In mid-2002 Artemiy Artemiev simultaneously released a handful of
collaborations (four, to be exact). This one with England's Gothic newage
project "Karda Estra" is the most unexpected and satisfactory of the lot.
Sure it does not stand as the Russian electronician's most cutting-edge
work. Honestly, on listening to it one could not care less. "Equilibrium"
is a brilliant album of spacy pieces with Gothic and soft prog-rock overtones. Artemiev provides most of the background textures: vaporous synths, slightly disquieting samples and atmospheres, occasional electronic percussion. Karda Estra's main man, Richard Wileman, adds soft guitar lines, usually slow melodies faded in with a volume pedal and soundscape loops - think of Richard Pinhas's softer music. Iliesha Bailey provides wordless vocals on some tracks (especially the opener "Preliminary Steps") and Caron Hansford some oboe and English horn.
The title track reaches a surprising level of inner piece, shimmering
delicately. "The Curtain Falls" brings the collaboration to a close, both
artists' roles firmly camped. This is beautiful music, slow-flowing,
intelligent and creative, yet very easy to listen to. It can have the lightness of a Gandalf flute melody or the darkness of Peter Frohmader's bass lines, all in the same 20 minute track. Recommended.
Francois Couture ("All-Music Guide")
One of several collaborations that Artemiy Artemiev has produced in the latest batch of albums, "Equilibrium" matches the cold chill of Russian electronica with the more romantic sounding "gothic new age" (as it has been called) sound of Richard Wileman's "Karda Estra" group. The opening track "Preliminary Steps" is a slowly expanding ambient soundstage of echo-drenched weird electronic drones and muted percussion, with sampled voices, cello drones and plangent guitar. "Last Scene on Earth" follows, a rather spatial piece of ambience full of menacing sounding deep bass drones, electronic washes and Richard Wileman's atmospheric guitar - you can almost imagine floating above the Earth, waiting for a climatic event to happen. "Open the Window" sounds more like a "Karda Estra" track, slow tolling drums, more atmospheric guitar, the synth lines are very muted. "The Teller of the Tale" is the first of two nineteen minute epic tracks: the build-up is slow, a muted drum and bass lays the foundation for a mixture of synths and guitars weaving a stately dance that seems both timeless and endless. The empahisis shifts continuously between the synths and guitars, until Ileesha Bailey's ghostly voice drifts in and out of the mix. This is one of the standout tracks of the album, very timeless. The title track "Equilibrium" returns to the shorter time frame, beginning with ambient rolls of synth topped with dramatic piano chords that slowly evolve into a ghostly duet with Caron Hansford's oboe and cor anglais. The final track is "The Curtain Falls", and is the second lengthy epic track, woodwind once again floats over a muted dramatic chording, weaving between various ambient electronic soundscapes - very much "out there" but also with a foot in the traditions of classical music, thanks to the woodwind solos. "Equilibrium" is a highly satisfying album in that each collaborator hasn't tried to snatch the focus from the other, but have shared a vision of what they wanted to achieve. This is music that drifts, perhaps without purpose (or perhaps not), it is spacious and spacey, intimate yet embraces the cosmos and is luxuriously rich in the imagery it offers. One of the very finest of the new batch of Electroshock releases.
John Peters ("The Borderland")
I'm a creature of habit. Although my home is a scant ten minutes from my place of employment, I always leave 45 minutes early allowing for plenty of leeway. Today was no different - with one exception. Today I debuted the new Karda Estra/Artemiy Artemiev collaboration entitled "Equilibrium", as I cruised down the roadways.
