Astrakhan’s Vespero have generally been an extremely progressive leaning outfit, and on their fifth platter, Droga, they go full-bore. Rising out, and up, from the deep waters they plumbed on Subkraut, Vespero take their sonics to heights matching Subkraut’s depths. The space rock is still heavily present, from traces of a deep Floyd appearing from the start on the title cut, through more modern takes, the least of all being the territories Vespero have mapped out on their own. Some of the frenetic pulse and energy of Subkraut is re-channeled on Droga for prog dynamics—in guitar and rhythm—that call to mind King Crimson. Droga doesn’t change Vespero’s already malleable sound, but rather bends it to scoop up newer trace elements that mix with Russian sounds, swaths of fusion and Krautrock to make it more encompassing than it already is. Droga sounds a touch leaner and airier, which is surprising considering how far Vespero can stretch out, even when talking one song or Droga as whole. The space rock payload hasn’t been jettisoned, but this is first and foremost a top-shelf progressive rock tour de force from one of the flat-out finest purveyors of modern prog. Taken as a whole, Droga is a growing expanse that submerges you from the start, rolling you over and over as it wraps around your ears. It certainly demands repeated listens for everything to bubble to the surface, each time dishing up another helping of details and tangents to latch onto. Taken track by track, Droga operates much the same way. There’s not a weak track to be found here. Even in the more sedate and relaxed outings, Vespero are at the very least engaging and driven to push their edge’s shape. Through all levels of energy, Vespero are in constant motion and flux. In less capable hands this might come over as restless, or worse yet, uncommitted, but Vespero pull each trek and track off with their trademark fluidity and an assurance that always seems to put them at the top of their game. Still obviously drinking from a deep well of improv, Vespero steer this new vessel with a decision-making process that is all about distillation and sending the filler packing without losing any complexity. All collapse into a natural flow, and growth, that makes Droga come across feeling like it couldn’t have sounded any other way. With what must be an innate knack to recognize happy accidents for the opportunities in the best of them and to turn their ears from pretentious indulgence, Vespero have managed, again, to successfully evolve their sound in a direction where going forward is only one small aspect … and choice. And Russia’s finest don’t make the obvious one, thankfully.
Frozen Lilies (Melt in Heaven) :: Vespero :: Droga (2013, R.A.I.G.)