Richard Wileman — Veil
(Believers Roast, 2018, CD / DL)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2018-05-18
Most of us know him as the primary force behind Karda Estra, and before that, Lives and Times, which together account for around a couple dozen albums, but this is the first full length solo album by Richard Wileman himself. One might ask what exactly the difference is between Wileman’s solo work and these earlier projects which he directed and wrote all the material for, and that would be a very good question. Karda Estra (as well as Lives and Times) were projects that bore a certain sound, with multi-instrumentalist and composer Wileman at the core, but the arrangements called for orchestral instruments like clarinet, cor anglais, oboe, flute, cello, violins, occasional saxes, and so on, where needed, with Wileman providing most of the standard rock instrumentation (keys, guitars, bass, etc.) via overdubs, with himself and wife Ileesha Bailey contributing the vocals. This makes it a very difficult task to perform live, so the idea here was to create a stripped down unit that can be easily taken on the road, shedding a lot of the symphonic embellishments and arrangements in favor of a more simple sound that can be performed repeatedly. Most of the fifteen tracks on Veil are new compositions, and as such favor a more personal and intimate style, featuring Wileman on guitars, bass, keyboards, bouzouki, vocals, and percussion, although not all at once and multi-layered as before. Other players include Amy Fry on vocals and clarinet, and others on alto sax, bass clarinet, and trumpet.
The opener, “Ghost,” illustrates clearly illustrates the new direction, a simpler tune for acoustic guitar and Wileman’s voice, possibly a second guitar in the mix, but that’s really all, and a song superbly done. The second cut, “Last Grains,” brings in Fry on harmonies and occasional lead voice, plus clarinet behind Wileman’s acoustic guitar and singing. From there we move on to “The Sea Witch,” which is the first of several instrumentals herein, and features Jo Court on bass clarinet in addition to the basic duo, which is about as close to orchestral as we get here. Throughout there are a number of standout tumes, one of which is “Three Occultations” featuring a basic track of Wileman on piano and voice, with Fry on backing voice and clarinet, plus Lauraine Phelan on trumpet. “Wine of the Cosmos” is a bit more asymmetrical and angular than others, or in a word: progressive, but still pretty much Wileman’s voice and acoustic guitar, with some minimal keyboard parts highlighting the guitar. A cover of “The Tinker of Rye” is included, written by Paul Giovanni for the film The Wicker Man. Another surprise is “Cassiopeia,” an instrumental tune from one of the early Karda Estra albums, Constellations, rearranged for only guitar and clarinet, the result is both striking and beautiful. As I review this it is available only as a download, though a CD will be available soon, probably by the time you read this, and given that the total playing time is just shy of 48 minutes, an LP might also be in the realm of possibility. In all, an outstanding re-start for Wileman in his new solo chapter.
Related artist(s): Karda Estra / Richard Wileman
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