Tuesday 9th March: It’s still early in the year, but I think I’ve come across an early contender for my album of 2010.
There is, possibly, an argument that Karnataka should not exist as a band. After all, the only remaining member of the original line-up is bassist Ian Jones (admittedly a founder member) while most of the rest of the originals now reside in Panic Room and The Reasoning. It may be more than five years since the band originally dissolved but Jones’ new line-up finally released their first album, The Gathering Light, in February.
The album opens with a short but atmospheric piece, The Calling, in which the seemingly ubiquitous Troy Donockley plays Uillean pipes over the sounds of a rainstorm, before launching into the nearly nine minute instrumental. Building slowly though an opening vaguely reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Keep Talking, State Of Grace soon bursts into joyous life and maintains that tone throughout the track, eventually bringing to mind the extended instrumentals of the live releases from Genesis.
Over ten minutes into the album, we are finally treated to Lisa Fury’s superb (and somewhat Judie Tzuke-like) vocals during Your World. Behind Fury’s lyrics, guitars and keyboards weave around each other while a simple but effective drum line and, for me, the most noticeable bass on the album, provide a strong backbone to the eight minute track.
Moment In Time starts off as a much quieter, ballad-like track, supplemented by a string quartet. However, about three minutes in it becomes a more traditional prog rock song, replete with screaming guitar leading into more pipes, which give the track a very Celtic feel, before ending subtly with keyboards and strings. In another arrangement, I could easily see this being a song for the likes of Westlife. (I can even pinpoint the exact time that the boys would rise off their stools.) That’s not to denigrate what is a very nice song.
Next up is a ten-minute-plus epic. The Serpent And The Sea starts with an almost dark sound against a background of chimes, before reverting to another lively tone. It includes a lovely vocal mix and Fury’s lyrics somehow brought to mind fantasy epics. Towards the end, an instrumental section takes the form of darker guitars counterpointed with light keyboards, before high noted guitar takes over and builds the song to a memorable climax.
During the first part of three-part Forsaken the guitars and keyboards take are placed backstage behind strings and a much deeper and mellower style of vocals and strings in a much slower song than any of the others on the album. The instrumental part two includes some soaring harmonies and the best of the drumming, while part three reverts back to strings and piano.
Another change of style is seen in Tide To Fall, in which Eastern influences. a catchy tune and bright lyrics are mixed together to form an almost-pop song which somehow doesn’t feel as out of place as it maybe should.
The album ends with it’s title track, a fifteen minute epic once again opened by the pipes which eventually explodes with passion and builds to a stunning crescendo before fading into a beautiful ending.
Granted the album is not without its faults – some of the lyrics are a but repetitive and there are some places where the programmed music is, for me, just too obviously that – but this is a superb album. The use of strings and distinct musical movements within the songs mark it as symphonic rock, while the Uillean pipes give it more than a slight air of Celtic rock. The overall style of music, however, is definitely melodic progressive rock, while the overall tone makes it one of the brightest and most uplifting prog albums I have heard in a very long time.
1: The Calling
2: State of Grace
3: Your World
4: Moment In Time
5: The Serpent and The Sea
7: Tide To Fall
8: The Gathering Light
Ian Jones – bass, keyboards, piano, bass pedals, percussion, bodhran, programming
Lisa Fury – vocals, percussion
Gonzalo Carrera – keyboards, piano
Enrico Pinna – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars
Ian Harris – drums
Troy Donockley – uillean pipes, whistles
Hugh McDowell – cello
Philippe Honore – violin
Bridget Davey – violin
Jane Fenton – cello
Clive Howard – viola