Album Review: Richard Wileman – ‘Arcana’

UK MUSICIAN Richard Wileman has been making spooky gothic, mostly instrumental music for more than 20 years under the name Karda Estra. In more recent years he’s made a few albums under his own name, the latest being Arcana.

Released in September of this year and loosely based on the Tarot, Arcana is a work of rare beauty. I’ll admit I’d never heard of him or his work until very recently, but the connection was made via Believer’s Roast, the label created by Kavus Torabi (Cardiacs, Gong, Utopia Strong). Since then it’s barely been out of my ears.

Using organic instruments like classical guitar, clarinet and dulcimer, Wileman invokes a wonderful gothic foreboding, reminiscent of Hammer Horror, Wicker Man paganistic ritual and fragile folklore. The ethereal vocals of Amy Fry lift things further into a twisted dreamworld, part fairy tale and part black mass.

It’s hugely cinematic in places and your brain can’t help but create the disturbing images to accompany it; in other moments it’s blissfully soothing but you unnervingly feel you’re being cosseted and anointed for imminent sacrifice to some archaic pagan god.

Amongst the creaking trapdoor suspense there are also some lovely 60s-tinged songs (“Pilot”, “How I Ended it All”) that transport you to a soft-focus nostalgic utopia, but the shadow of the hangman’s noose is never completely out of view.

It’s in equal parts uplifting, evocative and terrifying. You know you shouldn’t go down into the cellar but you can’t help yourself can you? And with the turn of each card you’re drawn deeper within.

I rarely recommend an album so unreservedly but this one deserves every accolade I can throw at it. A masterpiece.

Arcana is out now on Believer’s Roast Records on digital download and CD. Buy your copy here.

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