Estonian duo Opium Flirt doesn't hesitate to wear its allegiances on its record sleeve -- the cover of Tehislend, the group's first formal album after some self-released efforts, is as classically prog as one could want, with its upside-down stone/human figures floating above a flat desert-like landscape. The music throughout matches the cover; over the album's nine tracks, most taken from various live performances or radio broadcasts, multi-instrumentalists Ervin (mainly guitar and keyboards) and Erki (mostly drums), with guest help at a variety of points on other instruments, create a series of often propulsive takes on space rock refracted through later sensibilities, such as the earlier work of Porcupine Tree through the Signify days, not to mention many fellow travelers in that vein. If it means that Opium Flirt are still finding their feet to an extent, the evidence of Tehislend is that their skills are already sharp, with the two audibly bringing a lot of dramatic excitement to their performances that many other similar groups can't manage. On the one hand they often seem to have one core strategy to conclude a song with an explosive build of guitar feedback and louder and louder drumming; on the other hand, they do that so brilliantly on songs like "Intense Heat" and "Odd Times," among others. (The latter song's ending is especially strong, with some screechingly distorted feedback warped and twisted over a steady bass loop and ever-increasingly crazed drumming.) Even more meditative explorations like the slow-paced moody float of "Man Who Never Was" eventually wrapping with a thrilling if ultimately unsurprising-in-context conclusion. Among the few exceptions to this general model -- perhaps unsurprisingly, also the two numbers not recorded live -- are the piano-led pieces "Cafe Perspective" and "Saint European King Days," both gentle numbers that work around core melodies to understated but attractive effect.
by Ned Raggett