress", the second track is anything but, and combined with "Hot Wind" (what a title!) is like a stroll along a towpath with willow trees dangling in the water, a true ambient experience. What I do like about this album is the occasional use of electric piano that reminds you of those Sepia tinged bygone days of classic "Hatfield' and "National Health". There's twelve tracks in all, each one around four to five minutes long, and there simply isn't a dull one. Maybe it might be a bit twee for some hard core electronic fans, but I find it a gentle departure from being challenged all the time with darker pieces. A really nice album.

Dave W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")

Il convient de saluer avec une deference toute particuliere cette nouvelle production estampillee Electroshock. Car tout en perpetuant l'esprit du tres prolifique label moscovite, celle-ci s'inscrit sur une ligne toute personnelle, entre musique de film romantique et ambient naturaliste. Respectivement guitariste et clavieriste, Valery Siver et Kiryll Trepakov operent pour cela comme de veritables aquarellistes sonores. De facture douce et apaisante, "Midway" se developpe sur une trame illustrative d'une grande delicatesse. Occupant un territoire mouvant (et emouvant!!) entre rock atmospherique et electro contemplative, ce disque pourrait etre une nouvelle bande son de film imaginaire. Mais une bande son riche et inspiree, pleine d'echos et de nuances. Si ses lignes melodiques pures s'immiscent instantanement dans l'esprit de l'auditeur, l'effort porte sur les textures se revele tout aussi frappant. Courbes lumineuses, reverberations chaleureuses et autres murmures environnementaux completant idealement ce tableau aussi saisissant que la vision d'un coucher de soleil sur une mer d'huile. Vous l'aurez compris: "Midway" constitue certainement une des plus belles offrandes musicales que nous ait faite la Russie depuis des mois, et assurement le projet d'artistes genereux auxquels on ne peut predire qu'un avenir radieux. Un disque chaudement conseille aux amateurs des labels Fax et T:me recording!

Olivier Lehoux ("Solinoide")

"Midway" is a new album from "Electroshock" fusing the labels' trademark cutting edge electronic sounds with more conventional instruments. In this case it is guitars (acoustic and electric) and it shows in the way the music has a much more approachable feel and openness to it - indeed, the third track "Hot Wind" is positively jazzy and soul-stirring. In fact this sense of "swing" permeats the album throughout, making it one of the most melodic albums I've heard in a long time. Mixing traditional instruments and synthesisers has always been a difficult task for musicians - they aren't natural bedfellows after all - but on this album Valery Siver and Kiryll Trepakov seem to have cracked it. The synths and samplers create the bedrock of percussion and melodic background and the guitars subtly weave their magic throughout. Track seven, "Don", is a fine example of this magic, a limpidly funky backbeat is layered with soft synth drones while the guitars dance slowly with a synth lead, not exactly Ravel's "Bolero" but very exotic. The more I hear of "Midway" the more I like it, it is an album that deserves to be heard by as wide an audience as possible. It is quite simply a magical album. I do hope it won't be too long before Valery Siver and Kiryll Trepakov release another album.

John Peters ("Borderland")

From the "Electroshock Records" label in Russia comes what is, in my opinion, the first must-have album of the year. It's also the early leader for the top chill-out/ambient recording of 2003. "Midway" unites the assorted guitars (acoustic and electric) of Valery Siver with the electronics and beats of Kiryll Trepakov and the result is, well, fuckin' brilliant. Imagine locking Pat Metheny, Bruce BecVar and Aphex Twin (from his SAW II days) in a room with the command to "Play nice together!" and you may get some idea of the delights this CD holds. However, in this case, the whole is infinitely more rewarding than sum of any similar parts, such as the ones I just wrote above.

Veering from smooth as chromium chill-ambient, cushioned by liquid synths and anchored with glitch beats, to sparkly warm new age tunes, to mysterious shadowy synth soundscapes, the tracks on "Midway" are unified by some of the most innovative integrating of assorted guitars with electronics and beats I've heard in, well, maybe forever. Like I wrote above, fuckin' brilliant!

Opening with the strumming of a guitar mixed with foreboding undercurrents of percussive effects and minor key synths on "N-tro" "Midway" starts to really gel on "Stress" where the tasty and catchy glitch beats are first introduced. Swirling synths and skip/glitch rhythms coalesce around plaintive acoustic guitar with a slight Spanish courtyard flavor. "Hot Wind" is the first Bruce BecVar-tinted song, as mellow guitar flits over synth strings, a butterfly-winged flute sample, and twinkling bells - charming is too understated a word, and when midtempo beats are gradually folded into the mix, a grin of sheer delight will come on your face, I'd wager.

"Midway" is, simply, an amazing album and there is plenty of variety to be heard, although everything here is either nicely chilled or flavored with just the right amount of new age beauty to sound sweet without being cloying or syrupy. "Dansing" has a bit of a progressive sound to it with sweeping keyboards and a moderate amount of "rocking" sound to the guitar work, eventually bringing classic English prog bands of the '70s to mind (what with analog synths and a slight renaissance-era sound to the guitar at times). "Dreams" sounds like it came from BecVar's "Forever Blue Sky", although the synth work is much more adventurous which gives this "pretty" song a welcome slight edge. Pat Metheny fans will enjoy "Head on a Laps" which features delicate minimal guitar, played in a semi-jazzy style (although still considerably laid back in feel and tempo) along with a wooden flute sample that sure reminds me of the artistic touches Lyle Mays added to Metheny's work on, e.g., the early tracks off of that guitarist's album "Off Ramp".

