Album Review: VGmates – All Anew

All Anew is the new album from Sydney, Australia-based folk rock band VGmates and it’s unlike anything I’ve heard before.

By Graeme Smith

The album opens with Started All Anew, a track that draws on traditional forms as diverse as aboriginal Australian and Slavic folk, all filtered through modern rock. Anna Bourova’s delicate and charismatic vocals float in, delivering lyrics that are full of poetry and a little bit of philosophy.

VGmates is the brainchild of Vladimir Gizatulin, who formed the band alongside Anna, guitarist Vladimir Perepelitsa, bassist (and throat singer) Taras Ablamsky and percussionists Viktor Kamolov and Alex Vaghin. They’ve been going since 2017 and Vladimir, also a sound engineer, did the recording, mixing and  mastering for the album himself.

The result is a very warm, DIY feeling record. In track two The Star, Vladimir takes on the lead vocal duties, singing in his native Russian, and there’s a sense that the song could be sung in chorus in some snug bar somewhere. Anna joins him for harmonies and a particular poignant interlude, where the music stops for her to develop a heart-breaking refrain.

Matushka is also sung in Russian but that’s where it’s similarities with the The Star end. There’s a haunting, Gothic feel to it – as far removed from warm as you can get! One of the key defining features of All Anew is the range of genres and styles on display and this is early evidence. The instrumentals slowly build over six and half minutes, introducing electric guitar and woodwind as it does.

Faun livens proceedings up again and takes them in a psychedelic direction before the instrumental Song With No Words calms the tempo. Another slow-burner, it builds to an emotive climax. The percussive Burn With No Fire draws again from native Australian influences accompanied by jazzy guitar and tin whistle. One of the band’s intentions behind the album is to invite the listener to feel a range of emotions, and through the album’s middle section they achieve that.

As the album reaches its final movement, The Bird is a rising folk ballad which wonderfully reflects the album’s theme of starting anew. It’s followed by the steady and meditative instrumental Down The River and the triumphant and atmospheric drinking song Awesomeness of Oz. Final track Lost In The Sky brings together a lot of the album’s styles and themes. Vladimir and Anna sing in harmony again and it feels like a sweet farewell.

All Anew has an unconventional feel about it that I really enjoyed. By drawing on the traditions and heritage of their homeland, and their adopted Australian home, VGmates has created a blend of sounds that feel unique. If you’re into your folk, you’re going to find a lot to love in All Anew, particularly if you enjoy your folk with a modern twist.

You can check out All Anew below.