Progressor: Petroglyphs

Ole Lukkoye – Petroglyphs

Prolusion. The Russian outfit OLE LUKKOYE was formed back in 1989, initially consisting of Boris Bardasch, Andrei Lawrinenko and Alexander Frolov. The aim of this band was to combine psychedelic music with world music and ethnic compositional features, a blend that over time gave them a fan base in Western Europe following various festival performances over the years. The US label Trail Records decided that 2009, which marked the 20th anniversary of Ole Lukkoye's founding, was a good time to present them to a US audience too. And the following year the compilation “Petroglyphs” was issued, and as customary with productions from this label features remastered and remixed tracks as well as a few token previously unreleased creations.

Analysis. When dealing with bands exploring the space rock part of the progressive rock universe, one tends to fall back upon three major points of reference. 1) Pink Floyd, be it their initial, psychedelically progressive, period or their later smooth one laced with symphonic touches and a more mainstream-oriented approach. 2) Hawkwind, whose rougher punk-tinged approach liberally spiced with swirling synths and fluctuating keyboard textures has inspired a plethora of acts, not to mention their various excursions into many other stylistic variations over the years. 3) And then Ozric Tentacles, whose incorporation of danceable rhythms and swirling, repetitive patterns opened up the psychedelic and space rock sound to a new audience when they appeared. Ole Lukkoye from Russia is probably closest to the last, but with a distinct and individual sound that doesn't bear any highly striking resemblances as such. Nonetheless, this fine Russian act does share one characteristic with the Ozrics: the rhythms are applied in a manner that makes the tracks easy and compelling to dance to. A circulating bass motif and steady, mostly energetic drums set the foundation throughout this disc, and I suspect that this is something of a trademark feature. In addition, the rhythms are strengthened by extensive additional percussion, which results in something of a rhythmic carpet-bombing. Yet while this aspect dominates to a great degree, it is never loud or overpowering. Dampened and sophisticated is the name of the game for this compositional detail, as for most others I might add. And this is where Ole Lukkoye separates itself from the aforementioned UK-based act: the music isn't loud or overpoweringly energetic nor does it apply any form of simplistic approach. The themes explored are made up of richly-layered textures, all of them to some degree dampened in expression, and mostly given an equal position in the overall arrangements. This results in a tightly-woven soundscape where patterns supplement each other in a brilliant manner, with only a token few given subservient roles. The individual instruments utilized tend to add an eastern flavor to the proceedings, sometimes with references to the Middle East, and other times with a stronger resemblance to music you might associate with Southern Asian countries. Echoing and reverberating guitar licks add an emphasis to the psychedelic nature of the proceedings, while fluctuating keyboards and synths add the dream-laden characteristics of most musical exploits branded as space rock. And on the select few occasions where the instrumental details don't conjure up exotic associations towards ethnic and world music the vocals cater for that aspect of the proceedings, with a characteristic chant-like quality that seems to draw inspiration from shamanistic traditions. Personally I found this disc to be yet another high quality production courtesy of Trail Records, but not quite perfect. The tracks tend to get a tad repetitive towards the end; in to ears a fair few of them would come across even better if edited down a bit. Not a big matter as such, and obviously one that is a result of personal taste more than anything else, but for me a detail that marks the difference between a very good album and a perfect one.

Conclusion. If a blend of psychedelic rock, ethnic music and space rock sounds enticing, and the band's own description of their music as ethnic trance doesn't put you off, chances are good that you'll revel in the sophisticated exploits of Russian act Ole Lukkoye. Sporting a plethora of exotic sounds, keyboard layers and vocals either spoken or chanted in a shamanistic manner, their blend of folk-inspired space rock is of a kind that should have a broad appeal, with fans of acts such as Ozric Tentacles a likely key audience.

OMB Olav M. Bjornsen: May 11, 2011
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