By Josh Turner
I have much disdain for the moniker they’ve selected, and for a Progressive Rock band in particular, I don’t like it one iota. So much, that when asked several times to check it out, I pushed back. My guess was that it was avant-garde from some remote overseas region and you know what? I don’t often do countermelody. I figured it would be a providence that I came across in French class; something like the isle of Martinique. Not that there is anything wrong with that, and I wouldn’t mind a visit to test my linguistics, but when was the last time we got a band like Kansas or The Tangent from a place like Gilligan’s Island or Gill’s Rock.
Conversely, when told that this band drew Ed Unitsky’s attention, I said “Okay, I’ll give it a shot.” What I found was that my dislikes started and ended with the name, as the music was instantly and consistently sublime. This is good, because it covers two whole discs. Not to mention, I was committed to this article and if it were bad, it would have been an insane sentence.
Fortunate for me, this obligation and task did not become a dilemma. It was a snap finding pleasant observations to share in both the design of the graphics as well as the composition of the rhythms.
In terms of the image that Unitsky affixed to the jewel case, it bares human statues on various-size stones. There are gullies, ponds, bluffs, seas, and trees in this land; making it as scenic as New Zealand. If the title was censured and I only had the picture to go on, I would have felt this release was associated with Guy Manning or Andy Tillison. What I found after perusing the credits was that I’m not at all familiar with any of the people employed on this album.
In this outfit, we have Jay Tausig providing acoustic & electric guitars, keyboards, and drums. Shelby Snow has a sense for the bass plus true sagacity and prudence for percussion. James Camblin has the fewest chores, but he’s continuously busy and active with the lead guitar. Despite what I initially thought, there is singing and it’s alright. While Tausig leads the verbal charge, the other two participate with viable voices of their own. Michael Snow is the only guest artist, and he squeezes his violin into the mix in more than a couple crucial places.
As for the cuts, they contain copious amounts of tropical pleasure. When listening, I can feel the sweltering humidity, leaves and rain. It’s quite a stifling experience to stroll through their progressively-profuse foliage. As for an early spoiler, they utilize the sounds of the wild in their enigmatic introduction. Once it gets going, it’s all rock from there on out, whether it be modern or neo, or classic tones in the present past-tense.
My favorites include “Premonitions: Part One”. As the usher to this ceremonious affair, it’s not long before they’ve got me in the door. Subsequently, the guitars in “Chameleons” are creepy, but also virtuous in the chorus.
In its structures, progressions, and harmonies, “Crime of the Century” hints to RPWL and The Beatles. On a similar note, “Turquoise Blue” incorporates Pink Floyd and the Beach Boys.
“World of Shadow” is a song that’s blissful. What good would an album be without the doting state that could only come from a ballad? On the other hand, the interlude in the middle is too harsh to induce the nap that’s instituted in the bleary beginning.
“Wheel of Life” is not quite Karmakanic, but it calibrates and yanks your karma anyway. It’s significant since it completes the first disc whereas the shortest ditty, “Gnome Matters”, is different in an eerie sense even after it sprightly opens the second.
The mist sprayed from this icebreaker is not as freakish as the fog from “Chameleons”, but you get my gist anyway if you realize my point has nothing to do with vapor.
“Desert Song” has a similar speech-pattern with The Tangent’s maestro and director.
“Smoke and Mirrors” is an unusual faction of the Blue Öyster Cult.
Much later, “Touch and Go” is extraordinarily amiable and trendy. In between, however, there is plenty of fluff.
Since my discs were scratchier than a sore throat and skippier than a popular brand of peanut butter, I couldn’t make out most of the epic, “Premonitions: Part Two”. A number of random passages elsewhere were unclear, too. I assume these parts were just as sunny as the rest of the material. From what I could tell, the entire album was naturally warm.
In general, I enjoyed what I heard and seemed to like the tidier tunes on disc one better. So the unexpected nicks and cuts on the scores didn’t really matter in the long-run.
While the album is diverse, most songs are lithe and dreamy. In the impenetrable paths I’ve singled out, the musicians pour it on, and when it comes to my tastes, I prefer the wall of sound. That’s why the halves of the title track earn a greater amount of interest – appreciation and respect – from me.
The group is very much like Yes, especially in the bass and the singing. The keyboards bring Clive Nolan to mind, and in a way, D’arcana is similar to that never-referenced but excellent anomaly and glitch called Longshot.
Overall, the production is casual, but the talent is in there. In the future, it would be wise to focus their efforts on tweaks to the recording and not on the expansion of tracks. I’m sure most fans would prioritize quality over quantity if it were a choice – even to those like me who prefer epics.
In this case, a tighter single disc would be preferred over more material. Regardless, this cream puff has a lot of rich filling, and it doesn’t really matter if you use a fork, a spoon, or a spork as your cutlery of choice on the chunks and niblets at this fair.
By the way, the band is not from France, but Nevada City, California, and to the best of my knowledge, the term has something to do with a deck of cards, a comic book or a role-playing game. Curiously, there is a city in Ohio that also shares the designation. Furthermore, there is a fictional character, a mechanized medical doctor and a genius, with this particular call-sign. He’s from the planet Nebulous, so I doubt this robot is related.
What’s ironic is that the D’arcana doesn’t show up in Wikipedia, so the name is as unique as their music. For this reason, it’s fitting… And I now adore that too!