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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

D'arcana

As Worlds They Rise and Fall

Review by Gary Hill

California band D' Arcana seem to be stuck in the past - the 1970's to be more specific. In the case of a prog rock band, that's a great thing. Their sound seems to derive most of its inspiration from groups like Pentwater, Yes, King Crimson and Hawkwind. These guys manage to pull such influences together into a incredibly dynamic (you won't believe how many changes they can pack into a four minute song and still have it be cohesive) and exceptionally entertaining melange of sound that is uniquely their own. Certainly the fact that this is a three-piece outfit (Shelby Snow [Bass, Vocals], Jay Tausig [Lead Vocals, Multi-Instrumentalist]& James Camblin [Guitars, Vocals]) will lead people to think of Rush and Triumph, and those comparisons are not entirely unbounded either. The musical playground that these guys exist in is not far from those outfits. While most of the tracks on the disc are in the short - less than five minutes - zone, they close up the release with a nearly 24-minute epic. For fans of melodic prog in the style of the 1970's, these guys are "must check out." For more information or to buy the CD visit the band's website at www.darcana.com.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sunrise
A rising keyboard burst starts this cut. It quickly shifts gear to a very '70's-prog-influenced segment that has elements of Genesis and Yes. This moves along through some quite complex segments, then drops to a Beatles-like balladic fare with multiple layers of vocals. The same keyboard sounds from the beginning take it, and then a Beatlesish piano based ballad segment takes over from there and gradually builds with multiple prog layers. Short burst of more intense arrangement takes it at times. After a time a new prog rock jam emerges based, again based firmly on '70's prog sounds. Ambient chaos ends this.
Lilith
As this comes in it has Red era Crimson written all over it with a picked acoustic guitar backdrop covered with varying moving lines of sound. After a time this morphs into a new, still melodic segment with the same general soundscape. This is a fairly short instrumental.
Earthbound
A mystical mysterious sounding melodic prog texture makes up the main focus here. The vocal arrangement on this one is quite cool. This one's less than 3-minutes in length.
Awakening
Another melodic prog number, this one gets quite powerful at times, but is an extremely short (2:05) one. That said it includes some killer moments. This great cut is, like most of the CD, well rooted in '70's prog without being overly derivative.
Vertigo
This suitably slightly off kilter one seems to combine sounds of Yes with King Crimson and more crunchy textures. It includes some killer prog rock sections and a jump to a very Red era Crimson like instrumental segments. It is slightly dark and a highly dramatic. A drop to an acoustic based ballad-like section serves as the outro. A killer keyboard dominated segment is included later followed by a break to fusion like jamming. This is quite dynamic, especially consider it's less than 4 1/2 minutes long.
Casting Shadows
A pretty acoustic guitar section with stops that are filled with very quiet sound clips and other elements makes up the first minute of this. It changes to an acoustic based folky melody for the appearance of the vocals. Coreen Camblin provides some nice female vocals to match the male ones in a guest appearance here. This turns more dramatic later. The opening segment returns, though, to end it.
Adrift
This fairly short cut is another dramatic and melodic one. This reminds me a bit of the mellower side of Pentwater.
Shimmer
This weird quirky cut really feels a lot like Pentwater. It is disjointed and seemingly about to fall over in its early sections. Then it suddenly shifts to a very melodic Yes like segment. It changes back to the opening section a bit later, then this becomes a short King Crimson-like movement before returning to the more melodic again. It drops to a piano-dominated part later, then morphs back up from there to a new instrumental section that again has its Yes like elements. A short vocal reprise gives way to a false ending then a start and stop riff moves this into the melodic again. After a while building on this a Crimson like slow start and stop riff takes this to its conclusion.
Waive The Sails
Talk about a change of pace! This more hard rocking psychedelia meets fusion and Zappa instrumental is less than a minute long, but very cool!
By This River
Here the group turn to a cover cut - one originally done by Brian Eno. Pretty and sedate tones begin this, carrying it in balladic styles. This has some very tasty guitar work. It gets quite dramatic and lush.
Wrong Number (For Al)
Part of the lyrics to this one are from a poem by Charles Bukowski. Musically this one comes in tentatively and is based on cool, almost Marillionish musical themes, but world percussion and waves of unusual sound across the top add different textures. Part of the vocals are sung and part are spoken.
Balance
This one is based on acoustic guitar with a rather old ballad type style. It becomes quite powerful and rather pretty as it carries on.
As Worlds They Rise and Fall:
Atmospheric elements begin this, and they gradually build this cut in slow moving sedate patterns. This gets quite lush at times. They bring a new vitality to it around the 3-minute mark by cranking it up a bit in volume and power. At around five minutes in it crosses another plateau ramping up even more. Then in short order it launches into a crunchier progression and moves toward space in an instrumental segment. Then it drops to ambience and a new acoustic guitar based segment start. They shift again for a time to a crunchy new verse segment. They add layers and textures to create a growing pattern here. They burst this up to an exceptionally powerful neo-prog section and after some vocals in this mode a short, very meaty instrumental segment takes it. It drops back to more sedate sounds from there. Then it almost ends until a new melodic prog jam rises up from there and begins a new building process. A number of changes ensue form that point and the cut turns almost to a prog Doors type of sound, very spacey after a time. They drop it back to just Hawkwind like keys that carry it for quite a while. Then it resolves out to another pretty prog ballad types section based primarily on piano to carry it forward. This builds, gradually working and reworking. This eventually takes the cut out as a satisfying conclusion to this epic ride.
 
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