Well this came as a surprise! Have you ever seen the Tarkovsy films “Solaris”, “The Mirror”, “Stalker”? Well if you have, then you’ve heard some of the music of Edward Artemiev. But Artemiev is not just a soundtrack composer; he is an acknowledged leader of Russian electronic music. His credentials in synthesized music go way back to meeting with engineer Eugene Murzin - one of the first in the world to invent a synthesizer around 1960. Artemiev’s compositions written in the 60s-the early 70s belong to the aesthetics of avant-garde, and since then he has many releases to his credit, both symphonic and electronic. (Hard to find in the U.S. but many available through “Electroshock Records”.) “Mood-Pictures” contains mostly pieces from a number of his film scores, some utilizing the State Orchestra of Cinematography, and others just by Artemiev and an occasional guitarist or vocalist.
This CD is an incredible introduction to Artemiev’s work, so rich and varied in themes, and magnificent in its execution. The first track “Siberiada” (title track from the 4 part epic motion picture of the same name directed by Andrei Konchalovsky) sounds archetypically Russian as the theme builds with low strings and woodwinds and a martial cadence. I found it Morriconesque, especially the voices, and when the horns came in. It has a definite 70-s sound as it is from 1979. The next two tracks are also from the film, but showcasing Artemiev’s synth work. “Swing” is a bit of very nice ethereal synth ambience, while “Fire” is sequencer-heavy chaos with a stinging guitar overlay. This was my least favorite track on the album, but the pyrotechnics are impressive.
“Looking After the Victim” comes from a movie titled “A Butcher” and it is a mysterious mood piece that begins with a “Twilight Zone”-like atmosphere that morphs into a medium tempo low synth sequence with the eerie strains of high strings. On “Kamchatka - Grand Voyage” (from the movie “Mammon”) Artemiev’s synths play off the orchestral background developing a beautiful and memorable theme with flute and guitar string sounds as well as other sonics including unearthly voices. “Fox Hunting” (from the movie of the same name) has Artemiev treading into “Tangerine Dream” territory, but with a sequencer-driven intensity and verve I’ve never heard from those guys. “Premonition” comes from the film “A Driver for Vera”, a romantic Cold War psychological drama, and the music here fits the description perfectly. “Polygon” (from “Moon Rainbow”) sounds very prog-rocky at first with drums and elaborate synth work that eventually builds into a moody interlude before meandering off into other tangential expressions.
A film called “Requiem” is the source of “Credo”, a heavy, “Phantom of the Opera”-like piece with uber-dramatic and spooky synths. The next three tracks are from the motion picture “The End of Eternity”. “Aria” features haunting voices that are sure to send shivers down your spine. One of my favorites on the CD, and a composition of pure genius! “A Road to Nowhere” is an electronic extravaganza with plenty of tension and so much going on it's hard to describe. “The Well of Eternity” reminds me of “Mars” from “The Planets” by Holst, yet is more modern and spacey, but no less ominous. “Lullaby” is from the film “Night of a Birth” and features “Hearts of Space” style synths with some beautiful orchestral backing. Almost Tomita-ish. “Serenade” is from the movie “Facet”, and it is a lush track with synth-sax doing the melody with orchestral synths, electric bass and drums. I don’t know why, but I was reminded of the Vangelis “Blade Runner” soundtrack on this one. Romantic, yet dramatic; very 80-s.
The next two tracks, “Dialogue with a Computer”, and “Vocalize” come from a movie called “By the Eyes of the Wolf”. The former is kinetic and sequencer-driven, while the latter sounds classically inspired and romantic with a wonderful wordless solo vocal by Tatiana Kuindji. “Top of the World” is from the animated film “Legends of Peruvian Indians” with thick pipe organ and heavenly synth voices and other synthesizer embellishments. Awesome!
Final track “Peregrini” is an excerpt from Artemiev’s “Symphony”, again with vocal by Tatiana Kuindji. It is a somewhat understated piece with Kuindji’s soprano voice playing hauntingly off synthetic voices over a muted low tone sequenced background. Atmospheric incidentals such as chimes strings, pads, and other synthesizer tones and washes fill in the gaps and heighten the drama. Amazing stuff!
As good as all this is, and believe me, it is really, really good; as a complete album it lacks unity. Then again, it was only intended as a diverse compilation of the artist’s film work, and on that level, it succeeds. I highly recommend this CD although you may have to go out of your way to obtain it if you’re from the U.S. (U. S. distributor “DWM Music Company”) but it is well worth it.
Steve Mecca (“Chain D.L.K.”)
