Veil –  Richard Wileman (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Veil cover.jpgOne of the restrictions of working with music that is so textured, intricate and dynamically fluid as Richard’s usual musical vehicle, Karda Estra, is that when it comes to live shows, the logistics surrounding the amount of players and gear that would be required to do the music justice is generally too prohibitive. Veil, therefore, feels like his pulling together a body of work, some new songs and instrumentals and some reworked pieces from the Karda Estra canon, that can form the basis of small, intimate live shows. Shows that can range from solo performances to slightly enhanced versions of the same as space and musician availability dictates.

What is great is that you get the best of both worlds, new, stripped back sonic journeys but ones which are built on the same creative pulse, musical references and progressive world view as Karda Estra. (Progressive here is used in the broader, genre hopping, rulebook ignoring sense, rather than any connotations of people dressed as wizards, singing about epic quests…possible performed on ice!)

Last Grains has a wonderful 60’s chamber pop feel, cascading vocals and jaunty guitar work really putting a Chelsea booted spring in the song’s step and at the other extreme Unmarked on Any Map is a haunting piece of pop noir. And alongside these more song based approaches, the more fluid form classical explorations are also given room. Andromeda Variations for Guitar being, as the name would suggest, a wonderfully dexterous, short acoustic guitar piece, hints of Iberia hanging between the darker passages and Amy Fry’s spotlight moment, Chaos Theme For Clarinet, hanging between the sound of a Midtown Manhattan jazz lounge and a slightly whimsical dystopian soundtrack.

It is a collection of songs that shows that even without the usual wide array of musical trappings, the heart of Karda Estra, and Richard Wileman’s music in general, is just as wonderfully mercurial and beguiling even when stripped down to its core. It shows too that the intricacies and originality are central to the way he writes and not merely the result of hanging strange textures and off kilter layers on more conventional structures. And more than anything, if this album marks Richard as a more regular fixture on the gigging circuit, for that alone it is an important step.

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Ghost – Richard Wileman (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Richard Wileman - Ghost 1500x1500 2As the central hub around which the musically intricate world of Karda Estra revolves, Richard Wileman has been responsible for a wide range of wonderfully textured, unpredictable and eclectic music. He has wandered from intense noir-ish soundtracks to sweeping celestial grandeur and embarked on everything from progressive Avant Gardening trips to jazz infused meanderings. But everyone needs some time out now and again and so here we find him playing with a musically straighter bat. Voice, acoustic guitar, a guest Clarinet for the final track and little else, a far cry from the usual musical layers we find him swathed in but no less glorious a result.

The title track is one of emotive acoustica dressed with just a few musical motifs and sonic embellishments, simple yet stylish and acutely reflective. Best of all after producing a body of, if not instrumental work then music where vocals are used more as ethereal instruments, we hear Richard sing and immediately wonder way we haven’t got to hear more of this with Karda Estra.

Andromeda Variations takes some classical Latin guitar pathways but the songs that top and tail the e.p, The Veil and Chaos Theme For Clarinet, skirt his more familiar territory. What is both exciting and revealing is that these compositions feel like they are the sound of Karda Estra as first thoughts, its ideas refined, polished but retained as more direct and immediate musical communiques, you can occasionally see the same sonic thumbprint in evidence but here the joy lies not in the way those ideas are built into complete musical worlds but in their straightforward and unadorned beauty.

 
Ghost is a wonderful view into what the composer himself sounds like with the depth of his compositions stripped away, the beating heart and the nerve centre of the whole affair. But more interestingly with the complexity and therefore live logistics of his usual widescreen sound stripped away, does this e.p. herald Richard Wileman as a more regular live performer? I do hope so.

Strange Relations – Karda Estra (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

71gChsJ1j9L._SL1000_Karda Estra is like a box of chocolates. Okay, Karda Estra is like a box of chocolates that has been through a blender and then served up on a plate whose colour, texture and even dimensions seem to mutate even as you eat from it. The point being that every time you press play on a Karda Estra record, you really don’t know what you are going to get. Past offerings have veered from symphonic Prog epics to pastoral dreamscape pop, from gothic film score to experimental jazz, often within the same album.

 

From a review point of view I found this their most challenging to put into words. Past reflections of composer Richard Wileman’s journeys into realms of classical grandeur or ambient drifts through space opera soundtracks are still noticeable but like 2007’s Last of The Libertine; here there are slower, free jazz vibes, tangential modern classical meanderings and avant-garde cinematic structures.

 

But for all its lack of generic conformity, or its creation of whole new ones, the composition is powerful, hypnotic and eminently listenable and should be experienced the way all such mercurial creations should, with a totally open mind. It is baffling and beautifully, musically poignant yet a wonderfully open canvas of sounds and above all it is uniquely Karda Estra or maybe just Karda Esoteric.

 

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