Karda Estra - Constellations

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Cyclops
Catalog Number: CYCL 130
Format: CD
Total Time: 43:22:00

Once upon a time, man knew precious little about the physical principles that governed the Earth. Once upon a time, man didn?t realize what stars were made of while gazing in awe at the skies. And once upon a time, man gave these glowing spheres of the universe such importance that he gave certain conglomerations of them a name and meaning, hoping perhaps that their existence transcended the simplicity of a nautical tool and signified something else instead. And as centuries passed, even while humanity discovered the reasons behind everything and used them to its own advantage, man kept gazing at the skies and giving a certain mystical quality to these figures of the sky. No wonder then that Richard Wileman, creator of Karda Estra and romantic explorer of magic and mystery, has now turned his music to the pursuit of the stars. Thus, Constellations.

The essence behind Karda Estra?s fourth offering reverts what seemed to be a tendency towards the abandon of percussion and any similar elements, and instead harbors a decidedly darker and more angular approach at times. The change, however, is not a mere whim, but rather a necessity when approaching the double nature of constellations that the album seems to explore: on one hand, the dreamy, vague, and almost childishly magical images that they conjure. On the other, the dark mysticism and adoration that they once spurned. Hence, the record spans elements like the otherworldly beautiful female vocals of "Cassiopeia," the ominous pagan melodies of "Hydra," and the flowing waltz percussion at the beginning of "Scorpio." Also, the broad string legato sweeps of yesteryear seem to have lost favor, and have ceded much ground to wind and brass, not to mention a nearly omnipresent "arpeggiating" guitar. Even a controlled influx of distorted chaos is allowed to enter the picture at times, therefore making Constellations yet another unique entry in this band?s discography.

However, the results fail to match the standards set by predecessors such as Thirteen From The Twenty First, largely because a sense of cohesion seems to be absent on certain tracks of the album. "Vela" in particular gives an impression of disjointedness, as if ideas and themes were put together without a definite sequence, or at least adequate bridging segments. "Scorpio" suffers from a similar ailment towards its end as well, and the combination proves unfortunate by culminating in a somewhat uneventful cover version of Steve Hackett?s "Twice Around The Sun." It is by that point that Karda Estra?s newest loses much of the favorable momentum gained by its first four tracks, which by contrast are rather rewarding pieces. In particular the foreboding "Hydra," which features a nature so immediately recognizable in its slithering darkness that listening again to it is quite the guilty pleasure.

But perhaps what has been written so far would give my three or four dear readers out there the wrong idea about Constellations. In order to avoid any misunderstandings from the very outset, let it be said that it would be a dire mistake to consider this album a shameful stain on the ongoing history of Karda Estra. While it is true that its forerunners are a better listen, this can still be an engrossing experience for the most part, and fortunately remains square in the field of unorthodox, yet accessible, progressive rock, with the curious characteristic that Wileman seems to be slowly heading back towards the rock fields that at one point he seemed ready to abandon completely. Perhaps not as awe-inspiring as the stars themselves, but still worth a shot.

The Southern Cross (5:09) / Hydra (6:12) / Cassiopeia (3:36) / Phoenix (4:50) / Scorpio (7:50) / Vela (9:28) / Twice Around The Sun (6:10)

Richard Wileman - guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion

Guest musicians:

Ileesha Bailey - vocals
Helen Dearnley - violin
Caron Hansford - oboe, cor anglais
Sarah Higgins - cello
Zoe King - flute, alto and soprano saxophone
Rachel Larkins - viola

A Winter In Summertime (1998)
Thirteen From The Twenty First (2000)
The Land Of Ghosts (2000)
Eve (2001)
Equilibrium (2002)
The Land Of Ghosts Vol. 2 (2002) (oop)
Constellations (2003)
Voivode Dracula (2004)
Alternate History (2004)
The Age Of Science And Enlightenment (2006)
The Last Of The Libertine (2007)
Weird Tales (2009)
New Worlds (2011) (free album download)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: August 3rd 2003
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website: www.kardaestra.co.uk
Hits: 920
Language: english


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