Karnataka – Delicate Flame Of Desire (2003)

FrontCover1Karnataka were formed in 1997 by founding members, Ian Jones (bass/acoustic guitar), Jonathan Edwards (keyboards) and Rachel Jones (vocals). The band started as a project to record songs in Ian’s home studio, that had been written and performed by Jonathan, Rachel and Ian in earlier bands. The project was augmented by additional musicians, Paul Davies (electric guitars) and Gavin Griffiths (drums), who had played with other members of Karnataka in earlier bands. At the end of the recording the decision was made to continue the project as a band. The name Karnataka was chosen by the band, from a suggestion by Ian, following his trips to that state of India. (by wikipedia)

It’s always a pleasure to discover a band out of sheer curiosity and to find them exceeding my expectations. Karnataka is one such band that I hope we’ll be hearing more about. Actually, from what little of Karnataka I have heard prior to Delicate Flame of Desire has been pretty darn good, but this latest release sees them upping the ante in every respect. Now officially a sextet, Karnataka continue to present their uniquely British ethereal progressive rock without ever resorting to empty flash or needless instrumental noodling. In fact, “ethereal” is the term I usually see associated with Karnataka’s music, but this isn’t mope Gothic rock nor is it a knock off of Enya or the dozens of other enchantresses designed to get you in the mood whatever the hell that means. Instead, this is simply Karnataka.

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The CD begins with “Karnataka”, the song. Sort of like Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath on the Black Sabbath album. It’s a short uplifting introduction that segues into “Time Stands Still”, a beautiful emotive piece with soaring guitars, lush keys and gorgeous vocals by Rachel Jones. What immediately becomes apparent is the fact that Karnataka have taken more time with the arrangements than on The Storm, for instance. While The Storm is a wonderful CD brimming with delicious melodies, Delicate Flame of Desire strives very successfully to add a bit of complexity to the songs.

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The overall effect is that the pleasures aren’t as immediate this time out, which is a good thing because it shows the band growing and challenging its audience to grow with them. “Delicate Flame of Desire”, the title track, is next and it starts out tentatively with Jonathan Edwards trademark keyboard-emulating-the-harp tone leading into Rachel Jones’ vocal passages. The instrumental climax is exciting without showing off, never losing the mood of the song.

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“After the Rain” is quickly becoming one of my favorite songs on the CD. The chorus is uplifting and to die for. Again, this is a song that might take a few listens before it kicks in. “One Breath Away” would be a hit single in a parallel universe as it contains a danceable rhythm and a completely catchy chorus. It’s the simplest song on the CD and I love it. Most of the songs are between 6 and 7 minutes in length, but they say more in that time than many “prog” groups can in 20. However, the best is saved for last in the 10 minute “Heart of Stone”, a bona fide mini epic with its multi-themed instrumental bits and layered harmonies featuring Rachel Jones and Anne-Marie Helder as well as Heather Findlay, on loan from Mostly Autumn.

Karnataka03The year 2003 has really turned out to be a productive one for progressive groups. Karnataka are one of the best that I’ve heard and Delicate Flame of Desire is yet another shoe-in for my top ten of the year. Pour yourself a glass of cabernet, lay back and prepare to fall in love. (by Steve Pettengill)

“…stirring enough to evoke deep emotions, inspire, and spark the imagination. Delicate Flame of Desire is a collection of truly wonderful and well-crafted songs. Karnataka is a very original sounding symphonic rock band…” (Dutch Progressive Rock Page)

“…Their third album is also a further step along the road to musical maturity, and from the chunky gloss booklet to the lush orchestrations, harmonies and production, this package oozes quality…” (Get Ready To Rock)

“…It really is a simply wonderful album by simply wonderful, unassuming and very talented individuals who are thoroughly deserving of great success. Delicate Flame Of Desire? Every home should have one…” (Fireworks Magazine)

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“… After listening to this album, I now know why the press has been so positive regarding Karnataka. This is an outstanding collection of songs and Karnataka is a very exciting band on the current music scene….” (Delicious Agony Progressive Rock Radio)

“…A very accomplished album – good, clear production coupled with quality instrumentation. If you like Marillion, Clannad and laid back folk meets prog rock then buy this album now…” (Classic Rock Newswire)

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Personnel:
Paul Davies (guitar)
Jonathan Edwards (keyboards, vocals)
Gavin John Griffiths (drums, percussion)
Anne-Marie Helder (flute, vocals, percussion)
Ian Jones (bass, guitar, vocals, percussion)
Rachel Jones (vocals, percussion)
+
Heather Findlay (vocals on 02., 06. + 09.)

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Tracklist:
01. Karnataka 2.55
02. Time Stands Still 6.17
03. Delicate Flame Of Desire 7.34
04. After The Rain 7.53
05. Strange Behaviour 6.11
06. The Right Time 7.07
07. One Breath Away 5.13
08. Out Of Reach 7.48
09. Heart Of Stone 10.31

Music: Paul Davies Jonathan Edwards – Gavin John Griffiths Anne-Marie Helder – Ian Jones – Rachel Jones
Lyrics. Rachel Jones

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