Tag Archives: Karnataka

Karnataka Split

Posted on the Karnataka forum this morning

Dear Karnataka fans and friends…..

Karnataka is set to begin a new chapter following the announcement that Lisa, Ian Harris and Gonzalo will be leaving the band.

We look forward to bringing you further news and line up announcements in the near future.

We also look forward to seeing you on the road!

Thank you for your wonderful support!

We wish Lisa, Gonzalo and Ian Harris all the best.

As one door closes another opens…

This came as a complete shock. They’d just released a stunning album, were getting better and better as a live act, and one got the impression they were well on the road to bigger and better things.

As the statement says, it’s not the end. Ian Jones and guitarist Enrico Pinna plan to regroup and promise to be back with a new singer, drummer and keyboard player.

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Karnataka – The Gathering Light

Ian Jones came in for a lot of criticism when he revived the Karnataka name in 2005. The previous incarnation of the celtic-flavoured progressive rock band had imploded a year earlier just at the point where they seemed to be poised for a major breakthrough. The new-look Karnataka played some live dates in 2007 with just Ian Jones on bass remaining from the original band, which led some critics to dismiss them as a ‘glorified tribute band’, despite a fair proportion of new material in the setlist, including the memorable title track for their forthcoming album “The Gathering Light”.

In the end it would be another three years before that album would finally see the light of day, but when it finally emerged,  it’s exceeded all expectations.  The original band was great on atmospherics, but the new Karnataka have gone and done an album of the sort of hugely epic symphonic prog I haven’t heard done this well since Marillion’s “Brave”.  The sound is massive and multilayered with impassioned vocals and soaring guitars augmented by guest appearances from Hugh McDowell of ELO fame on cello, Troy Donockley’s distinctive Uilleann pipes, and a string quartet on a couple of songs.

Lisa Fury has always impressed me as a live singer, her studio vocal performances here have just the right balance between emotional depth and technical precision that distinguish a great singer from a merely good one. But for me the real revelation is Enrico Pinna’s guitar playing; prog guitar at it’s finest, with occasional echoes of Steve Hackett or Pendragon’s Nick Barratt, but a symphonic style that’s still his own.

The album starts with two instrumentals, the short but evocative “The Calling” featuring Troy’s pipes, followed by the lengthy workout “State of Grace“.  The string-laden ballad “Moment in Time” is one song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on “Delicate Flame of Desire”, and again features Troy’s pipes, along with some great slide guitar from Enrico.  The three-part epic “Forsaken” is perhaps the high spot of the album, tremendously moving vocals from Lisa Fury on the opening section, the symphonic instrumental “Glowing Embers” flowing seamlessly back into a reprise of the opening part.  Lots of prog bands have attempted epics like that over the years, but very few succeed as magnificently.

It’s been a long time coming, but Karnataka have delivered the first essential progressive rock album of 2010.

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April is Mental Gig Month

Everyone being on tour at once is usually what happens in November and December, but this year April is just silly. It seems every female-fronted prog band is on tour that month.

It starts with what is likely to be a very emotional farewell gig for Heather Findlay with Mostly Autumn on April 2nd in Leamington Spa. Just two days later will be Olivia Sparnenn’s final performance with Breathing Space at Bilston Robin 2. I hope to attend both if I can sort out the logistics.

The following Saturday is Olivia’s debut as Mostly Autumn’s official frontwoman, in Gloucester. It’s a long way to travel just for one gig, but I attended the Gloucester shows on the last two occasions MA played there, and they were among the best of the tour each time.

Friday 16th April is the only currently-announced gig by Karnataka that doable for me – the others are all just too far away. They’re playing The Flowerpot in Derby.

The following weekend is one of those with two gigs in two different cities. Mostly Autumn return to Manchester Academy on the Friday, a rare local gig for me, and on Saturday The Reasoning play the O2 Academy in London.

There’s another two gigs in two nights the next weekend – The Reasoning play Bury Met on the Thursday, and on Friday Panic Room are supporting Hawkwind in Cardiff. I haven’t seen Hawkwind for many, many years; indeed I’m not even sure of Anne-Marie Helder was even born last time I saw them.

