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For those of you who host music on Bandcamp, you'll know the disappointment felt when looking at your Stats Page and seeing those Yellow (or Red) Bars. To those who don't know, this indicates that a person has listened part-way through your song and thought "Skip!" This can be anywhere between 0-90% of the song's length (quite why someone would get to the 90% mark and move on, I don't know). Anyway, it got me wondering if first impressions matter in music. I can see why, in Pop in particular, it's important to grab the attention of the listener, who is more likely to be wanting to get their next sugary fix of catchy fluff before giving up and playing 'Fortnite'. But, to listeners of a more underground persuasion, are we really that saturated with new music that we are starting to get impatient? Can we not give time to a song, or an album, to let it sink in and present its facets before we hop across to the next poor sap in-line to present their wares? Is it a sign that we have less time to put on headphones, place the vinyl on the turntable (bear with me), sink into the sofa and let the sounds trigger our senses? Is modern music just not created for that purpose now? I bring this up, because I found myself almost skipping through when first listening to 'Athanor Eurasia'.

Moon Far Away are a neo-folk/darkwave band from Russia. They've been ploughing their particular musical field since 1994, and this is the first I've heard of them. That in itself doesn't mean much, but I'm guessing there are very few people in the Western world who are aware of them, either. An Athanor, for those curious souls, is a furnace used for alchemical purposes, but I'm not sure how this relates to the largest continental landmass on the planet. The songs aren't going to tell me either because a) they're in Russian and b) I guess that's not the point. According to the press release, the band's leader states this album isn't about borders or maps, migration, or geopolitics. Given the name of the album, I find that strange; surely this is a celebration of their country's rich folk heritage?

The album starts with what sounds like a washing machine playing percussion, and a loping acoustic guitar. There's a nice subtle bass guitar providing melody but, overall, it's a very jarring experience. This goes on for just over four minutes, and barely changes; save for the end which collapses in on itself. From there on the album is a solid folk-heavy set of whimsy. Good use is made of space; it's not all instruments all of the time. Songs breathe and have a definable identity. It will be Marmite to many, but I dare anyone to be offended by it. You can tell the band is heavily invested in their image and sound. This is not music to win fans or gain plaudits. This is music you feel they simply have to make. And, while at first, I struggled with the overall presentation of these songs, I found myself warming to the lack of pretence. I can see this going down a storm at folk festivals, late at night, as the embers of the fire dance against the night sky. In fact, this is music that is probably best experienced in that setting. At home it can be ignored as the banalities of life demand our attention, but in the moment of being played live, in an appropriately wooded surrounding, I can well imagine how captivating, trance-like, this would become. So, as a recorded suite of songs, I find it largely pleasant if somewhat forgettable. However, I do understand how to the right set of ears this may well be manna from Heaven.

I appreciate how difficult it is to strike a balance between writing with honesty and writing for exposure. Quality is, as anyone who reads reviews regularly, entirely subjective. I know when I've written something good and remained true to the integrity of the song, even if it never finds an audience. And, I guess, it's the same for bands like Moon Far Away, who tirelessly work to produce material they're proud of. Songs that come from a place of truth. They may never find a mainstream audience (and I doubt they'd want that). However, they've found their niche, and they're sticking to their guns in a world that favours instant gratification. While Moon Far Away may not have a place in my playlist once this review is over, I must applaud them for creating an album that is free from the shackles of commercialism. It exists purely to satisfy the band, and anyone who is willing to go along for the ride.
Review by Steve Cowan
28th June 2019
1) The Song Of The Five Lakes Watermill
2) The Blank Flag Of The Europe
3) Napadi, Rosa
4) Polia Vy, Polia
5) Lubila Menja Mat, Obozhala
6) Dva Lazyrja
7) The Blueberry Song
8) Intersymbolism
9) Ostavaisja Bely, Knjaz
10) Celebrate!
"This is not music to win fans or gain plaudits. This is music you feel they simply have to make...an album that is free from the shackles of commercialism. It exists purely to satisfy the band, and anyone who is willing to go along for the ride."