This is a very good album, but The Reverse May Be True.
Before I go on with the review, let me quote from here to introduce the band to you:
"DISEN GAGE branched out in 1999 when guitarist Konstantin Mochalov, guitarist Yuri Alaverdyan, and bassist Nikolai Syrtsev were studying at Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. Joined by Eugeny Kudryashov on drums, the quartet started playing out in their native college-club and became known with a surprising quickness due to fantastically fast spread amateur cassettes and their reputation for insanely emotional live performances at various student-festivals. The band's collaborative approach combined the intricate instrumentation of old-school progressive rock, the melodic expressionism of ethno-jazz, and the rough drive of garage-rock. Music-lovers apprehended the band as a phenomenon in local indie-scene, one of a few heirs in Russia to the traditions of instrumental rock. In addition to their work with the band, Mochalov, Alaverdyan and Syrtsev continued working as researchers at the Moscow Institute of Bio-Organic Chemistry, and Kudryashov played with a number of local indie-pop-rock groups. In 2002, tearing apart between their musical and academic interests the band practically stopped concert activity. Two years later, Yuri Alaverdyan left to continue his academic career in Sweden. Nevertheless, the quartet got over the difficulties with the appearance of the crafted guitarist Sergei Bagin, and returned to the active concert practice."
The Screw-Loose Entertainment released by RAIG in 2004, was indeed entertaining with its instrumental guitar-oriented, heavy and quirky rock (sometimes even psychedelic in nature and mood, though not sound), manifesting a variety of influences from King Crimson (Red-era) to more avant-rock leanings. It is therefore, with excitement that I found in my mail a promo copy of their new album released in 2008 (through RAIG as well) with a title that suggests a good portion of healthy skepticism and open-mindedness. Coming in another successfully well made digipack by RAIG, the art work, a collage of drawings and pictures is very fitting the music and atmosphere resounding from the album.
Indeed open-minded is a quality one needs when listening to their music. Not that it is too "out there" or overly alienating, but for those with softer "ear drums", this approach may be required, but then again, the reverse may be true. (sorry, I just had to insert it). As with their previous releases, there is innate humour and good spirit in the music here. The opener, 'What's up on planet Plyuk?', has a carnival-esque quality (well portrayed by the rhythm and instruments) and yet doesn't become grotesque, but instead remains in check and doesn't lash out with all they have in their ammunition to offer.
The sound has a nice volume to it and that can be said about the entire album. The musicianship is accurate and not overdone or flashy. There is good gradual development of the tracks. Such is the case for instance in 'Landing', which starts easily and rather quietly and gradually acquires dynamics as it progresses, adding more layers, instruments and themes. This track to me shows are restrained and disciplined they are and how skillful as well. I can think of several ways of how they could have just gone insane in many spots along this track (and others as well) and yet, they choose a harder path; that is to take the music in a slower way of development, but one that will get it further away from its starting point. There are several shifts in motifs throughout this song (and even appearance of voices) and those are well done, naturally "born" from the preceding parts and seamlessly evolving into maturity as full sections of their own. This track alone is the finest representative of their musical abilities.
Their eclectic style can be heard on the various tracks here. Whether it's the more rock-oriented approach, the zany and humrous fun music, a jazzy rhythm serving as the basis for the music or a more folky or even gypsy-like tune, you can find a variety of styles and approaches in here.
Not everything pleases me on the same level here. Exyrinx, while having an interesting and unique rhythm with the guitar soloing over it, doesn't excite me as much as other tracks here. Maybe here the restraint I mentioned above should have been replaced with a more free spirit and urge to try something more shocking, or perhaps quirkier. The slight change in rhythm at around 4 minutes does present an interesting development, albeit a more predictable one (but it does not detract from its effectiveness and quality). But I would prefer something completely different here; totally changing the whole concept in the middle or maybe just building a different theme to replace the existing one, while keeping the same basis.
'To Kill Kenny' presents a complex rhythm work and a nice cheeky melody and being a short track, it serves its purpose quite well and doesn't outstay its welcome.
Enters the track 'The Parovoz Hitchhikers to Japan', a little more than 5 minutes of intense music, opening with a crunchy and dirty guitar, making way after a minute to a clearer section, only to be thrown away a mere 20-30 seconds later by the opening players. This is repeated again after less than a minute, as if depicting the waves of an ongoing battle (sorry to make it completely not related to the title of the track, which, like several other tracks here, is a reference to Douglas Adams' books). This is quite a fascinating piece; the shifting of volume, dynamics and intensity are very well done and make this a great aural experience. This is quite different than 'Landing' and shows are well diverse this group is.
'God saw otherwise' continues in the spirit of the preceding track I terms of a dirty sound and energy levels. The music has a powerful driving force here, and the bass part has a lot to do with it as it resounds in the front of the mix. There is a marvelous wall of sound coming after about two minutes in which, despite sounding like a cacophony, I could tell each instrument apart. This is great crunchy rock portrayed here.
'Laxatives are included' - now what is one supposed to expect from a title like that? They are a funny bunch of guys, that much is evident. The track itself, however, opens quite moderately with the guitar and bass in the front and a slow rhythm and sound effects in the background. For two minutes not much changes, except for the volume going slightly up and then the rhythm accelerates and the mood becomes more upbeat. It sounds like they are making up the stage for some theme to be played over this "template". What they do is in fact to gradually add small patches of notes by the guitars and further increasing of tempo, until a minor climax around 4 minutes in at which point there is a sort of reset to the initial opening theme and rhythm. I have to say I expected something different; as I mentioned, it sounded that at that two minute mark they were setting the stage for a turn-point event in which they introduce a different theme altogether. Nonetheless, this is a well accomplished piece.
More high-pitched vocals in chant-like form appear in 'Ikar's Guide to the Galaxy' in which there is also fabulous noisy playing, highly energetic, insane at points with its mingled with the aforementioned vocals. This track, which seems to follow in the vein of 'The Parovoz Hitchhikers to Japan' and is not as complex as 'Landing', has partitioning within it, giving it its breadth and depth.
Apparently, there is a shortage of Oxygen and its prices are quite high, as the title of the closing track suggests: 'How much is Oxygen on planet Khanud?'. This jazzy-falvoured tune adds another zest to the Disen Gage wide palate of styles. If you liked their previous albums, then you should get this. For those who don't know the band, this is actually a good place to start as well, particularly if you're intrigued by what I described in the review.
Samples from all albums here.