CD Review

Karda Estra – “Voivode Dracula”

By Marcus Pan

Voivode DraculaRichard Wileman's latest as Karda Estra, Voivode Dracula, may seem like an EP at first glance. But the five tracks included herein nonetheless total over 43 minutes in length, so it really can stand easily as a full length. Building up on Karda's reputation for classical composition and instruments, late 2004's Voivode Dracula release pushes the bar of modern classical music into a creepier realm touched upon only by a few and touched upon well by much less than that.

Tracks ranging in length from the over thirteen minute closing, Kisses For Us All, to the shortest six and a half minutes of Lucy – Festina Lente, Karda has a release here that would sit extremely well next to Nox Arcana(1), Midnight Syndicate(2) or even movie score master Danny Elfman. Mixing orchestra-like instrumentation from strings (violin by Helen Dearnley, cello by Sarah Higgins) to winds (oboe etc. by Caron Hansford, clarinet by Michelle Wiliams, flute/sax/clarinet by Zoe King), the end result is a truly creepy feeling interspersed with occasional comfort zones and punctuated by sudden movements into different aspects and realms.

The songs are mostly free floating gestures in an oblivion of time. Percussion and rhythm are created in your own mind through most of Voivode Dracula, with only occasional funeral march sounding percussion to hammer sections of the orchestration home or anchor it somewhere for a few seconds before casting off for other lands. The over nine minute Voivode Dracula, namesake of the album, uses strongly placed wind instruments, clarinet primarily, to lull a sense of dread into its audience while growing creepier and creepier with every strain. Percussive maintenance to the tracks only occurs very infrequently with forcefully struck beats at varying intervals, mostly singularly. Lucy – Festina Lente is unusual within Voivode Dracula because it has the closest thing to a rhythm, but you'll find it within the keys of the piano rather than your standard percussion instrument. Lucy's also my favorite on the CD.

The closing, titled Kisses For Us All, winds the CD down for over thirteen minutes...and does so with extravagance and total immersion in dark imaginings and weirdness that makes Bowie's Labyrinth seem like a nice place to picnic. To imbue the mood Wileman creates he even lists "breathing" as instrumentation – three times over (performed by Zoe King, Caron Hansford and Ileesha Bailey). Childlike utterings drop into sudden alcoves of demise as the instrumentation follows to slowly attempt to drag us out. They slide along brightly once again only to breathe into another sonic nightmare.

Karda Estra's album will probably become a classic amongst the creepiest of the ambient and soundtrack genres. I enjoyed the trip through oblivion the group provided. Wileman's orchestration can awaken and pull out strong emotions, dark feelings and cleanse misery. If Mr. Wileman and crew put this talent to create something less somber and, dare I say it happy, they very well could put the Prozac and Welbutrin cartel out of business.

Contact Information:
Karda Estra
(1) Darklore Manor was reviewed in Legends #146.
(2) Check out their interview back in Legends #108.