The FROMUZ
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The FROMUZ

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The Fromuz will probably be an unknown quantity to many, although some of the band members names may ring a bell with some, as they have been featured within the DPRP reviews pages in different guises. Formed in 2004 by Vitaly Popeloff (guitars) and Andrew Mara-Novik (bass), the bands name is simply derived, (From Uzbekistan), from their country of origin. After their initially writing phase Popeloff and Mara-Novik teamed up with Albert Khalmurzayev (keyboards), and Vladimir Badirov (drums & percussion). No particular formulas were set for the music, although at an early stage it was decided that the music would be wholly instrumental.
Collectively they have produced this live registration which takes much of its inspiration from the jazz fusion field. This said the band have collated their various backgrounds, adding a heavier and darker tone to the proceedings, and along with the percussive input of the excellent Vladimir Badirov the music takes on a distinctive progressive jazz rock styling. The proficiency of the band shines throughout the performance and all four musicians look relaxed and at ease with their parts. Even in the opening track, the surprisingly entitled Intro, Fromuz flow effortlessly through their respective parts.
From Fromuz deviates slightly leaning more on the jazzy side, a time for solo sections, firstly from Popeloff and then both synth and piano solo sections from Khalmurzayev. Badirov is great here, as is Andrew Mara-Novik, who alternates between walking and funkier bass lines. Also a nice touch are the audio samples which permeate the set, giving another dimension to the sound. Tinkling, atmospheric keyboards accompany the somewhat gentler guitar sounds on Wax Inhabitants. Gradually introduced are the percussive rhythms before the track beefs up. The tempo along with the Mellotron sounds and E-bow effect brought to mind some of Steve Hackett's recent live shows.
This moves us into Gameplay Imitation. Again the E-bow sound, initially over a start stop rhythm, which then moves to a more stately pace before finally building to a driving rhythm. It is at this point that the gauze, (used to enhance the stage lighting), which has been in front of the band is pulled to one side. The two band members leave the gauze and peruse the cube that has been "stage centre" for the performance - painted as a dice on five sides and a chess board on the sixth. The DVD/Album deriving its title from this game. The theatrics do not stop here and during Remark #12 Messrs Khalmurzayev, Mara-Novik and Badirov are to be seen seated on stage around a cafe table drinking wine, whilst Mr Popeloff plays a twelve string guitar. A nice interlude which took me back to a Jethro Tull concert.
Back to the main body of the concert and the chunky rhythm of Spare Wheel, complete with funk bass, sequenced sounds, industrial noises and some fine synth themes and guitar soloing. Dual Ad Libitum is the rather lengthy percussion spot for Vladimir Badirov accompanied by wind sounds and an assortment of sound collages and effects courtesy of Vitaly Popeloff and his guitar synth. Now I'm not one for drum/percussion solos in general, but if I have to watch them, then I'd prefer to watch them. One of very few flaws with the DVD is when this solo section is intercut with visuals. I was interested to watch Vladamir and his extensive array of percussion (especially those immersed in water). The camera work is good here so I don't see the need for the intercuts.
From here on in the concert builds in intensity, the guitar chords become heavier and the band really start to cook with odd metering abounding, great solo sections, strong themes and tight arrangements - Familiarization Results is superb example of this. Subtlety is not forsaken though, as displayed by the classical string section the opens Harry Heller Theater and the splendid melodic solo from Vitaly Popeloff.
Considering that the band only came together during 2004, this concert, filmed and recorded on 7th April 2005 at the Youth Theatre of Uzbekistan to an appreciative audience of some 300, is a testament to the abilities of these four musicians. The lighting and stage set are also well thought out, and coupled with the filming utilising ten cameras (six static and four free moving), gives a polished and remarkably well produced DVD. Granted it does not have the gimmickry found in some of today's more lavish band productions, but the intimacy of the event along with the band member close-ups shots and full stage views give this DVD a warmth often missing in this overly produced market. Mention also of the sound, which on my promotional version is offered in stereo only, is crisp and clear and very well mixed. This bodes well for the Playing The Imitation CD, which is also due shortly - the material remains the same for both.
Negotiations are in place for USA and European distribution of both this DVD and the CD, however it would be a little premature of me to say more on this at present, but just keep checking the DPRP News for updates on this. Also there is little on the web regarding The Fromuz at the moment, but some info can be gleaned from the "temporary site" indicated above.
So barring a few minor criticisms with the filming (mainly the static camera angles), this is a splendid DVD and one that should appeal to fans of well executed progressive jazz fusion. This is pretty much top drawer stuff from start to finish and certainly fans of Liquid Tension Experiment and good instrumental music in general should check this out.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
BOB MULVEY
- Dutch Progressive Rock Page


