Christian Kiefer

Czar Nicholas Is Dead

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Although Christian Kiefer's earlier work was described as Americana in some quarters, his fifth album takes as its inspiration Russian history and the Russian landscape. The title, Czar Nicholas Is Dead, indicates that it takes as its inspiration the period of the Russian revolution specifically, and accordingly, its mood is fairly somber. Almost wholly instrumental, its combinations of acoustic guitar, eerie violin and cello, and low-key electronics evoke deserted fields and a creeping ominousness that's more implicit than tangible. While some of the pieces where guitar is to the fore are folky in nature, it's more an ambient work with folk influences than it is an adventurous instrumental folk album along the lines of, say, John Fahey. Bird/dog noises and scratchy fidelity accurately simulate a rural field recording on the mournful "Dubinushka," and the sole vocal number, "Troika," is a dirge with doomed yet dignified melancholy that's one of the more impressive tracks.

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