Baber and Wileman set to Chill

Meditatively strap yourself into a comfy recliner, as under his pseudonym Karda Estra, Swindon’s prolific experimental virtuoso Richard Wileman is in collaboration with Sanguine Hum keyboardist Matt Baber for an album taking their names as the title, Baber-Wileman. It’s released tomorrow (Monday 10th Jan 2022) on Kavus Torabi’s Believers Roast label.….

Under his own name, Richard projects acoustic folk songs, yet never without fascinating instrument experimentation, yet as Karda Estra soundscapes of surreal gothic and cosmic compositions evoke mood as a film score should.

With a pungent fusion of Zappa and Canterbury influenced instrumental compositions, Sanguine Hum was formed a decade ago from the ashes of the Joff Winks Band and the Antique Seeking Nuns. Known for complex ensemble work, reflective song-writing and distinctively striving instrumental pieces, Sanguine Hum’s defining characteristics owes much to Matt’s keys, who released his first solo album, Suite for Piano and Electronics on Bad Elephant Music in 2018.

The pair first met at RoastFest in 2011, where Sanguine Hum were performing, and soon afterwards, Matt and Richard did their first collaboration track, Mondo Profondo 1, which appeared on the Karda Estra album Mondo Profondo.

Returning to the studio together towards the end of 2020, initially intending to put a couple of tracks down, the sessions went so well, they continued co-composing through 2021 and the project evolved into this album, which is chilling me to the bone.

Richard’s long-time vocal and clarinet player Amy Fry also guest appearances on three of the nine enchanted tracks. At times, like the finale, The Birth of Spring, this sounds like it could’ve been recorded on a light dewed grassy knoll, under a troll bridge of a Tolkienesque landscape, at others a Kling Klang type Düsseldorf studio towards the end of the seventies, but the steam of this melting pot perpetually reeks of influences further and wider.

With Matt’s clear progressive-rock influence, tracks like Passing Wave and the penultimate Day Follows Night, hold woozy psychedelic swirls of a Hawkwind free festival, yet the classical piano concertos of Claude Debussy ring through interludes like Three Audio Slow and 2009.

It’s a wonderous journey, mellowly twirling through gorgeously uplifting, sometimes haunting soundscapes, as ambient as The Orb, as methodically composed as Mike Oldfield, as peculiar as The Art of Noise, as moody electronically progressive as Tangerine Dream, and melodically unruffled as Jefferson Airplane.

The second tune, after Karda Estra-fashioned haunting intro, sounding like a spooky film score by William Orbit, Souvenir is vocally a prime example of the folk-rock influence of Jefferson Airplane, but only a slight segment of styles blended here, of which the magnum opus of the album, Emperor combines all aforementioned elements sublimely. This one is as Mike Oldfield created Primal Scream’s Higher Than the Sun from Screamadelica; yeah, it’s that beautiful, all too beautiful!


Find a Richard Wileman track on our compilation album!

The Fulltone goes BIG!

The F.T.O. Big Band at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon. 21/11/2021

Ian Diddams

The Fulltone Orchestra (a.k.a. FTO) was formed back in 2017, the vision and brainchild of its Musical Director, Anthony Brown. Since then, the orchestra has performed across Wiltshire playing a wide genre of orchestral based music, from iconic movie themes to Bernstein and Gershwin, then Russian composers and The Planets, and most recently a firework extravaganza of classical music (with no actual fireworks folks!).  Then there has been its involvement with “The Invitation Theatre Company” (a.k.a. TITCo) with the inaugural, and this year’s “Fulltone Festivals”, and the incredible “Jeff Wayne’s Musical version of the War Of The Worlds” reprised in 2019 in Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre.
And of course the amalgamation of choirs in Devizes for the poignant and beautiful “Armed Man” by Karl Jenkins.

For these performances the FTO has fluctuated in size of orchestra depending on requirements – musicians coming from all over Southern England, and even have included a passing Hungarian cellist. Anthony’s vision always seeks the next, exciting opportunity and this year has seen the birth of the “FTO Big Band”. Cutting its teeth at the “Fulltone Festival” on August bank holiday weekend 2021, now the FTO took its latest progeny back to the Wyvern for its “Big Band Night” on Sunday 21st November.

And what a night it was! Five saxophones (also doubling up on clarinet and flute), four trombones, four trumpets, drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards joined by three female and three male voices crooned and smoothed and belted their way through a cornucopia of delights.   From Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller (who else for a big band night after all?!) to Ella Fitzgerald, Julie Garland and Jackie Wilson numbers. And that was just the first half! The second half kicked off with “The Pink Panther” and “Big Spender” and crooned away deliciously after that with Frank Sinatra, more Judy Garland and even a spot of Marilyn Monroe.

The band, as ever with the FTO, was absolutely spot on. The ever-present Dominic Irving this time left his keyboard and violin at home and whipped out his trumpet (oo err missus!). Louise Cox a persistent FTOer on the drums was her usual impeccable, percussive self. Devizes born and bred Archie Combe tinkled the ivories (I played rugby with his dad y’know!), and Vickie Watson amazed in her juggling of sax, clarinet, and flute throughout the entire show. But its churlish to only mention a few by name, where in fact the entire band were simply amazing. A whole bunch of horns and sax appeal for sure for starters!

