Πέμπτη, 30 Ιανουαρίου 2014

Arcana - Inner Pale Sun (LP review)


In "Inner Pale Sun" (fourth LP of the band, released in 2002), the Swedish neoclassical act Arcana continues evolving in their musical direction, heavily influenced by Dead Can Dance. There are some differences to DCD though so they do not come across as total copycats - plus that they are really good at their genre. One major difference is that there is less emphasis on the vocals, as there are a lot of instrumentals and we rarely have any exotic vocal tricks (think of Lisa Gerrard's operatic vocals and glosolalia), if any. The band also has influences from some goth rock bands with neoclassical touches (think of Swans "The Burning World" era - especially in the vocal style). But enough with the band comparison, let's see what this album offers.
Although all tracks share a similar style, there are differences among them - for example "Icons" has a more medieval, mantra-like feeling, while other tracks such as "Lovelorn" and "Innocent Child" focus on delivering poetic lyrics above a neoclassical/ethereal musical wallpaper. The strings are used in a clever way, and they are very pleasant, especially in the two vocal tracks mentioned above. The closing track "Closure" (one of my personal favourites here) is a heavenly piano-laden minimal track, which is really good for relaxation. Another favourite of mine is "We Rise Above" (also released in the "Body of Sin" 7"), where the combination of the vocals, the dulcimer and the percussion gives a really haunting feeling, taking you to other, ancient worlds!
In this album, the male vocals are done by Peter Petterson, while the female ones are done by Ann-Mari Thim (who replaced the old female vocalist, Ida Bengtsson). Half of the tracks are instrumental though. For me, the length of the album (clocking around 38 min) is an advantage, because although the music is very pleasant, it is not very diverse so if the album was much longer - assuming all the tracks were in the same style - it might be a little tiring to sit through.
If you ask me for any drawbacks here, I would say there are no significant ones - although subjectively we can say that the album could have been somewhat more diverse, or that the vocals could have a more dominant role. But personally, I think for this musical act, their overall sound is excellent, because they have proven - not only here but also in their other albums - that what they do, they do it really well. One last thing I want to mention is that, even if the music is not very "technical" in a theoretical sense, it doesn't really matter at all regarding that genre, as long as the atmosphere is inspiring and the melodies are used in a clever way.
"Inner Pale Sun" is sure among my favourite Arcana albums, although if you ask me, all of their releases are worth hearing if you are a fan of the neoclassical/ethereal genre. You simply cannot go wrong with this talented act.

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