Album Review: Roman Spektor – Functionality

Roman Spektor

Functionality—the debut album by Israeli songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Roman Spektor—is at times a brutally minimalist avant-rock exploration of loathing and at others a nostalgic trip through a bad 1960’s acid trip, 1970’s progressive rock, 1980’s art pop, and 1990’s jazz fusion. The album is driven in equal parts by noise rock’s harsh guitar, and a sense of sonic adventure and true experimentation.

One of album’s highlights “Passivity” is a stunning masterpiece; Spektor abandons all pretences of accessibility, and that it is the very core of the album. This doesn’t seem like a record that is easy to digest, what is in the core of the experimental music, but there is definitely a lot of balance and determination in the project’s improvisational approach. This only adds to album’s intrigue though, as it makes us question the ideas of nostalgia and longing so built into the record’s sounds.

The quiet intensity on Functionality comes from the juxtaposition of Spektor’s voice over the driving beat of the rhythm section. To complete the sound, we have the incredibly spacey keyboards. The best example of this that I can think of is their track “Docks”. The music is composed so subtly that it manages to build to a thundering crescendo without the listener even realizing it. Once you finally get it, waves of sound are crashing over you and suddenly fall down again to begin the next track. I also love that there are parts of the album that deviate strongly from this, helping to ensure Functionality doesn’t get monotonous, which is a good thing.

Roman Spektor has released a powerful statement here; this is an album that should definitely be on radar of many prog (and beyond) fans. The low-key, almost minimalist sound of Functionality is refreshing—the sound of a musician that knows how to hold back, and realize how effective such an approach can be. Spektor has made an emphatic and impressive record.

Functionality is available from Bandcamp here.

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