Return Of The Guardians (Narada, 1996) and
Spirit Wind (Windham Hill, 1997) are concept albums set in
imaginary lands, like Quest Of The Dream Warrior.
Return Of The Guardians (Narada, 1996) closed an era in Arkenstone's
career. His three great gifts are all well represented:
Border Journey concocts a Vangelis-like apotheoses (epic choirs, driving rhythms, slow melodies) enhanced with huge doses of exotica.
Trail of Tears evokes Morricone-like fatalism.
And Two Hearts spins a heartbreaking melody
(carried first by the flute, then harp, then violin, then dulcimer),
again reminiscent of Morricone (specifically,
Once Upon A Time In The West), amid floating orchestral counterpoints.
Arkenstone does not always show good taste (check out the Gregorian-like
chants over reggae-fied rhythm in Chosen Voices, or the many
easy-listening and jazz-rock parentheses, such as The Forgotten Lands,
that only detract from the emotional intensity of the main pieces)
but his command for orchestration and is awe-inspiring.
His personal showcase is the nine-minute fantasia
Water of Life: male and female choirs, winds and strings introduce
each other, and then intone in unison a plaintive Jewish-sounding theme;
Native-American drumming and jazzy piano lift the violin solo to a spiritual
dimension; a universal choir (male, female and children voices) rejoices
(for too brief a moment).
Spirit Wind, inspired by Native American themes, is mainly a display of Arkenstone's skills as a multi-instrumentalist and arranger.
The Eternal Champion (Naradam 1998) is a career anthology (but a rather
In the second half of the 1990s, Arkenstone focused on a new project, Troika,
a Santa Barbara-based trio for which Arkestone composed music in
his atmospheric/exotic/electronic style.
Troika's Goddess (Enso, 1996) was largely made of unreleased
Arkestone tracks, organized around the theme of Kris Waldherr's book
"The Book Of Goddesses", where the "Goddess" is the Earth, or, better,
Gaia, and the various pieces
explore different aspects of the same divinity, of her creative energy.
This mythological concept flows from the nostalgic female humming and
epic synthesizers of Venus towards the funereal adagio of Inanna.
The eight movements compose a sort of unitary symphony, despite the fact that
they run the gamut of moods, from
the elegant grandeur of Diana to
the supernatural ambience of Kuan Yin to
the gothic choir of Gwenhwyfar.
These vignettes are grounded in rituals of the past
with a style which is oddly halfway between humble and bombastic.
Troika's masterful amalgam of modern rhythms, ancient instruments,
exotic sounds, electronic/orchestral sounds, shadows of voices and
drum-machines creates a dreamy sundscape that melodies roam in search
However, it is telling, perhaps, that the peaks of pathos are achieved by
the two sorrowful piano-based elegies: Zorya and Athena.
Troika's albums offered additional doses of synthesizer-based melodies with an increasing ethnic flavor.
The sonic tapestry of Dream Palace (Narada, 1997) is a tour de force
of electroacoustic arrangement. A supernatural ambience is created by
the layered synthesizer melodies, the angelic voices and the celestial percussions in Dream Palace, Through the Mist, etc.
But Arkenstone can't resist his natural tendency towards catchy themes:
Whispered vocals and tinkling keyboards craft the celestial melody of Bridge to Heaven, one of his best, and the flutes intone the sweet litany of Halls Of Mystery.
On the other hand, the Afro-dance rhythms of Vision Walk and even the
exotic excesses of The Journey Home sound a bit out of context.
Most of Faeries (Narada, 1999) is rather superficial, wallpaper music,
the neoclassical ballet of The Magic Birdcage
and the baroque aria of The Garden Under The Sea
rank as two of Arkenstone's most magical moments.
These orchestral poems try a little too hard to translate the theme of the
album into music. The emphatic romanticism that permeates most scenes
detracts from the subtle ambience of the previous work.
The most inspired moments of Shaman (Narada, 2000) come at the beginning:
the eerie, exotic, suspenseful Calling sets the tone for the
romantic adagio of Vision Quest.
The tribal polyrhythms of Crossing the Light and Trance,
the Native-American chanting of Chanting Up The Sun and the
Gregorian drones of Return merely recycle outdated cliches', no matter
how elegant the production.
Citizen of the World (Windham Hill, 1999)
Caravan of Light (Narada, 2000)
Frontier (Paras, 2001)
Sketches From an American Journey (Paras, 2002)
1998 - Himalayan Passage
1999 - Citizen of the World
2000 - Caravan of Light
2001 - Frontier
2001 - Music Inspired by Middle Earth (with Middle Earth Orchestra)
2001 - Reflections from the Wine Country (with Marquis Ensemble)
2002 - Sketches from an American Journey
2002 - Spirit of Tibet: A Musical Odyssey
2002 - Visionary (2CD)
2003 - Spirit of Ireland
2003 - Troika: Kingdom of the Sun
2004 - Caribbean Dreams
2004 - Atlantis: A Symphonic Journey
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