Some of you may just remember this feature if you were regular readers of The Pavilion. I have decided to revive it for the benefit of TWR readers… to give you the opportunity to see that your Editor doesn't solely listen to Genesis-related records and also to give you the opportunity to tell us about other musicians, groups etc which you have been listening to so send in your reviews etc to us at the TWR address.
To get the ball rolling, here are reviews of a selection of albums which have landed in my CD player in recent months…
It is not often that I get the chance to review almost an entire back catalogue of albums by an artist but with Richard Wileman's Karda Estra project I have had that unusual luxury so in reverse order here goes.
Voivode Dracula (Cyclops Records CYCL143 2004) is Richard's most recent album. As its title suggests, the album is based around Bram Stoker's Gothic novel. Almost a symphonic album in so far that it is divided into five "movements" each based around a character or an idea from the book. This is not easy listening music by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed it is music of a deeply melancholy and indeed sometimes morbid cast… in keeping with the inner morbidity of the book and its central character. Richard builds a series of soundscapes on the album all of which resonate with the listener to evoke a broad sweep of mental and aural images… excellent and thought provoking stuff!
Constellations (Cyclops Records CYCL130 2003) Is another deeply evocative album drawing its inspiration from the stars in the night sky. Each of the constellations is given its own deeply individual treatment from the grasping harshness of Hydra to the ethereal beauty of Cassiopeia all are unique and brilliantly observed in Richard's own unique style aided and abetted by a variety of equally talented musicians and the wonderful vocalisations of Ileesha Bailey. Richard's homage to one of his inspirations: Steve Hackett, can also be heard here on the album's final cut a wonderful version of Twice Round The Sun from Steve's 1999 "Darktown" album.
Eve (Cyclops Records CYCL104 2001) Another album based around a book this time the 1886 novel: The Future Eve by Villiers de L'Isle Adam a prophecy of the creation of androids and the dangers therein. Once again, the music is deeply evocative, thought provoking and beautifully crafted.
Thirteen From The Twenty First (No Image Records NICD13 2000) Is another journey into a deeply evocative world of sound pictures some, as in the case of the albums first five tracks by works of art; perhaps Richard's own "Pictures At An Exhibition" but with a 21st century slant. Others are equally well drawn and observed but are open to the interpretation of the listener as indeed all good music should be.
A Winter In Summertime (NO Image Records NICD12 1998) Is the earliest album that I have heard by Richard. Here are the roots of his musical ethos a deeply personal use of sound and texture which creates a whole range of musical ideas which challenge the senses and preconceptions of the listener. Another album which will have you thinking about the music you have heard long after it has stopped playing!
Richard is definitely a 21st Century composer. His ideas are fluid and yet well defined, displaying a dazzling array of musical styles and a grasp of musical form which many are sadly lacking these days. If you like music with substance then these albums might just be your cup of tea.
For further information about Richard and Karda Estra check out their web site at:
Next up, the first of two releases from Italian bands. This is from a band with the intriguing title: Distillerie di Malto and is called Il Manuale Dei Piccoli Discorsi. I am not altogether sure what the band name or the title of the album means but the music is what matters.
This album definitely fits within the Neo Prog vein. Album opener; Allegro Con Brio has all of those trademarks which Prog fans will love… waves of keyobards… staccato guitar and impossible time signatures all delivered in impeccable style by the musicians. This trend is continued throughout the album and for me there are echoes of bands such as Van Der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant in here so if you like your Prog old school then this is a band for you!
The Watch are another progressive band from Italy who have been receiving excellent reviews from their previous releases. The latest album: Vacuum of which this is an advance copy, displays all their formidable talents through out its eight tracks. Once again there are echoes of a whole gamut of bands from Genesis, and Marillion to even echoes of Billy Joel! Mixed and blended to produce an entertaining and enjoyable album.For further info : www.thewatch.it
Indecision are the band which our very own web master: Stuart Barnes is a member of when he isn't running the TWR web site and helping yours truly interview recalcitrant musicians! Stuart is an accomplished keyboard player and it shows on this album; Age Of Innocence contains a fine mix of well crafted songs accompanied by fine instrumentation and excellent vocals. Certainly an album which will be enjoyed by anyone with an ear for a good tune!
For further info: www.indecision.co.uk
Next up is the latest album from US band Simon Apple. Their previous effort: From The Toy Box was reviewed in an edition of The Pavilion and I was delighted to receive this album. An eclectic mix of musical styles are featured here from the melodic pop of the opening track; Leap Of Faith featuring new vocalist Dan Merrill's superb vocals to the wonderful acoustic driven Hold Me (Like A Lover) to the Jazz tinged A Way Outside, there is a whole gamut of styles explored here. The trio of musicians who comprise Simon Apple (Dan Merrick: lead vocals/backing vocals/guitars. Jeff Miller: Piano/Keyboards/Guitars/ Programming, and Buzz Saylor: Drums/Percussion) have been joined on this album by a host of talents including; Tony Levin, Buck Dharma and John Helliwell all of whom need no introduction from me! An excellent effort and with a percentage of sales of this album going to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; not only do you get an excellent album but help a worthy cause too.
Simon Apple : River To The Sea Trunk Records 6061701
Check out the following Simon Apple albums…
From The Toybox Trunk Records SA88101
And if you ask them nicely they might let you sample…
For further info on this excellent band check out their web site: www.simonapple.com and tell 'em TWR sent ya!
The final album in this round up is from veteran performer: Maddy Prior. The album Arthur The King takes a new look at the Arthurian story combining the inimitable vocals of Maddy herself blended in a heady mix of traditional songs and new compositions not solely based on the Arthurian story itself but which certainly evoke an era of minstrels, high chivalry and romance but also with its feet firmly embedded in the more earthy realism of day to day life… an excellent album!
Maddy Prior: Arthur The King (Park Records PRKCD58)