On my daily commute to US Steel there is a stretch of road between the campus of Indiana University Northwest and the urban decay that is downtown Gary. Within that perimeter lies the ghost of an old golf course. The neglected man-made hills and fairways are now overrun with wildwoods and patches of marsh grass. Massive weeping willow trees dot the landscape alongside towering oak trees and mounds of fallen deadwood. Adding to the illusion today, was a low hanging blanket of waist-high fog that created an otherworldly effect. This image can be quite picturesque and primeval when viewed in the right frame of mind. And the music of "Equilibrium" provided just that. Within moments, this mundane drive was transformed by the sounds coming from my speakers. I was no longer driving to work in my car - the music was now the vehicle - transporting me to destinations unknown. In an out-of-character impulsive moment, I veered the car from the stream of traffic, pulling into the side street entrance of the old golf course, to take in the view. And there I sat for a few minutes, drinking in the sights, as well as the sounds emanating from my car stereo. The pairing of Rich Wileman and Artemiy Artemiev has created a truly haunting soundscape. This is the perfect mood music for a long road trip down a desolate backcountry road. The eerie passages and unsettling atmosphere will have you glancing nervously about for the phantom hitchhiker or something worse. "Equilibrium" is scary yet strangely beautiful.
The logistics of the CD recording is intriguing, with Rick Wileman recording his parts in England and Artemiy Artemiev in Moscow. Rich claims this ambient project is a departure from his usual work, leading me to believe this guy is capable of composing in any genre. In my short stint here at "Progressive Ears" I've become a major Karda Estra fan. Once again - he hasn't disappointed me. By the way, I eventually made my way to work - on time as usual - but in a better frame of mind.
Joe Shingler ("Ghosts of Pompeii" - "Progressive Ears")
At the time of writing this is the latest of Artemiy's and Electroshock's releases. The prolific Russian has teamed up one more time to bring us the gift of collaborative sound experiments. The signature of English trio Karda Estra reads as ghostly woodwind arrangements, loops and quite gloomy sonic environments. I can't hardly localize Artemiev's style really, proof that his experiences and his eclectic background allows him to get deeply involved in the vibe becoming one with what is being done; not that we needed proof of his abilities, but it helps to understand what "Equilibrium" sounds like, because the only thing here you can really trace back to Artemiev, I think, is the Siberian coldness. I never had the pleasure to listen to a Karda Estra work, so I don't know if they usually are that murky, but the instrumentation they use definitely allows for some really interesting combination of influences: electric guitar, bass, keyboards, acoustic percussions, vocals, woodwind, oboe, cor anglais (english horn), breathing loops and other loops. Clearly the band has contributed a lot of this to these spatial overtones to "Equilibrium": epic background layers made of vaporous loops and looooooong mono-tone low-key sound-floors dotted by hidden percussive beats of a peaceful and slow pace; cymbal washes, soft bass lines; delicate, dressy and heavily effected guitar parts (think chorus, delays, reverb) that duel with recurring synthetic lines making for a progressive break; and last but not least floating wind/wood/breath instrument solos and formless vocal material that aids the ethereal cloudiness sweetly. Sometimes it almost sounds like older Pink Floyd suites, and the slowly drifting flow of psychedelia and new-age trippiness contributes to a frame that knows no time and not barriers. Another band I thought of was NYC's Zoar, but I am sure you can come up with a lot more bands to reference this sound to. Richly mysterious and beautifully powerful as in some of the best hypnotizing electroacoustic ambient around.
Mark Urselli-Scharer ("Chain D.L.K.")
