Expanse: not really all that expansive in spite of the title and the cover art

Yarek Ovich / Wisdom of Shadows / Voice of the Wanderer, Expanse, Belarus, MDCXIII Prod., CD MIP-003 (2015)

From Ukraine, Belarus and Russia respectively comes this split recording whose title (right down at the bottom of the front cover of the sleeve) might best be translated from Russian and Ukrainian into English as “expanse”. First cab off the rank is Ukraine’s Yarek Ovich who offers up a short quiet piece combining raw BM background noise-guitar shower with cold serene night ambience, plucked guitar melody and a sparkly keyboard counter-melody loop. This is a bleak and depressing soundscape guaranteed to wilt the flowers, turn milk sour and bring rain clouds into the sky above where you’re sitting if you’re listening to this piece. Aided by a toy-like repeating synth loop whose pained tones seem to droop ever lower – maybe the battery is running low from all that brooding melancholy – repetition grinds this despondent dirge deep into your subconscious.

Coming from Belarus, Wisdom of Shadows offers a slightly more cheery piece (though perhaps the folk-like cheer wasn’t intended) with stodgy synthesiser rhythms, melodies and beats. The style is synth-orchestral / raw BM with ambient and some melodic hard rock elements. The best parts of this track are the cold blizzard ambience and the occasional lead guitar soloing but apart from those, the piece is an undistinguished instrumental work depending very heavily on repetition and layers of melody loops.

From Russia comes Voice of the Wanderer with a much tougher song of folk BM tremolo guitar trill, harsh singing and some heavy-handed synth melodrama playing. Of the three tracks, this one is old school melodic raw BM featuring vocals and quite a lot of clean lead guitar soloing. There are a few little surprises in this track that elevate it above average for this style of BM.

The Russian and Ukrainian efforts are not bad at all and would have made a nice little split single by themselves. The Ukrainian piece lasts just long enough that it’s not completely boring in spite of the unchanging repetition and some of the sound effects are original and interesting. The Russian contribution could have done without the synth orchestral music as it’s quite varied in its other instrumentation and experiments a little with its beats, riffs and rhythms to spring surprising changes in mood on listeners. The Belarusian work takes up half the split’s playing time with flat generic-sounding synth music that for all I know and care could have been on auto-pilot.

Hmm … the more interesting music was too short to be really expansive and immersive to justify the split release’s title. If it weren’t for the fact that these three bands are obscure and their releases hard to find, I’d say this split is best avoided and you’d be better off finding other work by Voice of the Wanderer and Yarek Ovich.

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