Bulat Nasibullin - Just Before The Beat 
Bulat Nasibullin - Just Before The Beat

Bit of a random one this really, which is saying something when it comes to the world of Listen With Monger. You see, Bulat Nasibullin is Russian by birth but moved to the UK at the age of 12 where he eventually joined a covers band in London alongside LWM favourite Hana Piranha. More recently, Bulat moved to Vancouver to start another band (now defunct), gain Canadian citizenship and get a change of scenery. So, with such an eclectic past, it's no great surprise that this collection of solo material is pretty varied and disparate in terms of reference points, even within one song. For example, opener 'Make It Better' starts out life as a gentle tune with the essence of David Kitt running through it before turning in to a piano lead reggae number. Following that is 'How Far We've Come' which is a shoe in for the next John Lewis Christmas advert if I know advertising (which I don't but how hard can it be, right?). Throughout all of these songs, Bulat's studied guitar playing shines through and, although occasionally bordering on the overly indulgent (i.e. the Santana-esque 'Praying & Killing'), it is generally pleasing to hear a guitar being used for more than just chord progressions.

There are dark tones to this music and 'Stay With Me' is a great example of Bulat's ability to explore these inner recesses of vulnerability. Without any warning, however, the Muse-ish guitars of 'The Reins' come chiming in and the energy levels kick up a notch. It's clear that Bulat has talent and ability but, as I've said before, any solo artist making a multi-instrument album without other input is walking a brave path which is not always the right one - there is, for my liking, a little too much reggae on this album for what is essentially a collection of rock songs. Having said that, title track 'Just Before The Beat' is a beautiful, piano lead instrumental track that gently builds in to what would be some genuinely heart warming film music if applied to the right scene. 'N18', presumably a reference to Bulat's old London stomping ground, is what Ludovico Einaudi would sound like if he left a soft rock band in to the studio with him (not as bad as that sounds on paper, that was intended as a compliment) and 'It All Shall Fall' is a mid-tempo dance-rock number that builds to a dramatic climax. There are 15 songs on this album, some instrumental, and although they are all worthwhile pieces of music with decent production qualities, the direction is a little questionable. It's almost as though Bulat is showing off what he is capable of as a result of his musical experience and degree in Commercial Music but is not sure which direction he wants to take all that talent and ability in - entirely understandable but a bit weighty as far as demo tapes go.

Of the remaining songs, the acoustic picking of 'Kiss Me Now' is the most appealing in its honesty and rawness as Bulat sings a simple love song. 'Time Changes All' also has the twinkle of potential but doesn't really go to the places that you might hope in the long run. Essentially, what we have here is a well travelled and well trained musician with bundles of talent and ability but lacking a conduit for those skills. If I had to choose a path for Bulat, which I don't (this is just a blog, after all), then I would suggest his skills might be best used for writing film music, such is his talent for creating soundscapes. Far be it from me to dictate, though.

More information: www.reverbnation.com/bulat