Messages From Afar is the ninth offering from Ukrainian multi-instrumentalist and composer Anthony Kalugin's symphonic art-rock outfit Karfagen. Despite this relatively prolific output for a band of this ilk, they are perhaps not as well known as they deserve to be. The sound channels early Camel, Flower Kings and Greenslade, but is not in thrall to predecessors, developing a keen contemporary sensibility.
This triptych, as with previous recordings places the emphasis on instrumental composition, although the collection is introduced by the sole vocal track, the Pink Floyd kind of First Contact featuring Oleg Prokharov's funky bass fills hinting at a more contemporary edge. On Foreign Land, Prokharov's insistent repeated line provided the space for an extended call and response workout featuring Max Velychko's shimmering guitar work interspersed with superb saxophone from Mikhael Sidorenko. As if this weren't good enough for an opener, it would appear that Kalugin has provided us with something of an entrée, a prelude to the meat of the matter (or vegetarian alternative if you prefer). The central portion is a gourmet feast of virtuosity from all the band. Fizzing into frenetic life with Volcano Rabbit & The Frog (No I have no idea either), the sparks are soon flying all round. Vale Of Dreams in particular is full blown symphonic prog at its best. Keyboard wizardry meets coruscating jazzy guitars and there's even room for a brass band and orchestra, all building to another gloriously climactic saxophone solo before segueing into the bucolic Golden Fields Of Rye a short piece featuring piano and orchestra, while Riding On A Rainbow brings us back to where we came in allowing for more lyrical guitar work. The final track Constant Flow stands out as an epic in its own right. Vivaciously fresh and upbeat, this stunning finale would be worth the investment on its own. The sense of joy in the music shines through in this fluid piece celebrating the establishment of harmony between the parties, with an echo of First Contact providing the bookend.
Karfagen have provided an almost literally breathtaking album of intelligence, wit, sparkling musicianship; energy balanced with lyricism and constant invention. Suffice to say I loved every second of this and will happily be searching out the back catalogue. I can highly recommend any other prog music fans to check this out.
***** Andrew Cottrell
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2018