If 2015 is going to be an excellent year in the Progressive Rock scene, then the Rock in Opposition genre is getting there in full speed with the Chamber sounds coming at you like an unexpected handshake with the realms of Karda Estra. I first heard Karda Estra’s music few years ago on Friday Night Progressive and not to mention Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout. And that was where I became hooked into the world of Richard Wileman.
Since forming in 1998, Wileman’s concept for Karda Estra is inspired by the elements of Neo-Classical and Chamber music in a darker moody atmosphere with a gothic background that is a chilling vibe that makes it a terrifying soundtrack for a horror film. Karda Estra has released ten albums and this year is their 11th with the release of Strange Relations released on Kavus Torabi’s label, Believer’s Roast.
It’s a mixture of Jazz, Avant-Rock, Canterbury, and a twist of Psych-Zappa rolled into a gigantic milkshake and those ingredients are mixed in well of those combinations. Featuring drummer of The Muffins Paul Sears and third time appearance of Kavus Torabi himself from Guapo, Knifeworld, and Gong, he (Torabi) is a very busy man when it comes to projects like this, It is a wonderful combination. Not to mention Richard’s wife, Illesha on vocals, Amy Fry on Clarinet and Saxophone, Mike Ostime on Trumpet, and Caron De Burgh on Oboe and Cor Anglis.
With inspirations of the collection from author Philip Jose Farmer, the six-part Strange Relations suite could have been recorded in a dark cavernous place and it fits very well to the ominous, hidden, and sinister yet energetic with a folky fusion electronic Zeuhl touch to it. There are moments in the 6-part epic that almost reminded me of Danny Elfman’s score for a Tim Burton film between both Wileman and Sears followed by Torabi’s clean and layered minor guitar sounds along with Iilesha’s vocalizations that reminded me of The Northettes,
But there is also late ‘60s psych score in there with the xylophones creating the tension with the chaotic crescendos and a Crimson-sque moment thrown in on some unexpected eyebrows lightening up at the exact spot on where Richard takes the pieces into. And a waltz-like crunch and the thumping haywire effects into ascending chaotic rhythms and ending with an anxiety screech of the horn section along with Sears going into the places on his drums and knowing where the finale is reaching the nightmarish tones.
It is a terrifying and hypnotic adventure on the suite and knowing that Wileman isn’t going to give you Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but to give you a menacing composition that mixes Neo-Classical-Chamber-Jazz Rock, as a frightening voyage into the terror you haven’t seen before. The last two pieces are worth the trip.
On Ylla, in which it was inspired by the late great Ray Bradbury’s short stories from the 1953 sci-fi novel, The Martian Chronicles, Amy’s clarinet and saxophone gives it that doomy and ambient nightmarish world on what the character has to go through with her husband, the dreams of the Earth people, and the price that pays for killing. It’s a tragic and dysfunctional story, but the music captures the essence of Bradbury’s tale that would have made him very proud of it.
The closer, The Wanton Subtlety of Monna Tessa, based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, has a medieval introduction before going into a Zappa meets Mike Oldfield-sque section in a cross between acoustic guitar, bass, laid-back drums, and xylophones along with Illesha’s vocalizations going into a ¾ waltz section and back into the psychedelic spooky with an ascending vibe.
All of a sudden, it becomes a quirky driven harpsichord Elfman-like score that is off the wall before sending off into the end. This is my third time listening to Strange Relations. And while this is an introduction into the music and world of Richard Wileman, this is a band that needs to be on the look out for and I cannot wait to hear more of Karda Estra’s music later on this year to see what minds and brainstorming ideas that Richard has in his head.
So if you love the essence of RIO, Chamber, Zeuhl, Zappa, and Avant-Psych Jazz, then Karda Estra’s Strange Relations is the album worth exploring into the combination of the five. Just be prepared for the unexpected moments that will make your eyes go up at the exact spot!