Not everything is sweet and light here, of course; sometimes the chill-out is laced with a bit of mystery or darkness, especially on later tracks, such as "Mentors Shadow" with its smoky-dark drones, radio signal distortion and sparse guitar, or the ambient noir meets EM of "The Way" led by mournful synth choruses and, later, chugging synth rhythms (including what sounds like a saw being waved back and forth); or the SF-meets-cyber-lounge textures of "Thirty Seconds".

Besides being what is almost assuredly the most accessible release ever from "Electroshock", "Midway" is also one of its most entertaining recordings. Each song is like a multifaceted jewel that, as the listener rotates it in his/her hand, reveals some new aspect of its beauty. Hats off to Siver and Trepakov on delivering a recording so full of unexpected surprises and musical wonder; and kudos to Artemiy Artemiev of "Electroshock Records" for releasing this fantastic album which earns my highest recommendation

Bill Binkelman ("Wind & Wire")

Valery Siver and Kiryll Trepakov are Russian musicians who have joined forces after having been active on their own for some time. Both are trained classical guitarists, which is prominent on the album, though keyboards, synthesizers and percussion are also principle instruments.

The CD opens with "N-Tro", a song hinting that "Midway" might be one of the more Rock oriented of Electroshock releases. The song segues into "Stress" which picks up the pace a bit, being something of space/jazz fusion tune with a 70's fusion keyboard sound, soaring UFO synths, acoustic guitar and percussion. "Hot Wind" is an intriguing blend of melodic progressive rock, Anthony Phillips, jazz, and light drum 'n bass rhythms. Scratchy hip-hop beats color "The Way". "Dansing" is a melodic spacey progressive rock tune that I enjoyed. Siver and Trepakov go even deeper into the cosmos on the lulling "Thirty Seconds" and "For a Lifetime", with their bubbling synths and mission control voice samples. For the most part the music is slow paced and highly meditative to the point of being hypnotic. Drifting waves of ambient drone are trademark elements as is the slowly soloing classical guitar. "Head on a Laps" is one of the most meditative tracks on the album with acoustic guitar, dreamy bass drones, and the sound of seagulls which conjure up images of drifting peacefully on the open sea. The song moves seamlessly into "Don", which picks up the beat with steadier percussion, deeper drones, pulsating alien synth embellishments, and much more of a "song" feel. Overall, a beautiful set of contemplative music with a welcome spacey vibe and some adventurous moments.

Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")

Engaging new album from the Russian Electroshock label, which fuses electronic music with, in this instance, the conventional guitar (acoustic and electric). The result is a moody, atmospheric ambient instrumental album, brought to life by the melodic guitar strings that glide, bend, pluck and twang over a variety of challenging swirling synth environments. Interestingly, some of the best tracks are the more guitar-driven, such as "Hot Wind", which is a positively soul-stirring slice of shimmering summer beauty. The balance between the rolling acoustic guitar strums, warm strings and delicate drum loops is perfection personified. Occasionally, "Midway" can come across as a little outdated when compared to current conventional electronic music, but I don't believe this causes too much of a distraction from the overall satisfaction rating. One could occasionally compare this to the guitar-orientated parts of David Sylvian's "Gone To Earth" album, particularly "Head on a Laps" and "For a Lifetime", with their carefully plucked strings intelligently inflecting every part of their shadowy synthesised background drones to deliver some blissfully involving moments. Certain albums have their time and place and "Midway" will strike you at some point during the summer months as the perfect accompaniment to whatever restful activity you may be doing at the time. That is what ambient music was made for, and this faultlessly delivers.

Danny Tumer ("Barcode")

Russia is rapidly gaining much needed notoriety as the vanguard region for ambient experimentalists whom are internationally praised and regarded. Add two more proponents (Valery Siver and Kirill Trepakov) to the top of that heap from Artemiy Artemiev's "Electroshock Records" label that has pushed the envelope in the country for the last eight years or so. "Midway" is Siver and Trepakov's first project together and "Electroshock's" 35th. Siver adopted the role of the pastoral guitarist while Trepakov (from the electoproject "Expedition Zero") is more concerned with textures, backdrops and overall arrangements. The two have been proficient in other homeland projects but nothing they have done before hinted at the synergy created in this first work. From the CD initial track, "N-Tro" it's clear that the duo displays a serious empathy between song story-board and execution. Siver's main six-string axe of choice is mostly classical acoustic as he manages to weave arpeggio parts into Trepakov's intricate scenarios. Together the two create a mix of calm tones and sweltering soundscapes that exceed any minimalist New Age pretensions. "Stress" is a piece that relies on sampled pops and clicks to create a mood of anxious tension. The group can also create icy , crystalline passages (Hot Wind") and merge it into a world music unlike any other. This is what CGT would sound like they had a summit meeting with "Cluster" or Brian or Roger Eno with an emphasis on an integrated, luminous result. Overall in the twelve tracks, the duo has lain a foundation for further collaborative works in the future. Highly recommended.

Jeff Melton ("Expose")

Themes of a surreal sound, where acoustic guitar is wrapped within electronic effects. Rhythms near to classical Techno, the Industrial or the Ethnic. Melodies of an enigmatic nature at times, and romantic on other occasions. These are the main traits of "Midway", an imaginative album which can be more or less labelled within New Instrumental Music, although with the peculiarities already described. Both artists succeed in shaping a very personal, unmistakable style.

Eduardo Fontana ("Amazing Sounds")


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