When I received this promo package, I was expecting a vinyl record. When I opened the obscure envelope sent from Russia, it did look like a twelve-inch album, but opening the gorgeous cover artwork, I was met by three compact discs. So I was expecting a truly majestic progressive rock epic, but instead soon learned that all three CDs contained basically the same songs, except that they came in three different versions: English, Russian and instrumental.
Lunar Cape from Moscow released their first album Just Lunatics as a quintet in 2016. Since then the band seems to have shrunk to a three-piece, who released the follow-up two years later together with a host of guest musicians. The music on the debut was instrumental folk rock with a hint of progressive rock. The reduced line-up also means a more subdued and bare instrumentation. For instance only four of the eight songs have drums. But that doesn’t mean that the album also has less ambition than its predecessor. Far from it, because form and content are actually incredibly developed. The songs’ simpler instrumentation works as a backdrop for fairy-tales that are told in English language on one CD, and in Russian language on another CD. The third instrumental CD lets you enjoy the music by itself, without any narrative getting in the way of the often quiet but actually quite intricate instrumentation. It’s mostly guitar, bass, mandolin, tin whistle, flute,... so all in all a very folk based sound. The idea of mixing fairy tales with music first started with Russian composers, like Modes Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in the late 19th century, and more importantly Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf in the early 20th century. It also has a history in progressive rock, with bands like Procol Harum (The Worm & The Tree, 1977) and Anyone’s Daughter (Piktors Verwandlungen, 1981) doing impressive works.
The fairy-tales on Lunar Folk Tales are often whimsical, sometimes melancholic, sometimes funny. The English narration comes with a heavy Russian accent, but the full-version physical three CD album comes with a beautiful booklet that has illustrated pictures of the folk tales with the lyrics in both languages. One track, What the Peacock is Silent About, is narrated by former King Crimson bass player Trey Gunn. The Russian version feels more fluid than the English one, and I rather enjoyed it, although I don’t understand the language. At times the narration is too loud, drowning out the often very beautiful music. That’s why I ended up enjoying the instrumental CD the most. If you like progressive tinged folk rock in the vein of Jethro Tull (A Passion Play, 1973) or Camel (The Snow Goose, 1975), you will definitely fall in love with Lunar Folk Tales. Try to get a copy of the physical full version, because it will truly be a jewel for your record collection.