"It's their sound," he whispered gravely. "It's the sound of their world, the humming in their region. The division here is so thin that it leaks through somehow. But, if you listen carefully, you'll find it's not above so much as around us..." Algernon Blackwood wrote those previous lines in his short story entitled "The Willows". I can think of no other description that conveys the soundscapes that encapsulate within "Equilibrium", a 2002 release on, the fittingly titled, Electroshock Records. The primary personnel are Artemiy Artemiev (synths, samplers, electronics & percussion), a Russian "electronic" composer who has released several CDs of ethereal quality soundscapes and Karda Estra (gtr, bass, keys, loops & percussion), who's release, "Eve" has reached critical acclaim. What's interesting about the release is that Artemiev's & Richard Wileman's contributions were recorded separately, as Richard relates : "As regards us not spending time together - well, it was an odd experience! Artemiy sent me all his atmospheres/textures as backings if you like, and I just went with the flow. Some (like the opener) was instinct/improv - you should have seen me 'directing' Ileesha's vocals, waving my hands around - very funny! There were bits like the title track that were grueling. He sent the singing bowls phrases and I thought, I could envisage piano to it - so I tried to overlay a click track to get some point of regular reference - impossible!!" The vocalist Richard alludes to is Iliesha Bailey, who provides the haunting and hypnotic vocalizations on the release. Her voice will appear, as if out of the wind and, without warning, fade away into a swirl of electronic mist. Iliesha is like the Siren who tempts the Greek hero, Ulysses but, instead of plugging up one's ears to escape "fate", you are drawn deeper into a world which is dark and macabre wondering if your "fate" is, indeed, sealed. If hope does spring eternal, however, it is presented courtesy of this dark "play's" Orpheus; the oboe playing of Caron Hansford. Her soothing melodies, especially on "The Curtain Falls", pulls the music out from the abyss where we are re-joined with a cerebral optimism that gives us a cause to continue with the hope that somehow our existence may not be decided by the shadows beyond our reach. The music, though improvised in parts, comes across as a single structure, parts fugue in and out with skillful editing to keep the listener wondering when the next sensory experience will invade our inner being and take us beyond the natural boundaries of our dream world where we will come face-to-face with what "truly" frightens us. One only has to listen to "Last Scene on Earth" or "The Teller of the Tale" to know what I mean. On the latter, Richard describes "...I couldn't get a fix on Artemiy's rhythms, so I thought I'd make the guitar parts even odder. Then I did some live improvs against the two - I keep saying about the sweat dripping off my trying to get that one nailed, but I struggled like mad with that one!" Richard may have struggled like mad but the end result may cause madness. Like those 2 young campers, in "The Willows", who spent an evening on the banks of the Danube, driven to insanity by their own imaginations. This is music that will make your senses come alive - how will YOU fare?
Raymond D ("Progressive Ears")
I was warned beforehand that the music would depart from Karda Estra,
making it more avant-garde. Because I am not familiar with Artemiev's work, I shall focus more on the relation of this album to that of Karda Estra. "Preliminary Steps" is a very dark and eerie piece of music. Karda Estra's music is usually quite melodic, but here the melodicity is moved into the background: ethereal guitars in the style of Fripp, wordless phrasings by Bailey (in the style well known from Karda Estra's own records), a bit of occasional free form percussion make up this longish, slow moving, ponderous track. There is in fact an avant feel about it all, but there is also something very psychedelic about it, free form and all, and with the percussion quite monotonous in the backdrop. It is the atmosphere that is evoked, that counts here. The title "Last Scene on Earth" is probably a play on words (try it). It is even scarier, then the previous track. Dark somberings, gothic maybe, with sparse hollow percussive sounds and the like remind very much of the soundscapes albums by Robert Fripp, the dark "The Gates of Paradise". Again, nothing a lot in the way of melody, although you might find one lurking around some murky corner once in a while. The music is also quite repetitive and the piano really pervays a sense of foreboding. But maybe pictures are not needed here. "Open Window" has a percussive opening, something like a gamelan orchestra, but less nervous. The guitar-work is more fluent here and there is more melody involved. In my other earphone, another melody, a sad one, sets in. The loneliness of the desert is evoked here, with a very open sound. For them a rather concise piece of work, but with plenty of tension in there and I like it a lot. I was also thinking during this piece of Hackett's "Shadow of the Hierophant". We are now moving into own of the major tracks, length wise: "The Teller of the Tale". Dreamy, burbling electronic and a piano run full of foreboding open it broodingly. The orchestration has similarities with Karda Estra's work, but for the moment it stays rather vague. The music does get louder and more involved later on, a bit like a huge body of insects going about making all kinds of sounds