This new album by Russian composer/electronic music pioneer Edward Artemiev is a companion volume to his recent album, “Invitation to Reminiscences”, in that “Mood Pictures” is another compilation of his music for a number of movies and TV shows, both international and for Russian consumption. As before, the emphasis is on his orchestral work, with some electronic music mixed in there for atmospherical purposes. The eighteen tracks cover quite a representation of his move and TV work, the music swinging between quite commercial work for Hollywood and then his signature electronic music for projects aimed at the art house. As with “Invitation”, the album works very well as a collection of instrumental pieces, with just a few tracks featuring voices and choirs. But this album is full of one thing, atmosphere - each track creates a different mood or ambience, different ways of using musical language to convey a movie or TV show’s storyline. The album opens with the theme to “Siberiada”, a big movie theme in all the right ways: slow burn start, rousing anthemic melody and big choir topping it off. The next track, “Swing”, is also from the same movie, but has a more electronic ambience and is much more cosmic sounding - while track 3, another slice from “Siberiada”, is electronic with a rock band mixed in there for more oomph. And that is just the first three tracks! I have to admit that none of the movies or TV shows these soundtracks are from are familiar to me, but that doesn’t really matter as if you take the album as a whole it is a varied and fascinating showcase of the musical world of one of Russia’s most successful composers and musicians.
John M. Peters (“The Borderland”)
“Mood Pictures” consists of 18 excerpts from films that Edward Artemiev scored. Many of the tracks are performed by Artemiev while others are performed by The State Orchestra of Cinematography. The first three tracks are from the movie “Siberiada”, starting off in full orchestra mode, moving into spaced out electronics with a tasty guitar solo, and finishing with a raucous space-prog assault. Nice! Other highlights include the symphonic Klaus Schulze-like “Fox Hunting”. “Credo” is a high intensity orchestrated piece with a “Phantom of the Opera” vibe that covers a tremendous amount of territory in barely over 2 minutes. There are three tracks from the movie “The End of Eternity”. It starts off as an angelic choir driven piece, moving into fast paced thematic electronic space rock, and finishes up in dark foreboding symphonic prog mode. And I like the mixture of space electronica and soundscape atmospherics on “Dialog with a Computer”.
The rest of the tracks are mostly progressive and symphonic rock, much of it pretty spaced out. Also, like on “Invitation to Reminiscences”, there are some tracks that have a classic soundtrack theme feel, like television shows from the 70s.
Both excellent albums though “Mood Pictures” is my personal favorite of the two. For those who are unfamiliar with Edward Artemiev’s work, he is a true pioneer on the Russian electronic music scene. There’s good biographical information on the “Electroshock Records” web site and you can also see “Aural Innovations” issue #40 for a review of a biography published in 2007 titled “Edward Artemiev’s Musical Universe”, written by Tatiana Yegorova.
Spaceman33 (“Aural Innovations”)
With an impressive skill to create very different musical structures, Edward Artemiev offers us a varied collection of electronic themes in this disc. The most epic aspect of “space sequencer music” is represented by the version of “Peregrini” that closes the album. The most powerful, frantic side of this genre is manifest in such pieces as “Fox Hunting” and above all, in “A Road to Nowhere”, where the sequencers thresh crushing rhythms. Some themes, such as “Polygon” are dominated by beautiful melodies. There is “space music” with an enchanting expressiveness in “Swing”. Mystery, dyed with nostalgia, appears in such pieces as “Looking after the Victim” and “Premonition”. In short, this album is another clear sample of the great talent and the fertile imaginations of this legendary Russian composer, a pioneer of electronic music, and an outstanding explorer of virtually all musical avant-garde genres since half a century ago.
Jorge Munnshe (“Amazing Sounds”)
Artemiev is a classically trained composer and was a graduate from the Moscow Conservatory where he studied in Yuri Shaporin’s class of composition. Eventually, his interest in electronic music supplanted his orchestral cares. Edward’s first major works were “Mosaic” (1967) and “Twelve Glimpses in the World of Sound” (1969). Excellent electronic work by this Russian pioneer of electronic music, better known for Tarkovsky’s “Solaris”, “The Mirror” & “Stalker” soundtracks. This time out, we find compositions that are quite accessible and a good starting point for those new to the genre. Great dark floating space compositions here, though not lengthy.
(“DWM” Music Company)
Russian composer Edward Artemiev (b. 1937), who garnered a deservedly lasting international reputation with his soundtracks for the films “Solaris” and “Stalker” by Andrei Tarkovsky, offers up a rich collection of commisions from other film projects down through the years (plus a requiem and orchestral exerpt).
Possibly the most well-known of these pieces is the first of three tracks taken from Andrei Konchalovsky’s epic “Siberiade” (1979), which was covered in 2001 by a Russian trance act and climbed high up the UK dance charts.
The collection opens up the songbook on a pioneering cross-breeder, one of the first Soviet composers to embrace electronics and integrate them with full orchestras. The “Moods” are naturally wide ranging but do also move quite naturally from one to the next.
Even when expressing intimacy, this is big music, filling the air with splendor and at times saturating it with bombast, but always eliciting an emotional response. It often sounds like what so-called “progressive rock” in the West could have achieved had it had a musical genius at its helm.
A full, ripe, juicy retrospective.
Stephen Fruitman (“Sonomu.Net”)