VESPERO - Shum-Shir

Vespero - Shum-Shir

5 songs
41:01 minutes
***** ****


Coming from Astrakhan, a city from Southern Russia, close to the Kazakhstan border, Vespero have been a really busy outfit since the beginning of the millennium. Shum-Shir is already their eighth studio record, although there have been many more releases: self-releases, EPs and live records. Shum-Shir is the second part of their Abyssinian trilogy, which began last year with Lique Mekwas, released on the prestigious Russian underground label RAIG. That album made it to well over seventy minutes and showed the band in its most sprawling way. If you expect something similar from the second instalment, you will be mistaken but certainly not disappointed.

A wholly instrumental band, Vespero play a hypnotic kind of psychedelic kraut rock, infused with ethnic influences. Shum-Shir is also the bandís first album on the German independent label Tonzonen Records which is specialised in psychedelic and kraut rock music. Released on vinyl, it is understandable that the recordís length had to be more concise. So this time we get only five tracks that are between seven and ten minutes long. The A-side features the two longest tracks, starting with the albumís title track, a ten-minute behemoth that instantly shows off all of the bandís qualities. If you want instrumental music to work properly, you need good musicians on each and every instrument, and Vespero are one of the few I know of that can pull this off. The guitar is soaring, reminding occasionally of King Crimsonís Robert Fripp, the rhythm section is incredibly hypnotic, sometimes repetitive, but never monotonous, as can be heard on the impressive percussive middle part of the opener. Then there is the violin which adds the ethnic touch and might be seen as a substitute for vocals. Finally there are the synthesizers which are out of this world. Instead of relying on prefab sounds, the keyboarder is really making a true synthesis by creating his own strange aural journeys, borrowing from space rock, ambient and maybe even minimal techno.

Up next is Isidoreís Dance, at eight and a half minutes the albumís second longest track. As a dance, it is of course more rhythmic, highlighting the bandís kraut influences. What also works in the favour of the band is the perfect sound which gives enough room for each instrument to shine brightly. Isidore is one of the three spirits of the tribe that appear throughout the Shum-Shir ceremony in which the tribe is looking for a new leader under the influence of incense and secret drugs. The B-side contains three tracks all between seven and eight minutes long. First up is Gayaís Dance, and you guessed it, Gaya is another spirit. On this track, you might encounter a few parallels to Ozric Tentacles, but instead of cloning their sound, Vespero just use a similar approach to create their own sonic universe. The last spirit appears with Gulliís Dance, another sonic exploration of manifold dimensions, before the album ends with Hapi, which stands for the heavenly drum the elected leader will play once the ceremony is over. This is a somewhat more subdued piece, ending the album on a more sedate note.

In the past, Vesperoís albums were always quite long. Thatís not a bad thing in itself, but the more concise Shum-Shir allows the listeners to acquaint themselves more intimately with the material. Kraut, psychedelic and space rock are all heavily featured, plus a lot of ambient textures to give the whole room to breathe. Performed by miraculous musicians that have gathered a lot of experience over the years, Shum-Shir sees them at their pinnacle. This is a really great instrumental album that will entertain you flawlessly for its forty-minute running time. And just for the anecdote: the band has listed Luxembourgish space rock band Chief Marts under artists they also like on their Facebook page. The main difference is of course where Vespero are totally busy artists, Chief Marts are the exact opposite, leaving their fan waiting already for years for a supposedly already finished recorded album. But until then, you will be more than consoled by this new effort from the South Russians.

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