It's a shame The Fromuz has to be alphabetized right after Fromage, because they are definitely not cheezy (OK, you did know that Fromage is French for "Cheese", right? Why a Japanese band would name themselves this is anyone's guess). It's a shame that the DVD sent to me by Vitaly "Progressor" Menshikov is a Region 5 DVD and I can only play it on my computer. Finally, it's a shame they would choose a title like Playing The Imitation for their first CD/DVD live release, since there's no imitation of any other bands involved here at all. But once you get past all these "shames", there is no shame in the music at all. This is a really excellent release!
Yes, The Fromuz is short for "From Uzbekistan", with "The" added in front to distinguish them from an Uzbekistan company with this name. The concert was recorded in a small theater in the capitol city of Tashkent. In spite of what Progressor (also from Uzbekistan) says on the subject of this band (Vitaly Menshikov was one of the audience of 300 at which this concert was recorded), I'm not much reminded of any of the standard "prog" bands at all when I listen to this. I'm far more frequently reminded of fusion bands, especially Weather Report and to a lesser extent Brand X, but much more powerful. I've heard them compared to Liquid Tension Experiment, which is not a bad comparison at all. There are shredding guitar parts that remind of prog metal bands such as Dream Theater and heavy keyboard-oriented progressive sections like Planet X. The Fromuz are every bit as good as any of them.
Every band member is a monster on his instrument, from X Religion's Albert Khalmurzayev on keyboards to Vladimir Badirov on drums to Vitaly Popeloff on guitars and Andrew Mara-Novik on bass. In a way, this is a sort of "Uzbekistan Progressive Supergroup" because these guys are all famous in progressive rock circles from their former work with other bands there. The DVD version provides ample opportunity to see their intensity and professionalism as they wend their way through their own particular brand of complex, powerful, jazzy progressive music. The quality of the video and the audio on this DVD is second to none, and is an extremely enjoyable audio and visual experience. Now if I could just figure out how to re-burn it as a Region 1 DVD so I can watch it on my TV instead of my computer ... (BTW, the final version of this DVD is supposed to be playable on Region 1 DVD players. I got an early copy, which was made to play in Uzbekistan. So don't let this put you off.)
Not a single bad thing to say about this release. The only problem is, you can't really order it at the moment. However, that may change very soon, as a major American and international record distributor has expressed interest in making their CD and DVD available. Check back with the GEPR for further information, which I'll give you as soon as I've been given clearance. In the meantime, you can get some previews on the web site below.
Fred Trafton
- Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock


