Following rapidly on the heels of October's Marshmallow Moondust (see review) comes another welcome slice of keyboard lead symphonic prog from Antony Kalugin appearing here in solo guise with only Olha Rostovska assisting on vocals. Within this period, Kalugin has also returned to recording with one of his full band projects Karfagen on the excellent Principles And Theory of Spektra (2021, see review) and shows no signs of slowing down.
Like its solo predecessor, this is a two part suite with an otherworldly theme to it. The cover art speaks of worlds of pure imagination, journeys into the fantastical and xxx. As you might expect, although Kalugin again contributes guitar parts and drum programming, this is again very heavily reliant upon his dexterity with keyboards to create the epic soundscapes of this vision. From the opening bars of Stellar suggestive of first steps and new beginnings through to its triumphant, epic climactic themes, he is almost literally pulling out all the stops in a cinematic tapestry of soundscapes, one dazzling, soaring flight is superseded only by another incandescent flourish in a journey of universal proportions.
The Gardener section, in this regard picks up the baton from the first half, delivering another huge slice of progressive pie, working as much texture as possible out of the keyboard array, in a paean to a cosmic curator. Bombastic themes abound, juxtaposed with reflective passages and variety exploring the complex character of this creator. At times fiercely awesome, while at others capricious, gentle and full of fun. At its peak it can shimmer with all the vibrancy of a wildflower meadow in summer, but also carries a message of fragility and harsh, complex forces at work.
The CD version carries some shorter reimaginings of sections from the main work and are entertaining as extracts in themselves although I'm sure most fans of this music will want to concentrate on the full length versions. In Stellar Gardener Antony Kalugin has delivered yet another fantastic slab of pure, progressive keyboard rock which anyone who appreciates synthesisers and ambitious symphonic rock in glorious technicolour will enjoy. You deserve at least one if not both these solo offerings in your life. You know you want to.
**** Andrew Cottrell
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