Many years ago, I had a column in a well-known North of England organization for the promotion of classic and progressive rock. I was a contrary individual, and part of my ‘work’ was to listen to classic prog and rock albums with a fresh pair of ears, without the baggage of the genre.
I quickly concluded that what passed for Prog in the mid to late 1990’s and early part of the 21st century wasn’t progressive in it’s truest sense, and instead of actually progressing, was in fact standing still.
Then I was introduced to the work of Karda Estra, the name for a loose collective of musicians working around the compositional and musical skills of multi-instrumentalist Richard Wileman, and as anyone who is familiar with the band will know, that Richard has been a restless composer, always happy to try new things, weave together new sounds and arrangements in search of his muse.
Over the last decade or so albums like ‘New Worlds’, ‘Weird Tales’ and ‘Eve’ have subtly insinuated themselves into my musical consciousness and become go to albums for different moods, and ones I have never tired of listening to.
Now ‘Veil’ see’s Richard stepping out from behind the Karda Estra name, and crafting an album that has echoes of the sensibilities and styles from Karda Estra, with some dark folk songs, and ethereal music, coming across as like a soundtrack to some long-lost Tigon or Amicus horror mo vie from the 1970’s.
Of course, there’s a lot more going on that that, as the mix on the album veers from the dark gothic atmospheric chamber music that he’s perfected beautifully on The Sea Witch for instance with it’s haunting chords and strings or the opener Ghost, which see’s Richard musically anyway, stripped back with some wonderful acoustic guitar and vocals.
Mephisto Portrait is another one of these songs, with some wonderful pastoral echoes, but something more going on underneath, with some fantastic guitar and Floydian bass, this in fact sits in the similar sort of territory that Matt Berry has carved out a career in. The nod to the 1970’s horror films continues with a version of Paul Giovanni’s The Tinker of Rye, from the Wicker Man soundtrack, and which fits neatly with it’s subtle (ish) innuendo, and tongue in cheek nod to trad folk smut.
Reworked versions of Karda Estra material sit alongside Richards newer songs, and blend perfectly, Cassiopeia weaving it’s magic, whilst the wonderfully evocative Three Occultations (which has been played by Stuart Maconie on his Freakzone show) reminds me of elements of bands like Comus, Spyrogyra or even Trees, whilst Richard’s elegant compositional skills and the way he’s honed his craft working as Karda Estra really make this album work.
Subtle musical accompaniment from Amy Fry, whose duo vocals with Richard are an absolute joy, whilst her clarinet joins with the trumpet of Lauraine Phelan and the bass clarinet and alto sax of Jo Court, which gives depth and a sense of different styles to the album, Richard, as mentioned elsewhere, plays everything else, and with his vocals forefront, and his name on the sleeve makes this a much more song focused album than Karda Estra works.
This is not a re-branding exercise as such, more a case of Richard extending his musical chops above and beyond the Karda Estra name, and with this is mind this is a perfect progression of his musical journey, part singer-songwriter album, part soundtrack for a lost British classic, and overall a thoroughly enjoyable and eminently listenable album.
Released 16th February 2016