(03 January 2010) Ten years ago the tag line for our first Karnataka feature–reviewing their album The Storm–characterized their music as “embracing and blending musical inspiration from genres as diverse as Celtic, Eastern and innovative song-based progressive rock.” A band that has had unprecedented coverage in Musical Discoveries, their original lineup achieved significant critical acclaim worldwide, toured internationally and released three studio albums, two DVDs and a live double album by the end of 2004. Karnataka’s collaboration with Voiceprint and DVD releases by the now defunct Classic Rock Legends complemented their independent distribution channels.
Karnataka’s members are now rooted in four different bands. Ian Jones retained the Karnataka name and filled out the band with new members after founding Chasing The Monsoon. Karnataka’s original lead singer Rachel hooked up with former Magenta bass player Matthew Cohen and became the female lead singer of The Reasoning featured on their 2009 album Dark Angel. Four other Karnataka members became the core of Panic Room. Anne-Marie Helder, in addition to her vibrant solo career and guest appearance on the Wetton-Downes album Icon 3 (2009), joined keyboard player Jonathan Edwards, gutarist Paul Davies and drummer Gavin Griffiths in Panic Room, who have since released Visionary Position (2008) and Satellite(2009). In addition to Gavin’s touring with Fish, he and Anne-Marie extensively with Mostly Autumn and played on the Parade album The Fabric (2009). Jonathan and Paul also played on the Mermaid Kiss album Etarlis (2007) and performed with them live. Paul also played on the Mermaid Kiss EP Salt on Skin (2006). Karnataka’s band history is available at their website.
Ian Jones (bass) remains at the core of the reformed Karnataka whose brand new album The Gathering Light (Immrama Records (UK) KTK CD 005, 2010) is reviewed below. Fronted by the band’s new lead singer Lisa Fury, in addition to Ian (bass, keyboards, guitars, Taurus bass pedals), the lineup includes: Enrico Pinna (guitars), Gonzalo Carrera (keyboards) and Ian Harris (drums, percussion). The band have performed live in the UK between recording sessions for the past eighteen months including a spot at the 2009 Summer’s End Festival. In addition to his work with Karnataka, Ian Jones has worked tirelessly on the Chasing The Monsoon project with internationally acclaimed songwriter/producer Steve Evans (Delicate Flame Of Desire producer), lead singer Lisa Fury and the accomplished guitarist Ian Simmons. The stunning Circles of Stone” was included to entice listeners on on the complation Get Ready To Rock: The Rising Stars Volume 1 (2007). With a couple of other samples available for listening online, the Chasing The Monsoon album is nearing completion and is expected later this year. Karnataka members all still enjoy a fruitful collaboration with Voiceprint contributing to distribution of their work internationally.
Karnataka’s new lead vocalist, Lisa Fury has been singing professionally since the age of seventeen. She released her first single and video a year later. She was part of the all-girl band Arcana, sang regularly at a jazz club in London and sang for ex-Drifters and Coasters lead vocalist Clarence Tex Walker, opening for and singing alongside him as part of Walker Street during tours of the south of England. Lisa also was lead vocalist for the folk-rock band Wildwood and has toured all around Europe and the UK as Stevie Nicks in the Fleetwood Mac tribute band Fleetwood Bac. A six-track EP Windows of the Soul was produced in 2002/2003 by Porcupine Studios where she did session work at the time. Lisa has a wide vocal range and a crystalline texture and sings with the same crisp diction her predecessor Rachel became known for.
