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Rational Diet

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Album Review

Its repugnant and genuinely ugly cover art notwithstanding, avant-prog listeners of the 21st century nurturing a Rock in Opposition jones will probably find a lot to enjoy in the eponymously titled CD by Belarus experimental rock sextet Rational Diet released by the Italian AltrOck label (Yugen) in 2007. It becomes immediately apparent on "From the Grey Notebook, Pt. 1" that guitarist Maxim Velvetov has a serious Roger Trigaux fixation, with repeating figures and a sustained burning tone straight out of Present's Triskaidekaphobie/Le Poison Qui Rend Fou. "Stop, Kolpakoff!" suddenly enters more chamberesque territory, however, with percussion dropping away (appearing only intermittently thereafter) and greater emphasis placed on Cyrill Christia's violin, guest Alla Pustchina's cello, and particularly Vitaly Appow's bassoon. The music remains complicated and sometimes harmonically astringent, yet for the most part rhythmically insistent for long stretches of the disc, mixing elements of contemporary composition and even free improv with the type of avant-prog that should catapult fans of Western Culture-era Henry Cow and early Art Zoyd and Univers Zero into dark heaven. And Appow's occasionally wild bassoon soloing seems heavily influenced by Unrest-era Lindsay Cooper, a fine antecedent indeed. Some listeners might be put off a bit by the spoken word (and sometimes ranted or chanted) interludes that intermittently intrude upon the often inspired instrumental convolutions of reeds, strings, keyboards, accordion, and more, thanks to the contributions of guest vocalists Cyrill Yelshow, Maria Lagodich, Andrew Bogdanow, and Oleg Gorbatiuk, whose recitations include the work of a pair of Soviet avant-garde poets. At times the music becomes a platform for the poetry, and although these texts were reportedly written by poets repressed during the Stalin era, the meaning is obviously lost unless you're experienced with the language. Truth be told, the final dramatic sung vocal in the concluding "From the Grey Notebook, Pt. 2" flirts dangerously with the sort of overly dramatic pomp that RIO bands were supposed to be rallying against back in the day. And in perhaps the most unusual stylistic melding of all, the music and Lagodich's chant-singing during moments of "An Order for Horses" and "Don't Swing a Wheel" might suggest — to the relative handful of RIO fans in the United States, anyway — Henry Cow or Art Zoyd providing avant rock support for a Native American tribal gathering. (Although one might suspect Slavic folk influences here, the band has described these vocals as "pseudo-folk.") For certain RIO aficionados, the saving grace is that Rational Diet remains an instrumental album most of the time. Those with a hankering for often dark and complex modern chamber rock played with rhythmic drive and even urgency should find a lot to enjoy here.


Formed: 1997 in Brest, Belarus

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The musicians associated with Belarus-based avant chamber ensemble Rational Diet began playing together in the city of Brest, on the country's eastern border with Poland, in 1996. Greatly influenced by the European Rock in Opposition scene, they initially performed music as accompaniment to experimental films and theater productions, but by the following year decided to collaborate as composers and performers of experimental music and chamber rock under the Rational Diet name. The ensemble performed...
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Rational Diet, Rational Diet
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