The Legendary Flower Punk is a project founded by Kamille Sharapodinov (he of The Grand Astoria and Organic is Orgasmic - and if you not au fait with those names, may I suggest you do some investigating). In his Flower Punk guise Kamille and his comrades (Mike Lopakov - bass and Nik Kunavin - drums, percussion), and a very full supporting cast, take the prog rock leanings of The Grand Astoria and expand upon them. Taking in jazz, prog, psych and krautrock, 'Zen Variations' is a rich smorgasbord of styles and approaches, all exquisitely played and all pretty darned good.
'Earthquake Zen' is full of jazzy groove - 8 minutes of prog fueled funkiness with some smooth jazz but with a distinct noirish edge to it. The thundering drums and soaring guitar provide the solid background for more exotic instruments (metallophone anyone...it's that that gives the number that recognisable seventies 'lounge' aura). Special mention must go to the superb trumpet of Vladimir Ermolov...excellent stuff. 'Urban Zen' is a more relaxed take on things and Kamille's guitar takes centre stage, weaving some gorgeous lilting shapes that just seem to hang in the air. The melancholic sounds of brass can be heard (courtesy of Ekaterina Kulagina - saxophone & Slava Lobanov - trombone ), adding richness to the already lush instrumentation. Out of this sombre beauty, however, erupts something unexpected...the tempo is cranked up and the guitar goes into some kind of prog rock meltdown. The last minute or 2 is a glorious cacophony that is in stark contrast to the first five minutes. 'Party Zen' is different again with the main emphasis being on the synth of Danila Danilov and the lovely retro electronica refrains...there is a touch of the seventies synth driven soundtrack about it, drawing on kosmische as influence. However, it's not all about the synths, there is some more wonderful trumpet and, of course, the guitar of Kamille. 'Subway Zen' is another track rooted in the seventies; the guitar is rich and chiming and sounds like those heard in some of those generic ambient albums of the seventies and the synths yet again draw upon some retro influences. All of this is accompanied by some rock solid drumming and some clarinet (Ravil Azizov). 'Warfield Zen' is a barnstormer of a track heralded by a bassline of which Primus would be proud and it is this that keeps the track driving on. The trumpet of Ermolov again can be heard, this time adding to the whole feel of a action movie soundtrack of the seventies....brilliant stuff..I've played this track over and over and over again..I love it! 'White Magick Zen' benefits from some more wonderful guitar from Kamille, fuzzy and yet rings clear. It flirts with krautrock and prog and yet keeps an intrinsic quality all of its own and the drum work from Kunavin is immense. Of all the tracks it is this that neatly encapsulates The Legendary Flower Punk ethos...experimenting with form and shape whilst still keeping things melodically strong and immensely satisfying. The 'Zen' circle is completed with the aptly titled 'Christmas Zen', an acoustic driven bucolic track with some beautiful flute from Denis Kirillov providing a pastoral quality. Where the previous tracks have drawn upon prog, psych and krautrock, this is very much folk driven and rounds the album off in a tranquil and chilled manner.
I've been a fan of The Grand Astoria for quite a while now (I reviewed their 'The Mighty Few' album back in July of last year) and had heard bits and bobs of The Legendary Flower Punk but on sitting down and giving 'Zen Variations' my full, undivided attention I discovered just how good they are. With the emphasis on experimentation, the tracks remain accessible and whilst the various influences can be heard, they have a sound of their own. Kamille Sharapodinov is a top class guitarist with a true grasp on what he wants to achieve through his music, but what is more impressive is his ability to surround himself with other top class musician and the ability to use those musicians in an intelligent manner...picking exactly the right sound for each moment. 'Zen Variations' is an impressive collection of songs, all driven by an even more impressive collection of musicians. As someone astutely noted on the bandcamp page: "it's definitely much more than just a side project of The Grand Astoria's leader" (Mikhail, wherever/whoever you are...thanks for the quote!!). The album is available from The Legendary Flower Punk's Bandcamp page here and all for just 7 euros. - DAYZ OF PURPLE AND ORANGE