Kazakstan - s/tKazakstan

It's a good thing the quality of the music isn't always signalled by the album cover, otherwise I'd expect something subpar from this debut by Sweden's Kazakstan (the cover art depicts the underwear-clad waist of some hairy dude with twin revolvers tucked in his briefs). Fortunately, this is a pretty cool little CD, if rather short. As Avi pointed out previously, Kazakstan's somewhat similar to Wilco; there's definitely a kind of alt.country strain at work here. But just when you think a song is trotting along lazily, it'll suddenly shift into something more exciting. Take the opener, "Song to the past". The acoustic beginning gives way to a brass-flavored rockin' section four minutes in which sounds fantastic. "Tierra del fuego" is uptempo from the start, with a sublime dynamic shift halfway through that shows the arranging smarts of this ensemble. There's one or two near-instrumentals, one of which features some atmospheric keyboards. Much potential here, and even though this disc isn't meaty enough to be a classic, Kazakstan sound musically disciplined and creative enough to keep a sharp eye on in the future.
- Kevin Renick