The words that immediately spring to mind after listening to this record for
a few minutes are symphonic, progressive, delightful, classical, dark yet
gentle, gothic, ambient, and - most of all - sophisticated. And after
many, many spins, those first impressions remain.
In general, The Age Of Science And Enlightenment is extremely relaxing music - yet on closer inspection there
are tensions and crescendos and subtle complexities that allow the music to be
appreciated at several different levels. Listen to the opening bars of the
CD - there's immediately a sense of stress and anxiety that fades - and returns
and fades several times.
Karda Estra is the project of composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist
Richard Wileman, who enlists four artists to complement his guitar, percussion,
keyboard and piano work. Expect to hear instruments as unconventional as a
flute, oboe, cor anglais (a fancy word for a de-tuned English horn - rather like
an oboe), violin, and sax. And one of the sounds that is key to the
atmosphere Wileman develops is choirs of haunting, wordless female vocals. Very pretty, and they contribute a rich,
dark gothic element to the music. The use of
real instruments, rather than keyboard emulations, gives the music an organic,
high quality sound that is lacking in so much of today's prog. Also unlike
modern prog, there are no
bombastic walls of sound - instead there's lots of space, and you'll find a
delicate balance of sometimes as few as 2 instruments, a la chamber music.
"The Return Of John Deth" is a 16-minute 3-song epic whose pieces don't roll
into each other, yet seem to complement each other musically - although the
relationship isn't obvious. The piece was inspired by the painting 'John Deth' by Edward Burra.
Each had its own inspiration. For example "Am I Dreaming You? Are You Dreaming
Me?" was inspired by a line in Robert Silverberg's "Son Of Man", and "Second
Star" was inspired by lyrics in the Kate Bush song "In Search Of Peter Pan".
According to Wileman, the major theme of this album is Redemption.
The Age Of Science And Enlightenment is the tenth Karda Estra piece in
eight years. Production standards are high, and the cover pictures are wall
paintings Richard photographed at Pompeii.
In the vein of a Bjorn Lynne, or of Pär Lindh's Gothic Impressions, or
of Steve Hackett's Voyage Of The Acolyte, this is a sophisticated body of
timeless art rock - and it is a record you could play again and again and again. I did.
1. Talos (4:25)
2. Carmilla (4:30)
3. Am I dreaming you? Are dreaming me? (6:01)
4. The age of science and enlightement (4:50)
The return of John Deth:
5. i) The red room (5:39)
6. ii) Bones in the moonlight (8:12)
7. iii) Nocturne macabre (2:05)
8. Second star (7:25)