If the name Oda Relicta doesn’t sound familiar to you, perhaps you’ve heard of one of composer Olegh Kolyada’s other projects: First Human Ferro, Ostarbeiter, or InMeditarivm. Or perhaps you’ve heard of his label, Old Captain, whose catalogue includes a variety of artists, largely from the intriguing and often challenging industrial / martial industrial / neoclassical scenes of Eastern Europe and Russia. Kolyada has also done releases or made contributions to releases on a number of other labels, including Neuropa, Eibon, andSteinklang Industries. Oda Relicta, a project he started as a tribute to the Zhytomyr Military Brass Orchestra (from his home town in Ukraine), has been active since 2005. He’s assembled an impressive catalogue of work as an artist and if you haven’t yet heard it, you really owe it to yourself to try a sampling.

Such a sampling can be found on Straw Bells, which is not an album of new material, but a compilation of unreleased and difficult-to-find tracks recorded between 2005 and 2010. There are two versions of the release: a CD, limited to 300 copies on Twilight Records, and a digital release on Old Captain. Each version has twelve tracks, but only seven appear on both. The Twilight Records version is slightly heavier on collaborative tracks with artists such as :Golgatha: and Cisfinitum, while the Old Captain version has more tracks of Kolyada working on his own. This review is of the Old Captain version only, however at the time of writing, the Twilight version is still available from the label.

Despite representing five years of work, Straw Bells flows very well. The sound is lush with orchestral airs, processed just enough to bring out their natural melancholy and nostalgia. The opening track, ‘Silent Hammers of Decay’, has an undeniably haunted quality, and I can picture it as the music to accompany a movie scene of a character recalling how they lost a happier, simpler time. In fact, much of Straw Bells is cinematic, which works both for and against it in different ways.

Most of the tracks are exceptionally short, which in some cases makes them sound more like they were composed in order to serve as a backdrop for something else. Recordings taken from actual soundtracks often have a classical feel, but they are brief, to allow them to be used multiple times and be recognizable throughout a film. Heard on their own, they sound more like excerpts from something bigger, or like something that was abandoned before it was finished. I don’t have a problem with short tracks, but the nature of the music here makes me wish that more of the ideas had been allowed to develop.

The album is at its most glorious when it is at its most complex, when the swells of strings are layered with vocal loops and drifting electronics. There is a darkness to these tracks (notably ‘Heights Where Dreams Dwell’, ‘Europa di Notte’, and the unexpectedly jagged ‘Zmiyeborets’) that cuts right at the heart; this is music that functions as a backdrop to nothing and commands attention all on its own. These moments put me in mind of some Current 93material, especially the first and third parts of their Inmost Light trilogy (Where the Long Shadows Fall and The Starres are Marching Sadly Home), in that the artist is able to compile a diverse repertoire of parts into a whole that is greater than their sum.

As a collection of individual tracks, Straw Bells necessarily lacks the thematic focus of previous Oda Relicta releases, which have been inspired by specific historical events close to the artist’s heart. As a substitute, I would have loved to have some commentary from Kolyada on the inspiration for the pieces. The thought that he puts into his music is excellent material on which to reflect while listening, and I feel like its influence lurks in the background here, hidden just beyond sight.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable release and makes a solid introduction to an under-appreciated artist. It will be a great album to put on during the long, dark nights of late autumn and early winter as you reflect in solitude, and while it may allow you to drift away at moments, it will insistently draw you back.

by Kate MacDonald for Heathen Harvest
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Undici tracce, alcune davvero minute nel counter del tempo; come gioielli desueti e d’antan; Olegh Kolyada decide di rispolverare undici inediti scritti in un lasso di tempo iniziato nel 2005 arrivando sino al 2010. Cinque anni in cui il musicista ucraino componeva musica per Twilight Records, tre dischi nel suo monicker Oda Relicta per l’esattezza: “Leper Mass”, “Holy Alliance”, “Lux Aeterna”, intervallando il suo comporre su pentagramma nei vari progetti in cui, poliedrico e mai sazio, Kolyada riesce a dividersi solo o in collaborazioni anche italiche. La musica non è confondibile: etereo e neoclassico, inquieto ed elegiaco, nei suoi solchi il bianco/nero cinematico prevale, monocromie d’argine, ectoplasmi apocalittici in cui angeli e demoni si prostrano sulle sorti di un’umanità pietosa. In tutte undici un misticismo gnostico pone l’accento attraverso un mood evocatore di figure distorte, memorie labili di flashback frastagliati; sensazioni belliche, diafane mani che reggono fili di aquiloni che volano sostenuti da venti che spazzano odori dolciastri di morti ed onori, il senso di apocalisse e pietà di In The Nursery con il cinismo e la passione di Der Blaue Reiter (“March Of Ukrainian Nationalists” con i suoi field recordings ne è conferma), le parti più nobili di un darkfolk composto di cultura e bellezza. Con lui alcuni nomi: nella sua musica scura, nei suoi downtempi il candore vocale e personale di Louisa John-Kroll, smorzata all’interno della mestizia di “Introitus Nocturnus”, lirica solfeggiatrice di un paradiso che trova catarsi ed esistenza passando nel profondo sentore di morte.

Un brano in stile ‘old’ Dead Can Dance, dotato di una luce innaturale e tanta misericordia amplificata dalle scritture sinfoniche, ripreso in seguito nelle orchestrazioni oniriche di “Night Of Purple Fires”, il respiro benevolo di una deità elementale, arcaica come il concetto stesso di umanità, compassione.

Non dev’essere nemmeno troppo semplice oggi comporre in Ucraina folk noir senza scadere nel marziale, nell’odio, nella barricata culturale creando muri, innalzando cavalli di Frisia e Kolyada sceglie la strada più difficile, profondere la passione e la misericordia. In un titolo una profonda verità: “Man Has Created Death” perché quella favilla di Divino in ognuno di noi fioca ma latente si manifesta nel dare onnipotenza al potere di dare e togliere.

Ovviamente la vita, ovviamente l’illusione.

by Nicola Tenani at Sounds Behind The Corner
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