and dark mysterious ahhhs are being injected into the music along way reverberating synth sounds. The final melodic choirs are typically Karda Estra. "Equilibrium" has fluting sounds and dark percussive piano. This is music that speaks well to my mind. The feeling and attention to detail is great here. The notes occur exactly where they should, but not because they are so obvious. There is a stillness to it, until at least, Caron Hansford sets in. The music is then more pronounced. The guitar line is quite melodic, stately and orchestral, but continually subdued and well grieving. "The Curtain Falls" is almost twenty minutes in length. In the beginning at least, the sound is hollow and open. Weird effects, percussive piano, a lone guitar, again slow and ponderous the music develops with some dark phrasings on oboe and also the sharp sound of the cor anglais (if I am not mixing these up right here). That instruments gives the music its classical flavour. This duo and their companions have succeeded in delivering a dark slab of music, in which I hear many echoes of Karda Estra, but in a very primordial primitive way. This is not to say primitive in the sense of non-sophisticated, but primitive in the sense that it speaks mainly to the feelings I might have about the music. Melodies are present, but not overly so. The music is maybe more suited for feeling who like Fripp's solo soundscapes or the dark music by guys like Steve Roach or Lustmord. The music also listens like a soundtrack with classical ingredients, for a dark, tensionrich movie, but not a slasher movie, mind you. For that it is simply too elegant, or maybe willowy. Another good reference is the music of Steve Hackett on his "Voyage of the Acolyte", but without the loudness that that albums sometimes has. The typical Karda Estra inclusion often lighten the mood a bit. Highpoint for me was "Open Window".
Jurriaan Hage ("Axiom of Choice")
The last in the batch, is arguably the best of the lot, hands down. Y'see, I have heard a lot of Karda Estra's work over the last few years and have been suitably impressed. When I heard through the grapevine that there was to be a collaboration I eagerly awaited the results. Yes, so here we have a collaboration of Artemiy and Richard Wileman called "Equilibrium" (ELCD 031). What can I say? Was it worth the wait, as it where. Yes, basically - did you think I'd say anything else? I just knew that, inherently, that this was going to be a good album. There's six tracks in all, and even superficially, Artemiy has turned into the proverbial chameleon and blended in his skill and appreciation of other artists with Richard. What I especially enjoyed about the whole album is the distinct personalities of both these guys mixing so well. We have Richard's beautifully realised atmospheres with Artemiy's more dangerous (although not too dangerous!) experimentation. The results are kind of what I imagined. Tracks such as the title track, "Last Scene on Earth" and "The Curtain Falls" would, if I carried on, make my thesaurus redundant. This is the one to head for, followed by the "Electroacoustic Vol. VII".
David W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")
Artemiy Artemiev has solid credentials in the field of avant-garde electroacoustic music, from his earlier electronic endeavors like "Cold" and "Point of Intersection", to his Electroshock label Electroacoustic Music series, each presenting an array of experimental compositions by various composers. These four recent releases present collaborations with some of his notable contemporaries; in the case of PBK and Frohmader, Artemiev has collaborated with them on earlier recordings, while these are his first with Seattle based De Laurentis and the British ensemble Karda Estra. With "Equilibrium", the collaboration with Karda Estra, multi-tracked ethereal voices (Iliesha Bailey) play prominently into the overall sound. Haunting and dark, fading in and out, mixing with the synths, guitars and percussion of Artemiev and Richard Wileman. Other mysterious sounds ebb and flow through the gelatinous mix. At times, one might be reminded of some of the releases on the Ventricle label. The end result here is infinitely darker (...well, maybe not infinitely) than any of the three Karda Estra releases reviewed in these pages a couple issues back; certainly a more foreboding mood permeates the six pieces herein, many dwelling in abstract formlessness with nary a rhythm in sight. Put this one on to scare the neighborhood kids away on halloween night! It isn't until the third track "Open Window" that anything resembling a song structure appears; the 18-minute "The Teller of the Tale" also bears some rhythmic elements amid the ambient guitars, voices and swirling synths and effects, striking a very effective balance between structure and experimentalism in an improvisational setting. The final two tracks feature oboe and cor anglais, giving those pieces more of a chamber feel. Overall, this is a disc that grows on the listener with repeated plays, and while not as instantly accessible as "Transfiguration", it is perhaps the most imaginative of the four collaborations. In summary, these showcase a new waterfront in electroacoustic music, reaching well beyond traditional electronic and ambient realms and infusing both with some very avant-garde and experimental ideas. While any of these might be recommended for those already into 'challenging' music, "Transfiguration" and "Equilibrium" probably offer a better embarking point for listeners steeped in traditional structures.