The Gathering Light stands true to Karnataka’s heritage, yet illustrates significant artistic growth since the former lineup’s Delicate Flame of Desire release six years ago. Progressive rock influences are more apparent, especially through Gonzalo Carrera’s Yes-influenced keyboard work. Gonzalo played with the Yes tribute band Fragile and with Landmarq previously. His keyboard work is especially notable in the opening instrumentals “The Calling” and “State of Grace.” Troy Donockley’s Uillean pipes, whistles and associated arrangement contributions to “Moment In Time,” “Forsaken” and “The Gathering Light” add an Iona-like Celtic-influenced style to the album. Hugh Mcdowell contributed cello and Cello arrangements to “State Of Grace,” “Forsaken,” “Tide To Fall,” and “The Gathering Light.” Arranged by Ian Jones, a string quartet comprising Philippe Honoré (violin), Bridget Davey (violin), Jane Fenton (cello) and Clive Howard (viola) adds great texture to “Forsaken,” “Moment In Time,” and “The Gathering Light.”
The album was produced by Ian Jones and mixed by Enrico Pinna at Quadra Recording Studios in London. It was mastered by Frank Arkwright at Metropolis Mastering in London. A Pro Tools texture clearly emerges during the brilliant instrumental number “State of Grace” that showcases the players both individually and as a tight-knit ensemble. The interplay between guitar and keyboards is wonderfully supported by a powerful rhythm section. The rich progressive instrumentals carry consistently through the entire album’s 1h08m running length.
While the progress in Karnataka’s sound is evident in several artistic dimensions, the guitar- and keyboard-based instrumental arrangements are as notable as the overall improvement in vocal production. Lisa Fury has a delicate yet powerful voice that works well solo, with backing harmonies atop gentle acoustic arrangements and gliding over the top of the rockier tunes as well. Enrico Pinna’s electric guitar passages and solos are awe-inspiring while the album overall is complemented by Enrico’s acoustic guitar work as well.
Lisa Fury’s vocal work begins on the album’s third track, “Your World.” Her crystalline yet powerful lead is supported by richly produced harmonies. The pulsing brilliance of the keyboard part underscores Lisa’s lead while the guitar and rhythm section drive the song on. Pinna’s guitar solos echo the melody wonderfully. The tenderly sung ballad “Moment In Time” dials back the tempo. Characterized by a strong vocal lead and rich multi-layered vocal harmonies, the drums are especially crisp in the production. The guitar solo is well placed and within the overall style of the track. The concluding acoustic passage of the track blends seamlessly into the atmospheric introduction to the upbeat and accessible number “Serpent and the Sea.” Layers of Lisa’s vocals underscore her powerful yet delicately delivered lead. The keyboard passage and guitar solo during the instrumental bridge are both superb.
Delicate piano and orchestral keyboards provide a foundation for the opening ballad within “Forsaken,” the mid-album epic, reminiscent of classical Karnataka. Accompanied by Ian Harris’ crisply recorded drums, the melody is echoed by stunning electric guitar solos within a powerful and thematic extended instrumental passage. The song concludes as it opened with delicately delivered classic Karnataka-styled vocals and the gentlest piano and string arrangement. The upbeat, moving and accessible, Celtic/Eastern-styled and rhythmic number “Tide To Fall” will prove most memorable in the band’s live outings. Backed with plenty of vocal harmony layers, Lisa’s stunning lead makes likely unintended allusions to Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation in the track. A programmed keyboard passage provides an excellent backdrop to the powerful guitar solo. Instrumentally as powerful as the vocal track, “Tide To Fall” is a clear album standout.
Troy Donockley’s warm Uillean pipes return to introduce the theme of the album’s epic title track. The whistle and powerful percussion when joined by the electric guitar and Lisa’s powerful lead vocal produce an Iona-like sound. The song’s verse-chorus structure, rich keyboard washes, backing piano melodies and harmony layers contribute to the tremendous sound produced. The mid-song vocalise passage emerges from a tempo change and builds into further solos repeated nuances of track’s recurring theme. We especially appreciated the acoustic passage that introduces the album’s overall crescendo.
While their fans have waited a long time for this release, the care taken in the writing, recording and production of The Gathering Light has delivered an outstanding progressive rock album that will continue to expand interest in the band and this new lineup. Long running length of the individual tracks and overall album dictate that time be set aside to give it the attention it clearly deserves. This is an excellent album to begin 2010.