Prolusion. FROMUZ means From Uzbekistan, and the article stands before the band's name because of the existence of the eponymous company. The Fromuz is comprised of members of X Religion and the Vladimir Badirov Project and is definitely the strongest and most important outfit on today's progressive scene of Uzbekistan. "Playing the Imitation" is the first release by the project, though Albert, Vladimir and Vitaly each have solo CDs to their credit. The album was released on DVD and on CD, but inasmuch as the material is musically the same in both cases, I decided to review the DVD, especially since this is a very impressive spectacle. The DVD exists in two systems, PAL and NTSC, and is suitable for all regions. The next releases on the Tashkent Zip-Top label will be "Sodom & Gomorra XXI Live" by Al-Bird and "Pure Fiction" by Vitaly Popeloff.
Analysis. The DVD was recorded and shot (by 4 moving and 6 stationary cameras) during The Fromuz's live performance at the Youth Theatre of Uzbekistan on April 7, 2005, before an audience of 300. Later on, the material was edited in the studio, but it features very few overdubs. The picture is excellent, the visuals are wonderful, and the sound is crystal clear, revealing any subtle detail of the music. What is especially striking regarding the DVD is that the act unfolds in many ways like a gripping concept movie, due to the brilliantly thought-out combination of the band's live appearance with the play of lights, visual effects and the music as such, as well as the absence of any bonus material and non-thematic interludes either. (Regarding the title of the album, there is no intention to imitate certain bands, of course. It's about the imitation of a game of chess, part of the visual show, which will be described in due time). Albert's equipment counts four modern synthesizers. Vladimir plays Tama drums, big African congas and various exotic percussions. Vitaly plays two electric and one acoustic guitar, and also a digital guitar with unimaginable possibilities to create new sounds. Andrew is the only one who was faithful to just one instrument (his bass) during the show :-) If I were asked to describe The Fromuz's music very briefly, I would say it's exceptionally original, though by attracting a certain dose of imagination, it can be viewed as a cross between Yes, Dream Theater and Brand X, where the profoundness of music and a band's high technical mastery are inseparable from each other. In fact, however, I sincerely regard this stuff as Fifth Element, because apart from the features of most of the classic progressive genres (Art-Rock, Prog-Metal and Jazz-Fusion in this very case), there is a lot of those The Fromuz discovered exclusively on their own, appearing mainly as something atmospheric with a clear, yet, absolutely unfamiliar oriental sense, whose origin as if doesn't belong to this earthly plane. Eight out of the ten compositions range from 8 to 12 minutes in length, the exceptions from this rule being Intro (5:10) and Remark #12 (about 2 and a half minutes). The latter is a solo concerto for acoustic guitar and is the first of the two compositions that lie completely outside the fundamental style. The other is Dual Ad Libitum and is basically a duel between the digital guitar and various metal, mallet and water percussion. No, I didn't make a slip in typing at the end of last sentence, though I am not able to describe the sound of water percussion with words. Generally, this composition doesn't have associations even on the structural level; it's just beyond genre definition. Two more tracks, From Fromuz and Gameplay Imitation, are also notable for some highly atypical maneuvers. The former is overall some jazzier than the other tracks, the middle part being filled with rapid authentic improvisations from each of the musicians. The middle of Gameplay Imitation finds Albert and Vitaly moving imaginary figures on a chessboard (which is cubical in form) to the accompaniment of the driving rhythm section. The other six compositions: Intro, Wax Inhabitants Town, Spare Wheel, Familiarization Results, Harry Heller Theater and Babylon Dreams fully suit the aforementioned conception of the album's primary style, though the last two have also a strong classical sense in places.
Conclusion. The Fromuz is not the Vladimir Badirov Project, nor it is X Religion, although the music is very close to that of the latter band. These guys are my fellow countrymen. Indeed, I have played with two of them - with Albert in X Religion and with Vitaly in Edgar Poe (which existed in the first half of the '90s). However, I am not the sort who would be cunning for the sake of some sense of patriotism, or simply exhibit childish glee over my friends' playing. Quite the contrary, I clearly recognize my responsibility more than ever in such cases. So please don't misinterpret me when you see the band at the height of my current Top-10 of 2005. Your doubts will turn to dust after you get acquainted with the album, but don't take my word for it, read the reviews in the other Prog Rock resources. And don't miss out when it appears for sale.
VM: July 30, 2005