As I said, a bit of a manic month. And there are gig in March and May too…

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Top Ten Albums of the Noughties

Loads of other people are doing subjective lists of best albums of the past decade – here are mine.  I always think personal lists are much more interesting than the sorts of bland lists of CDs you can get in Tesco’s compiled by committees that you’ll see in the mainstream.media  But I would say that, wouldn’t I?

In order to keep it varied I’ve imposed a rule that no artist may appear more than once in the top 10.

  • 10: Nightwish - Dark Passion Play
    There are so many female-fronted symphonic metal bands coming from various parts of Europe that it’s very difficult to single out just one. Finland’s Nightwish throw choirs, orchestras, Uilleann pipes and kitchen sinks into a gloriously over-the-top album mixing metal and opera with a touch of celtic folk, with new singer Anette Olzon adding a touch of warmth to lead vocals that’s missing from some bands in the genre.
  • 9: The Pineapple Thief – Tightly Unwound
    The Pineapple Thief describle themselves as ‘indie prog’, whatever that’s supposed to mean.  Some sonic similarities with pre-Kid A Radiohead, but with more traditional style rock vocals, and a extremely strong sense of melody, which is what makes this album stand out.
  • 8:  The Mars Volta – Deloused in the Comatorium
    After a string of disappointing albums over the past few years it’s easy to forget just how great their incendiary debut was. What’s been described as a mix of speed-metal and free jazz somehow combines the raw energy of punk with the complexity and technical skill of progressive rock.  It’s all completely bonkers, but in a good way.

  • 7:  Breathing Space – Below the Radar
    The York band really come of age with their third album. They may have dropped the jazzier elements of their sound in favour of a harder rock edge, but they still find room for some atmospheric ballads and big soaring epics which showcase Olivia Sparnenn’s amazing voice.  Iain Jennings production job gives the lie to the idea that you need a major-label budget to come up with a great-sounding album.
  • 6: Porcupine Tree – In Absentia
    It’s difficult to choose a single Porcupine Tree album out of several great ones they’ve recorded over the past decade. Indeed, with the possible exception of 2005′s slight misstep of Deadwing, all their albums in the noughties have been classics. If the 90s charted their progress from ambient Floydian soundscapes to a more song-orientated approach, 2002′s In Absentia saw them add some metal to the mix.  The combination of some Zeppelineque riffing and some darkly ambiguous lyrics may have lost them some older fans, but introduced them to a younger audience of metal fans.
  • 5 Karnataka – Strange Behaviour
    Some may say including a live album in the decade’s top ten may be cheating, but this is my blog, where I make up the rules. Strange Behaviour caught the atmospheric celtic-tinged prog outfit  just when they seemed poised for a major breakthrough, the live dynamics making the songs far more powerful than the studio recordings.  Sadly this double album turned out to their magnificent swansong, and the band were to implode shortly after it’s release.
  • 4 Marillion – Marbles
    Marillion are a rare example of a veteran act who can still make great new  music more than two decades into their career. Their output in the noughties may have been uneven, but this double album shows the Steve Hogarth incarnation of the band at their best; a hugely varied work which goes from experiments with drum loops and dub rhythms to huge soaring epics filled with Steve Rothery’s trademark sustain-drenched guitar. Ignore the single-disk retail edition; you need the double album available only from the band’s website.
  • 3 Fish – 13th Star
    Marillion’s former frontman’s career seemed to be petering out by the middle of the decade after a couple of disappointingly weak albums.  But he bounced back very strongly indeed with this one.  Musically it’s far removed from the ornate neo-prog of 80′s Marillion, a mix of metallic grooves and heart-on-sleeve ballads, lyrically it’s just about the most intense and emotionally charged thing he’s even done.
  • 2 Opeth – Blackwater Park
    Sweden’s Opeth combine death metal with 70′s style pastoral prog-rock to produce the perfect antidote to anyone who thinks heavy metal hasn’t progressed since Toni Iommi started playing tritones through a fuzzbox way back in 1970.  Blackwater Park, produced by Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson, marks the point where they established their signature sound, Mikael Åkerfeldt switching back and forth between ‘Cookie Monster’ and ‘clean’ vocals, and the music switching back and forth between dense swirling heavyness and reflective acoustic passages. Metal has never quite been the same since.
  • 1 Mostly Autumn – The Last Bright Light
    As I said at the very beginning, this is a personal list. And this is the album which has changed my life more than any of the preceding ones. This was very much the coming-of-age album for York’s finest progressive rock band, and marked the high point of their celtic-prog phase of their career, full of soaring and emotionally powerful epics making use of flutes and even crumhorns alongside traditional rock instruments. Although they subsequently moved to the more polished commercial sound of the follow-up Passengers, even now their live sets still draw heavily from this album.

