[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Brittany is a region of France which thanks to Astrakan Project, I have now researched in depth. I’ll give you the bare bones description: five regions, two native dialects and more history across it’s territory than my own country could ever hope to attain. Nearly everyone in the ancient world passed through, from the Romans to tribes and clans so obscure that time has erased all traces of them. Almost. For their second album, Simone Alves and Yann Gouvril have tracked down some truly remarkable songs from ages long gone, gilding them with music which only they could make. The level of accomplishment is high, the benchmarks have been exceeded and in their place new ones have been born.
This pair have, since their inception, continually striven to deliver as they say “music from beyond our world” and continue to do so on their sophomore outing. The chemistry between them has become liquid, all the live shows they have now played (they’ve made it as far as England now and I’ll continue to hope) clearly have strengthened the bond between them. Many of the pieces on here have a dark, rolling undercurrent to them much like the sea which caresses and crashes into the Breton shores all around them. Do they spend much time just watching the horizon, spellbound by the endless enigma of the timeless ocean? I know I would if I lived where they did, without question.
Once again, I have to applaud how well appointed their songs are. No one instrument takes precedence, Yann’s music is the perfect accompaniment to Simone’s searing vocals. Their combined efforts will cut across your soul, the nature of what topics they address tend to be on the dour side but much like life itself: you will press on. No matter how overwhelming those crushing blows become, if your character is strong enough you will endure. Astrakan Project’s new album is the purifying fire we all must pass through at one point or another while we live; there is no light without darkness and there can be no hope if there is not first bruising and omnipotent despair.
You’ve now read about them twice and hopefully this will be the grain which tips the balance. They are not known, they aren’t calculating nor are they anything but artists. One glance at Simone’s artwork should clear up any doubts you might have, again she proffers numerous symbols and her central character displays a determined and indomitable expression. This duo are in it for the duration and they don’t care where it leads to or what the consequences are, neither should you. The visual and aural merge in a seamless blend of tradition and triumph, go on and listen to the fourth track on here to get an idea of how they have mastered the delicate art of restraint. Yann’s guitar work on this one rivals the slow burning menace Andy Summers displayed during his time in The Police.
I make the comparison to demonstrate skill, Astrakan Project are in no way, shape or form a pop group whatsoever. Their detailing is on the same level as any acclaimed “professional” out there. If they made their songs any more personal you’d swear they were right in the room with you and if you two ever do make it to the west coast of America you have a standing invitation to dinner in my home any time. I’m beyond blown away by your evolution in two years… ‘B’ is going to become known and revered in time, you two continue to follow the path of singular excellence.
Astrakan Project – B
Karga, Karga 044