Prolusion. The band, The FROMUZ (i.e. From Uzbekistan) is comprised of former and current members of X Religion and Vladimir Badirov Project. This DVD was recorded and shot (by 4 moving and 6 stationary cameras) during their live performance at the Youth Theatre of Uzbekistan on April 7, 2005.
Analysis. The Fromuz Concert DVD, "Playing the Imitation" begins with the mostly tonal (a-melodic) intro of the Intro, utilizing quite a number of sampled sounds. Photos of the four musicians, with their names, slide in from the side over a black screen. The lights come up on stage, as the musicians take their places and send the music into an up-tempo jazz/fusion piece. (This is an entirely instrumental DVD/album.) Throughout the concert, The Fromuz prove themselves to be first rate players with much versatility. From Fromuz (track 2) runs the gamut, beginning in jazz/fusion, segueing into guitar blues, followed by some blistering guitar work and then later through some classic jazz keyboard styling with walking bass, before returning to the original theme and sound. The sound quality throughout the DVD is excellent, which is sometimes a complaint I have with live recordings, but not here. Everything is crystal clear. As a band, their sound is very fresh and crisp. It is somewhat difficult to put a label on their music, because they move fluidly from style to style, sound to sound. Comparisons to Djam Karet and even Gordian Knot could be made, but the similarities are transitory. The music of The Fromuz resembles them in their ever shifting compositions, yet the band definitely retains a flavor of their homeland, as could be compared to the work of X Religion. Certainly there are flavors in this delicious recipe from Badirov's "Greetings from Nostradamus" and Al-Bird's "Sodom & Gomorrah XXI", yet The Fromuz remain distinctly themselves. Gameplay Imitation is the track whence the DVD/album derives its name. During this track, Popeloff and Khalmurzayev leave their instruments, draw back the gauze curtain and proceed to pantomime a game of chess over a cube that is painted like a die on 5 sides, but like a chessboard on the 6th. It is a rather minor moment in the concert and seems rather an obscure basis for the title. Remark #12 is an acoustic guitar strum-fest, which provides a bit of a breather for the audience from the complexity of the music thus far. Indeed, it is played while Khalmurzayev, Badirov and Mara-Novik wet their whistles at a table off to one side while Popeloff strums. The ending has a nice slow motion fade before Spare Wheel gets rolling with its funky bass and drums intro before Khalmurzayev's synthesizer solo establishes the infectious theme, which I have found going through my head numerous times since I first viewed the concert. This is a high-energy number, which goes through numerous sections, Khalmurzayev and Popeloff trading the spotlight. Dual Ad Libitum is just as the title implies, ad-libbed, with two players, Popeloff and Badirov. The track opens with flowing chords and the sound of blowing wind. Popeloff is playing a guitar synth sounding like keyboard for the first phase. Badirov meanwhile is playing a variety of percussion, including cowbell and cymbal, whose pitches are altered by partial immersion in water. Visually, this is one of the more interesting tracks, particularly due to Badirov's constant moving from instrument to instrument: congas, bodhran, small chimes, shakers and even something that looks like a helmet which he drums barehanded. Popeloff uses a variety of sampled sounds, even some that sound like breathy exhalations and vocalizations, besides the synthesizer-like keyboard (remember, this is the guitarist) to produce the melodies which play cat and mouse with Badirov's percussion. The shots of the players are occasionally superimposed and inter-cut with artsy, grainy graphics: degraded type, sometimes numbers and geometric shapes on a distressed field of blue or illegible alphabets over warm hues of orange and sienna. The drumming is excellent. Dual Ad Libitum focuses on the two stars of the show, guitarist and drummer. I say this in no way wishing to demean the contributions of either Khalmurzayev or Mara-Novik, but merely as observation of which players received most attention by the close-up cameras. I would like to have seen these guys get more screen time, especially Khalmurzayev, who appears the victim of bad camera angles (most shots over his shoulder). Mara-Novik is extremely understated in his stage presence, especially considering the edgy and energy filled music the band plays much of the time. He is the least flamboyant of all, deceptively relaxed and sedate in his posture, as his fingers do all the work, unlike some players who seem to use their entire body to pull music from their instruments. Familiarization Results is another high-energy piece that moves kaleidoscopically through sections of various themes and tempos. This is another track, which should delight fans of LTE, with the frequent changes and John Petrucci-like guitar work. The playing is extremely tight in its precision, yet very fluid. A beautiful classical theme, played by strings via Khalmurzayev's keys, opens Harry Heller Theater. The pastoral setting doesn't last long, though, as a heavy, driving percussion with tape loops of crowd sounds sets up for a the next section, a soulful guitar solo. This piece is, as the saying goes, as changeable as the weather. Visually, the concert is shot from a variety of angles (as noted above), sometimes through a course, gauzy curtain (eventually drawn), which hangs between the band and audience. Slow motion and delay effects are used a bit too frequently, when I would have preferred to see more real time playing. The lighting is ever shifting and gives a good feeling of being at a live performance, which many of us may never have the good fortune to attend. (I would love for The Fromuz to come to the States for some of the Prog Festivals.) Since there is no spoken interaction recorded between the band and the audience, the viewer is left to just the music, though Badirov has much charisma working his drum kit and assorted percussion. He exudes joy through his playing. Popeloff has a quiet intensity in his playing, moving freely around the stage, but never affected as are some guitar heroes. As mentioned, Mara-Novik comes across like George Harrison, the quiet Fromuz. His stage presence is confident and assured, but unassuming in nature. Khalmurzayev, wearing a neckerchief, appears to be, perhaps the most flamboyant of the group, seeming to enjoy his time at center stage during the act with the chessboard. In any event, there is no doubt that this is a group of musicians serious about their craft, who enjoy sharing their talents with the crowd.
Conclusion. This is extremely fresh Prog, chocked full of tempo/time changes, with lots of variety in style. It should be a sure pleaser of fans of Dream Theater (without the dark and heavy sound), Spock's Beard and LTE, or on the other side of the Atlantic, the Alexander Kostarev Group. This is definitely in the vanguard of the new prog sound with top-notch improvisation within interestingly structured compositions ranging in power and precision. The Fromuz is inventive and yet also pull in some of the ethnic flavor of their region. There is just a touch of Symphonic Prog (some soaring melodies that should please fans of that brand of prog) and dashes of standard and fusion jazz. I highly recommend this video.
KW: July 30, 2005
- ProgressoR


