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Arcana - The New Light

The New Light is a 10-year anniversary release from the medieval inspired neo-classical outfit Arcana. The project of Peter Bjärgö, Arcana are widely regarded as one of the finer outfits operating in the genre. Their home for the past decade has been on the premier Scandinavian dark ambient label Cold Meat Industry. This beautifully rendered issue, however, is released by the Canadian / Swedish alliance involving the Cyclic Law and Erebus Odora labels. The New Light ranges from the first ever Arcana recording, unreleased demos (including the tape that found its way to Cold Meat's Roger Karmanik), alternate versions, and two newly recorded tracks.

The sound of Arcana evolves largely from gloomy synths that imbue the music with an introspective mournful edge. The grief-ridden music appears somewhat simple, with gloomy melodies augmented by spartan rhythms and solemn vocals. 'Source of Light' is one of a clutch of derivative tracks on that tape that resulted in Arcana getting signed to Cold Meat Industry. The sound has got richer and more varied since then but given that this is a 10 year retrospective The New Light belies little progression in terms of song structure. Only the recently recorded 'Wings of Gabriel' which adopts Arabic rhythms alongside (sampled?) string instrumentation attempts to step outside the confined structures. That's not to say that Arcana should be written off; if it ain't broken... There are a number of decent tracks 'Source of Light'; 'Eclipse of the Soul'; 'Like Statues in the Garden of the Dreaming' which capture the essence of Arcana through choirs, and Bjärgö's solemn vocal.

This is an interesting compilation, carefully selected to appeal to the novice listeners and Arcana afficiondos but despite all the accolades thrown their way this doesn't move me in any great way.

Full marks to the designers as The New Light is beautifully packaged in an earthy green DVD sized digipak with a booklet with discography, commentary from Peter Bjärgö and some beautiful nature photography that compliments the sounds of Arcana perfectly. For more information go to www.cycliclaw.com or www.erebusodora.com