There are times when you have to leave everything behind and start afresh. This is what the two founders of VGmates experienced and crafted into the band’s debut album All Anew. A collection of ten songs, the album touches on different genres to fully captures the splendour of the story. Taking you through the various emotions of starting anew, the tracks dive from sadness and despair to joy and unadulterated fun.
Vladimir Gizatulin (vocals, multi-instrumentalist), Anna Bourova (vocals, guitar), Vladimir Perepelitsa (lead guitar), Taras Ablamsky (bass, throat singing, balalaika), Viktor Kamolov (drums) and Alex Vaughn (percussion) came together in 2017 to form this multicultural musical project. Drawing on their experience in other bands, the group spent two years perfecting this album. Recorded in their private studio, it is a true passion project that is deeply relatable.
The album rightly opens with the aptly titled ‘Started All Anew’. There is a really interesting sound to the song that twangs and strums through your senses. It is an eclectic mixture of folk, country and world music that calls to something deep in your soul. The flute is an utter delight to listen to and makes you want to dance around and let loose. There is a freeing feeling to the track as it picks up a touch of Celtic influence for the carefree jig. Bourova’s vocals add to the light feeling of the track as she pulls you into the hopeful feeling of the lyrics. There is no way that you can listen to this song and not smile while feeling the freeing energy of the band.
‘The Star’ has a softer feeling in the opening that makes you think of still nights sitting outside and taking in the night sky. The deep tones of the instrumentation have an earthy feeling that fills you with warmth while the twinkling tones bring the stars into full view. Gizatulin’s vocals are in a different language that adds a new edge to the music. While you might not know what is being said, you can feel a sense of understanding through the vocal performance. There is a comfortable feeling to the vocals that wrap around you like an arm over the shoulders and pulls you close.
The bells and slow awakening of ‘Matushka’ being a hushed feeling to the album like you are the only person awake in the early hours of the morning. The vocals are haunting as they send shivers skittering down your spine. There is a tragic gothic feeling to this track that wraps around you like the cold mists of the morning. The movement of the music brings a traditional folk feeling to the song. It is a truly hauntingly beautiful song that sticks with you for a really long time. You don’t need to understand the lyrics to get the depths of the emotions.
‘Faun’ brings the lively vibes back with a stomping good time courtesy of the flute. From the first moment, you are compelled to get moving and hopping around with a bit of craziness. The melodics resting in the low levels bounce against the flute while bringing a touch of rock to the track. There is a medieval folk vibe to the lyrics that send your mind flying through the trees of the woods on the trail of the faun. The song is an amazing combination of folk, world and rock guitars. It is a true testament to the versatility and power of the band.
The EP takes a jazzy turn for ‘Song with No Words’. While jazzy, there is a sombre and almost melancholic feeling to the track that has you floating on the waves of sound. The sombre movement slowly starts to ebb and give way to something a little lighter. This building is masterfully done as it effortlessly leads you to the twinkling tones and driving beats. The layering of the melody tempers the melancholy with the potential of the future. There is a lot of interplay between the main instrumental line and the rest of the melody that is wonderful to hear. You can’t really get enough of the mastery the band shows in this track making it one you can easily listen to again and again.
The next track is ‘Burn with No Fire’ which offers an almost tropical vibe. The Latin flairs that come through at time perfectly meld with the rest of the instrumentation. Through all of this, there is a forward feeling to the music that is enhanced by the guitar while the flute lightly dances through your senses. This is another song with lyrics in another language that wraps around the instrumentation to add a new layer to proceedings. While you may not understand the words, they easily sink their hooks into your soul and pull you along the soundscape. There is an almost reflective feeling to the track that might seem a little at odds with the lively soundscape.
‘The Bird’ drops the pace for a slower track that has your mind out in the woods again. The light feeling of the opening drops out from under you for a darker soundscape that pulses through your chest. The longest song on the album, it carefully leads you through the music toward the vocals that have a deep story resting in them. The vocals add depth to the music that is accentuated by the earthy feeling of the music. The harmonisation of the vocals is beautiful and adds a little something to the power of the song that sinks into your soul.
There is a more modern feeling to the opening of ‘Down by the River’ before the instrumentation firmly places the image of a babbling brook in your mind. The melodic arrangement is reminiscent of water tumbling over pebbles and winding down the riverbed. The high vocals are ethereal as they call to you like the mists of Avalon. There is a rather otherworldly feeling to this song like the Fae are calling you to their court with all the magick they possess. Through all of this is a dusting of whimsical vibes that relaxes you in the best way.
‘Awesome of Oz’ opens with throat singing which is not something you often hear in music. There is a calling awakening in the opening that is wonderfully peaceful. You can almost imagine the sun rising over the horizon and bringing a glowing light to the world. Throughout the opening, the throat singing is felt through the low levels even as the instrumentation stomps to life. This all drops for a stomping folk song that pulls you out to the Outback and the wonders it has to offer. Everything about this song is addictive and you are going to find yourself singing along.
The album comes to a close with ‘Lost in the Sky’ which takes you on a gentler course. The feeling of this track is more like the sun setting after a wonderful day. It is the perfect closing to the album and gently sets you on your way. The twisting movements of the beats have you twirling to the rhythm while the vocals hypnotise and send you into a relaxed state. You can easily close your eyes and let the vocals wash over you and lull you into the nebulous floating vibe of the track.
VGmates have produced an absolute showstopper of an album with All Anew as they twist and dance through genres, styles and emotions. Each track is captivating on its own but together they form an album that you can’t really help but love. There is a depth of musicality that is utterly astounding and will make you wonder why they only have one album.