Peter Thelen ("Expose")
"Equilibrium" - Artemiy's collaboration with Karda Estra, a British trio lead by guitar/bass/keyboard musician Richard Wileman and augmented by Iliesha Bailey on haunting vocals and Caron Hansford on oboe, percussion and effects. I've long been aware of Karda Estra and they seem to have an extensive catalog of releases though I've yet to hear any of them. But it's great to hear Artemiy collaborating with a guitarist and the result is another one of his more progressive rock oriented albums, and surely one of the most purely musical of his four recent releases. The album opens with "Preliminary Steps", a soundscape piece with Wileman contributing wailing, whining and shimmering guitar licks against Artemiy's patented image conjuring atmospherics. Ethereal voices offer a haunting coloring to the environs and light percussion provides a rhythmic base which carries the music along. "Last Scene on Earth" is a slowly building ambient-orchestral piece that combines symphonic passages with Wileman's soundscape guitar. "Open Window" is where we start to get more overtly into progressive rock territory. The music is built on an ambient foundation while guitars and varied keyboard stylings create a structured piece of symphonic prog with captivating melodies but also lots of freakiness that defies easy comparisons. Of course the album wouldn't be complete without a couple of epic length tracks. "The Teller of the Tale" sounds like an actual band and there's a clear Rock element to the music which is simultaneously jamming and atmospheric... freeform and drifting yet evolving in a determined linear fashion. Ambient symphonics and multiple layers of guitars gradually build tension as this 19 minute track progresses. Wileman contributes a variety of guitar sounds which serve diverse roles. The soundscape ambience contributes to the mood of the piece, his more distinct style creates the melodies, and his completely spaced guitar provides tension and a welcome cosmic turbulance to the music. My favorite track on the album. Finally, "The Curtain Falls" consists of dark chamber music that sounds like a spacey fusion of Univers Zero and Vangelis, if you can imagine that. We hear a deep bass reminiscent of Magma or Present, lightly scratching but oh so noticeable guitar strings, and a killer combination of mood and melody that results in an avant-progressive soundtrack symphony for the mind. Overall this is a varied album that is sometimes simply enjoyable but at it's heights is entrancing.
Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")
The collaboration between Artemiy Artemiev and Karda Estra has given, in this album, a very remarkable, interesting result. In a general climate of mystery, psychedelic elements converge with others that could be defined as Sepulchral Folk. The balance between these two powers varies in each theme, just like the soundscape, yet on the whole this album seems to invite us to meditate on death, and also on the loved ones that once lived by our side and now are no longer on the earthly world.
Dominique Chevant (Amazing Sounds")
The fourth in a series of collaborations between "Electroshock Records" founder Artemiy Artemiev and like-minded composers from around the globe, "Equilibrium" pairs the Russian with UK-based guitarist Richard Wileman and his symphonic prog-rock ensemble "Karda Estra". The result is among the more approachable of Artemiev's recent releases. Working from a studio in Swindon, England, on tracks recorded by Artemiev in Moscow, Wileman and company added dreamy guitars, soft percussive loops, mysterious vocals and woodwinds, infusing Artemiy's free-form deep-space nightmares with welcome warmth and a sense of structure. Dark but not terrifying, experimental without entirely abandoning convention, "Equilibrium" lives up to its title, providing a sure foothold for novices to the electroacoustic canon.
Jim Santo ("Demo Universe")