And the singers? Well…  I guess they did all right…  😉  Truth be told – of course they were brilliant. Confession time – for those that don’t already know, these people are my friends, and I am honoured to stand on stages with them often. So you can understandably think now “oh well, sycophancy rules, OK” at this juncture. But – everything I write here is true. These people WERE amazing tonight. Truly awesome. Jemma Brown with her consummate ease of poignancy in such numbers as “Ole’ Devil called Love” to power in “Big Spender” and Chris Worthy similarly between “Nightingale sang in Berkley Square” to “Reet Petite”. Then of course Sean Andrews, well known for his strength of projection unsurprisingly absolutely creaming “Luck be a Lady” …  but showing a crooning side with “Come Fly with me”. Then there’s Will Sexton. Well, if you’ve never heard Will you bloody well should. And if you have you will know there are insufficient superlatives available. He calmly, coolly, sang his way through “Blue Moon”, broke hearts with “My Girl” and finished us all off with “Cry Me a River”.

But these were not alone on the stage…  enter stage right Ella Mangham. WHAT A VOICE. Made for this style of music, “Black Coffee” and “Fascinating Rhythm” held us spell bound. Ella had debuted with the FTO Big Band back in the summer, but tonight saw the first appearance of a super young lady – Ruby Phipps. Now Sean had clearly bought his fan club with him as we heard when introduced, but Ruby had family and friends travelling from all over – and no surprise. Sublimely duetting with Jemma on “Get Happy”, “Over the Rainbow” and “The Trolley Song” she lit up the stage with her excellence and grace. Then the whole group appeared as Will completed the evening with – what else? – “My Way” and joined in…  showing that the FTO Big Band truly did this THEIR way, in style, panache and not a little excellence.

What a night. But there’s one more person that deserves a HUGE pat on the back. I’ve mentioned this entire project, from orchestra to big band spin off, is the brainchild of Anthony Brown. But Anthony (a.k.a. O.T but never EVER call him “Tony” !!!) is more than just a M.D. (a.k.a. Musical Director). He is the passion, the life force, the visionary that has produced an orchestra that dares, and now a Band that is truly BIG. He AM da MAN.

So – if you were there tonight and saw it, how lucky were we? And if you weren’t or think I’m just a sycophant for my raving review all I can say is – my eighty-four-year-old mum absolutely loved it. And get a ticket for the next Big Band night and make up your own mind!

Meanwhile – live music is back. And don’t you forget it!


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Arcana & Idols of the Flesh: Ambience and Chamber-Prog with Swindon Composer Richard Wileman

One portion my nostalgia rarely serves, and that’s my once veneration for spacey sounds, apexed through the ambient house movement in the nineties, but not comprehensively; we always had Sgt Pepper, Pink Floyd and Hendrix’s intro to Electric Ladyland. I’ve long detached myself from adolescent experimentation of non-licit medications, lying lone in a dark bedroom chillaxing to mood music, and moved onto a full house of commotional kids; progress they call it.

Incredibly prolific, Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman might yet stir the memories, if these headphones drown out the sound of a nearby X-Box tournament. Best known for his pre-symphonic rock band Karda Estra, there is nothing vertical or frenetic about his musical approach. Idols of the Flesh is his latest offering from a discography of sixteen albums. Yet far from my preconceptions of layers of decelerated techno, as was The Orb or KLF, or psychedelic space-rock moments of my elders, which our own Cracked Machine continue the splendour of, Richard’s sounds with Karda Estra bases more orchestrally, neo-classical, as if the opening of a thriller movie. Though, so intense is this sound you need no images to provoke you.

Idols of the Flesh is dark and deeply surreal, with swirls of cosmic and gothic hauntings which drifts the listener on a voyage of bliss. Nirvana is tricky to pinpoint in my household, but with my ears suctioned to my headphones I jumped out of my skin upon a tap on the shoulder, daughter offering me some sweets! Momentarily snapped back in the room as if I’d surfaced from a hypnotist’s invocation, but aching to fall backwards into it once again.

Agreeably, this is not headbanging driving music, neither does it build like Leftfield for those anticipating beats to start rolling after a ten-minute intro, it simply drifts as a soundscape, perhaps coming to its apex at the eloquently medieval church organed Church of Flesh, one of two named tunes out of the six on offer, the others given part numbers. Then, with running water, the final part echoes a distant chant of female vocals as if a wind blowing across a sea for another eleven minutes, it’s stirring, incredibly emotive and perfected.

Along a similar, blissful ethos Richard Wileman served up Arcana in September this year, a third album this time under his own name. While maintaining a certain ambiance, it’s more conventional than his Karda Estra, more attributed to the standard model of popular music. It’s an eerie and spectral resonance, though, with occasional vocals which meander on divine folk and prog-rock; contemporary hippy vibes, rather than timeworn psychedelia. Released on Kavus Torabi’s Believers Roast label, a sprinkling of Byrds and Mamas & Papas ring through with an unmistakable likeness to a homemade Mike Oldfield. When vocals come into effect, with one guest singer Sienna Wileman, it’s astutely drafted and beguiling.

Select anything from the bulging discographies of Karda Estra or Richard Wileman and you’re onto a mood-setting journey, composed with expertise and passion. If ambient house is lost in a bygone era, this is reforming the balance of atmospheric compositions with modernism, so mesmeric it remains without the need for intoxication. Now, where did I stash my old chillum?! Probably in a dusty box in the loft with my Pete Loveday comics and some Mandelbrot fractal postcards….



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