Arcana – Le Serpent Rouge

The fifth Arcana album since their debut “Dark age of reason’ in 1996, if you don’t count the rarities compilation “The New Light”. Though the quality of their albums was always very high and I was not bored with their sound yet, I nevertheless felt that it was time for renewal. The new track ‘Wings of Gabriel’ on “The New Light” already showed that Arcana might be moving in a new direction. This expectation is certainly fulfilled on “Le serpent rouge”.

Except for distant background choirs, there are hardly any (heavenly) vocals present, normally a trademark of Arcana. The new songs don’t take you to cold landscapes and ancient Western ruins and cathedrals as in the past, but to oriental spheres full of magic and mysticism. This new album is very much rhythm-based, with all sorts of percussion being used. Though samples and programming still play an important role, Peter Bjärgö and his crew have used a large deal of (Arabic) acoustic instruments this time, like dulcimer, duduk, cymbals and timpani, with a very lively sound as effect.

Arcana has always been compared with Dead Can Dance, and this new album will be no exception, since Dead Dan Dance also incorporated many ‘ethnic’, Middle-Eastern sounds in their later work. Another act which I certainly have to think of is Francesco Banchini’s project GOR, who also does a lot with percussion and world music.

On this album the artwork by Agnieszka Szuba also plays an important role. In the booklet Bjärgö explains how a collaboration between the music of Arcana and the paintings of Szuba came into being. The artwork is indeed very pretty, and fits the music well.

In my opinion this ‘new sound’ for Arcana is very succeeded, this new album is very pleasant to listen to. My favourite pieces: the title track ‘Le serpent rouge’ and ‘Amber’. The percussive tracks and flowing melodies have a strong ritual feel and hypnotic effects. The temperature in my living room is climbing to Arabic levels when playing this album.

artist: Arcana
label: Erebus Odora
details: 9 tracks, 41 min, 2004 [Erebus.006]