Discography

DVD "Playing The Immitation", LIVE record

Photos

Bio

The band was formed in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 2004. Professional musicians, who were tired of playing ordinary music in traditional genres, became members of the band. They had played in nearly all genres during their lives, but are now playing music which is not played by anyone else, except perhaps, Liquid Tension Experiment…
In early September of 2004 “The FROMUZ” band first appeared on stage. Jointly with The Youth Theater Of Uzbekistan they performed music for the play, “Sodom & Gomorrah XXI”, composed by keyboardist Albert Khalmurzayev (a studio version had previously been recorded by his former band, X Religion and released on the Musea label). It is a heavy, powerful and lyrical epic, a full hour of non-stop music and had never been performed live, but “The FROMUZ” dared to perform it live. And this first outing was successful…
In April 2005 the band gave their first live show of their solo conceptual program “Playing The Imitation”. This is a bright show with elements of dramatic art, rich use of lighting effects, unusual sounds and samples, and powerful, original, charming, adventurous music. Those who were at this show are still debating on the style and genre of the band and what it was – a play or a concert.
This single show was shot on video from multiple cameras and as a result became a DVD. So far, the band has used it only for promotional purposes. Music reviewers have been extremely enthusiastic and the soundtrack has been played on both internet and FM stations in North and South America so far. So now this bright and distinctive band is looking for partners who are able to help with developing and advancing of “The FROMUZ”.
Our music isn’t for arms or legs, isn’t for relaxation, but for the mind and heart, for stimulation of thought and high emotions…