There are plenty of other great albums just outside the top 10; Therion’s totally bonkers choral metal Gothic Kabbalah, Muse’s recent The Resistance, IQ’s neo-prog masterpiece Frequency, Pure Reason Revolution’s hypnotically captivating The Dark Third, either of The Reasoning’s two albums, and Dream Theater’s recent return to form Black Clouds and Silver Linings.

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Karnataka, Crewe Limelight, 26 Oct 2008

Two days after seeing Panic Room I found myself back at Crewe Limelight to see the new-look Karnataka.

Following the dissolution of the original band back in 2004, bassist and original bandleader Ian Jones put together a completely new incarnation of the band, including Lisa Fury on vocals, Enrico Pinna on guitar, and Gonzalo Carrera on keys. Some people seemed to object to the mere existence of this band, some hack scribblers dismiss them as ‘a glorified tribute band’, which I feel is a bit harsh.

When I first saw them at Crewe last year I thought they put on an impressive show, but I had a nagging doubt that what I was really seeing was Ian and Lisa plus some hired hands. Having seen powerful live performances by The Reasoning and Panic Room earlier this month, I felt they had something to prove this time around.

Typical of Sunday night gigs at Crewe Limelight, things started bloody late, and it wasn’t until ten o’clock before the band came on stage. Unfortunately the start of the set was marred by technical problems which rather spoiled the impact of the opening instrumental ‘State of Grace’, and caused intermittent problems later on as well. After that rather shaky start, though, they recovered momentum, and it was soon apparent that this was a far, far better band than I’d seen back in 2007. Although the set included plenty of old favourites, a good proportion of the set was new material, and the new songs had enough of the same feel and mood to justify keeping the name. They’ve gelled as a band now; confident enough to reinterpret the older songs and make them their own rather than the sort of note-for-note reproductions that you’d expect from a tribute band. Enrico Pinna played some amazing guitar, striking the right balance between fluid virtuosity and restraint where appropriate. Lisa Fury’s vocals were as impressive as last time. It’s probably not easy to take some very personal songs written by another singer and sing them as if they were hers.

Strangest moment came partway through the set when a Dutch fan dragged his girlfriend on stage in order to propose to her. That’s something I’ve never seen happen at a gig before.

A good gig, despite the technical gremlins. It’s a pity the sheer number of gigs by various bands in October meant I didn’t get the chance to see Karnataka more than once on this tour.

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Karnataka, Manchester 18th Mar 2007

Ian Jones had previously stated that the Manchester show, at the Walkabout club in Manchester as ‘a bit of an experiment for the band’. For those not familiar with the place, The Walkabout is a bar and nightclub in the city centre. To my knowledge they’ve never had a live band before; I tend to associate the place with office parties. The event was part of a ‘classic rock night’ featuring two DJ sets as well as Karnataka’s performance. I susoect that organisers are on a bit of a learning curve on running this sort of event, resulting in one of the stranger gigs I’ve been to in recent years.

Not that I can fault Karnataka’s performance, every bit as strong as it was at Crewe the week before. The new material came over especially well, especially the one with drum loops (Lisa commented on my very bad dancing during that one!) From the front, the sound was OK, but nothing like as good as the perfect sound at Crewe Limelight; don’t know how it sounded further back. They missed out the drum solo this time round.

There appeared to be some confusion over how long the band were supposed to play. The band finished playing the usual set closer ‘The Gathering Light’, when Lisa announced they’d been asked to play a bit longer, so they played three or four more songs. But what happened to ‘Out of Reach’? Was there supposed to have been an encore? The moment the band left the stage, the second DJ set started up without a break!

That DJ set, apparently by the former singer of the Inspiral Carpets, was to be honest, pretty dire. What was billed as a ‘classic rock set’ seemed to contain an inordinate amount of rap. Ugh.

Still an enjoyable evening, even though the feel was more that of a pub gig than a rock club.

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