Arcanta

Arcanta

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Arcanta's self-titled debut is one of those love-it-or-leave-it records -- if it captivates a listener, that listener will fall hard, but if it doesn't, nothing will change his or her mind on the subject. Consisting of four tracks -- the latter two of which would surface on The Eternal Return released the following year -- the album, like the band, is essentially a showcase for band leader Thomas-Carlyle Ayres' astonishing vocals. Drawing on a number of exultant religious vocal traditions, from Gregorian chant to Qawwali (similar to the breadth evidenced by Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard), Ayres gives a powerful majesty to his work, whether singing in English or in other tongues. The instinctive reaction is to bow your head in meditation -- he's that good. The opening number, "A Fool's Cry," consists of a brief, bravura solo performance, but "Desert Prayer" ups the effect with a layering of vocals interspersed between spare ambient keyboards and production. "Maya" adds a soft guitar to the majestic roll of Ayres' voice and the dark synth background. "Via Dolorosa" lives up to its melancholy title, again mixing dark sonics with Ayres' mystic calls.

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