Kalevala – The Cuckoo Children – 4.5/5
For anyone who caught the review of their debut album, to say I was excited at the prospect of another release so soon my initial discovery of their own Russian brand of folk bounciness would perhaps be an understatement, and the album doesn’t disappoint. The vocals are once more entirely in Russian, but rather than feel harsh like you may expect of the language, it simply feels energetic, bubbling away in a frenetic manner, almost aggressively forcing you to have fun to the easy to listen to melodies. Not that they particularly have to; in truth its kind of hard not to.
Mixed in with a greater strategic use of reverb and effects, her versatility has increased to suit the rest of the instrument and, from a technical standpoint, they’ve all succeeded in bettering their last efforts; the drums feel more varied in their use of beats (even if perhaps still not providing the number of fills as I would like), and are more than capable of maintaining the pace. The production, too, has seen a slight improvement in differentiating all the instruments; the bass feeling more distinct than ever before, playing simple riffs but at no point degraded to simply following another instrument, solidifying the backing and allowing the other instruments to come forward.
The accordion is as boisterous as ever and the music would genuinely feel entirely lacking without it, making it something of a linchpin in the sound they’ve created, providing the atmosphere for much that follows. And the guitars too, succeed in simultaneously stepping back to allow more room for the bass to maneuver, whilst still contributing without feeling a permanent requirement for the music to function, allowing for a greater degree of versatility that allows them to add an additional layer to the sound without being stuck performing basic rhythm.
On paper, it would seem as though they’ve excelled themselves, but despite all this it still doesn’t quite match up; it’s missing a little touch of that ‘fun’ that made their last so incredible. Not to say that they’re slipping at all, or even that this is a bad album – it really isn’t – it shows them moving on slightly from the care-free attitude of before, burdened perhaps now with expectations of them, compelled to try and excel at their technical proficiency and squeeze out every ounce of goodness from each note, and in doing so have just begun to lose that aura of improvised boisterous banter that made you feel they were right there in front of you. This is the album that shows Kalevala maturing, evolving, and starting to come out of their shell, playing with new sounds and styles, and even if it is just a touch less addictive, they’re still easily one of the best things the genres produced.
Highlights: Горсти талого снега (Track 3), У разбитого корыта (Track 6), Про жеребца (Яйца) (Track 10)