(All Album Reviews by avestin)
Some time ago Lev Gankine posted a link to his band's myspace page. Since Lev has a very wide knowledge of music (prog and otherwise) and since we seem to share a passion for similar styles of music I was intrigued and decided to take a listen to Uphill Work. On their myspace one can find 6 of the 9 songs of their album, Conuterclockwise. After posting my favourable impressions of the music on that thread that Lev opened, he suggested sending me their album for reviewing to which I gladly accepted and here it is.
Before going into the review, I'll briefly introduce this group. Uphill Work is a Moscow based group that started in 2002 as the instrumental duo of Konstantin Benyumov and Lev Gankine. They released their first album, Cock-a-Doodle-Do, in that same year. After lineup changes the music changed as well and in 2005 the band invited bassist Evgeny Semiletov and a year later with drummer Konstantin Provorov. The current album was recorded from August 2007 to May 2008 and released in that year.
What caught my attention at first and remained the hook of this band for me, is that they are backed up by a tight piano/keyboards and percussion section, this quartet plays very dynamic, upbeat and engaging rock with dominant vocals and lyrics. There is a punk-ish feel at times that is quite well combined into the overall sound. Most of all, what this album is, is fun! Just listen to “Just Say Yes” with its great melodic hook and wonderful playing. It's a short, to the point song, with nice interlude in the middle to keep things interesting.
“Never Gonna Lose” for instance does show that development I speak of. This song resembles the opening song with its dynamics, speed and energy levels. Within this short song the band plays with its structure a bit, whether by the keyboards "fooling around" or the short interlude in the middle where they deviate a little from the main theme of the song, and the drummer playing a different pattern for a while.
There are the more laid back songs like “Shine In Your Hands”. This song presents the more tame side of the band, their slower aspect. However, in this particular song, I'd have liked to hear more development in the end of the song where there's a rather repetitive part that could have either been shortened or developed into something else.
The vocals, sung by Lev, are straightforward and in my opinion fit the music well in their direct and punk-ish style. At times he reminds me of Phideaux's vocals, with their rawness and rasp sound. The vocals fit most the fast and dynamic songs. They are a little less suitable for songs like “Keep The Yellow Intact” or “H.I.T.S” which is a slightly slower song, and that has a wider place for the keyboards to play and so this song offers a bigger opportunity for vocals to shine in and they in fact would benefit from a different style of vocals here, perhaps even a female voice, but definitely something softer. I would also have liked to have that song end not so abruptly or in that way. Overall, I like the vocals and Lev does a good job and they fit the music, adding a harder edge to the music.
The rhythm section and its style serve as a connecting thread throughout the album, connecting all the pieces into one cohesive sounding piece. While each song has its own identity, they all bear the same spirit of the band, meaning one can speak of the Uphill Work sound.
Regarding their sound, I'd have liked to point out the following:
I'd like to hear more creativity from the drummer, Konstantin Provorov. He plays his material well and each song has a good and appropriate rhythm but there isn't much variety in each individual song.
I'd also like to hear more from the guitar. Fiasco in 7/8 is one song where the electric guitar comes through to the front. I'd like to hear more of it and in particular an interplay between it and the keyboards and bass.
There's good and efficient bass work from Evgeny Semiletov. The mix is mostly well balanced though and one can hear the instruments well.
If you're up for an energetic rock ride, with a dynamic rhythm section and hooking melodies, this is great music to listen to. Recommended!