Saturday, 2 February 2013

Discovery: Gurzuf - Marchen

Gurzuf is the name given to Belarus post-rock / instrumental rock duo Egor Zabelov and Artem Zalessky, both highly talented musicians. Zabelov is a highly rated accordionist and Zalessky a top class percussionist. Gurzuf released their debut album Non-existent Movie in 2007. It's a mix between the classical traditions of accordion music and contemporary percussion. Non-existent Movie showcases Gurzuf's ability to create such imaginative sounds from only two instruments. Marchen is the duo's sophomore album, and at only 21 minutes, seems like an EP. Though Marchen does not sound like an EP in anyway. The short length of this album actually acts as a positive in the strength of its two tracks.

The titular track "Marchen" has many qualities. Instrumental rock has a tendency to be flawed in places, but Gurzuf fend off all the typical criticisms with this 13 minute track. It begins with a beautifully orchestrated thumping drum and layered accordion. Volume levels are slowly turned up as ambience and atmosphere fill the track. It takes a good three and a half minutes of this before any variations occur. The accordion riff differs, as Zalessky's cymbals ring with effect. Zabelov increase his efforts with the accordion and the track formulates a build-up, to what is a split second of silence... Suddenly the riff returns without the cymbals, but with French horn to accompany the instrumentation and what sounds like a very powerful cello.

Zabelov clearly has an ear for structure and the knowledge to orchestrate his minimalistic instruments in to what is essentially a post-rock track with classical influences. The variations continue, and surprisingly, "Marchen" never bores. It shows what just a couple of basic instruments can do by themselves and the first 11 minutes of Marchen do honestly put Zabelov and Zalessky on top of a music theory pedestal.

The dying moments of "Marchen" are essentially the cool down minutes. A repetitious accordion riff rings loud, sounding like it could break in to a powerful loud track at any moment, but refrains from this with the secondary accordion and slow, atmospheric percussion. Usually I'm against fade outs in music, but with post-rock and its genre label companions, I can be forgiving. The slow fade works as Gurzuf complete the main bulk of this album.

At seven minutes in length, "Air" is nothing short of a key track when put alongside the massive variations of "Marchen". This track is far more atmospheric and would suit many scenes in any different movies that would attract tourist attention to something along the lines of Central Park in New York City. The swirling ambience sounds like wings flapping and the accordion embarks images of Central Park street performers over at the pond. At the half-way mark, Gurzuf shake things up a little. It's the sounds and rhythms you would expect from an Icelandic band, not a Belarusian duo. It evokes so many images in such a bright style; you could be forgiven for even thinking this is the work of Sigur Ros.

Marchen is a short album, but it's an album worthy of your time, effort and of course your money. It doesn’t come as a surprise to find out Gurzuf has done work for theatrical performances. Their sound is emotional and throughout Marchen, they sound confident in their ability and comfortable with where they are at in terms of their career as musicians. This is one for the OST fanatics and instrumental / classical / post-rock fans who have an ear for technical structures and well-orchestrated tracks.

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