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Illuminae biography
A London-based act ILLUMINAE were founded by two well-known artists in UK progressive rock scene - Ian JONES (KARNATAKA, CHASING THE MONSOON) and Agnieszka ŚWITA (CAAMORA). Ian's already been renowned as a founding member, composer, and multi-instrumentalist of KARNATAKA or CHASING THE MONSOON. Agnieszka, hailing from Poland as a vocalist and pianist, has released her solo creation in 2014 produced by her CAAMORA fellow Clive NOLAN, in addition to CAAMORA's works in mid 2000s. ILLUMINAE's debut album entitled "Dark Horizons", featuring some special guest musicians like Steve HACKETT, John HELLIWELL, Troy DONOCKLEY, Craug BLUNDELL, Luke MACHIN, and Gonzalo CARRERA, was out on February 12, 2021 finally.

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3.91 | 47 ratings
Dark Horizons

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Dark Horizons by ILLUMINAE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.91 | 47 ratings

Dark Horizons
Illuminae Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars These days I am so far behind on my reviews that even if I read the press release at the time the album was made available to me, I have long forgotten who was involved by the time I get around to playing it. Hence this was a wonderful surprise when it finally made it to my ears, and I wondered how such a well-formed band could have come out of nowhere, and in some places there was no doubt whatsoever that they had Troy Donockley (Nightwish, but for me will always be associated with Iona) playing as I recognise his work anywhere, so who was this band and who did they bring in? It transpired that the people behind this are multi-instrumentalist Ian Jones (Karnataka, Chasing The Monsoon) and singer Agnieszka Swita. While I guess Polish singer Agnieszka will normally be linked with Caamora, I have been aware of her other works as well and highly recommend searching out her solo album 'Sleepless'. Then they brought in a few others to assist, such as Steve Hackett (Genesis), John Helliwell (Supertramp), the aforementioned Troy Donockley, Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson), Luke Machin and Gonzalo Carrera while it was mixed by Joe Gibb (Massive Attack, The Cure and Leftfield).

The result is an album which is a delight from start to finish, encompassing a myriad of progressive styles while always steeped in the symphonic. We get Celtic, crossover, pop, and perhaps unsurprisingly some real theatrical. Agnieszka Swita has long been involved with Clive Nolan and the Caamora project, and of course plays the part of Amelia in 'Alchemy', and there are times when that style comes through, especially on "Black Angel". She has a wonderful voice, professionally trained, and her experiences allow her to work in multiple different styles and types of music while always in full control, with clear annunciation and a warmth which invites in the listener. Add to that the sumptuous arrangements and one knows this is a work of some import.

It is so easy to listen to, yet each time it is played it gets even better. Needless to say, everyone involved is a master of their instruments, but Ian has ensured that the guests are used for just that, so while John Helliwell has a huge impact on "Sign of Infinity", that is it. The core of this is a consummate musician and an amazing singer, and together they have delivered a wonderful album which is sure to be a firm favourite of any lovers of melodic crossover symphonic prog with elements of the stage. The next trick will be to form a full band and get this out on tour as music as strong this needs to be in the live environment.

 Dark Horizons by ILLUMINAE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.91 | 47 ratings

Dark Horizons
Illuminae Crossover Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars This is a brand-new musical project by Ian Jones (Karnataka) on bass, guitar and keyboards, and Agnieszka Świta (Caamora) on vocals and piano, and she also wrote compositions. Agnieszka hailed from Poland (where she studied at the Institute of Music in Lublin) but now lives in London, like Ian Jones. The duo has invited an impressive array of guest musicians on its debut album entitled Dark Horizons (from 2021): Steve Hackett (Genesis), John Helliwell (Supertramp), Troy Donockley (Nightwish), Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson) and Luke Machin.

From the very first moment I am delighted about Agnieszka Świta her voice, what a range and what a sound, from dreamy to powerful. She meanders wonderfully through the 10 compositions that mainly alternate between mellow and bombastic, often embellished with majestic orchestral keyboards and harder-edged guitar work.

My highlights.

Lots of dynamics and tension in The Lighthouse, the one moment dreamy with piano, the other moment sumptuous with classical orchestrations, topped with moving guitar runs by master Steve Hackett (trademark slide and sustain).

Intense heavy guitar solo in the strong track Blood On Your Hands.

The short but compelling song Lullaby contains again wonderful vocals, and a folky/Gaelic element with a harp-like sound and the tin-whistle, we can also enjoy a sensitive electric guitar solo, followed by another, more heavy one.

The intro of the track Twice church delivers a church organ sound, with dreamy vocals, a powerful moving guitar, in a slow rhythm.

Heretics and Prophecy starts mellow featuring tin-whistle and sounds of nature. Then a blend of catchy piano and soaring strings. Gradually the music turns into more bombastic, then again dreamy with intense mellow vocals, and finally bombastic with heavy guitar work. To me it sounds very compelling, the singer shines again, what an asset!

In the song Sign of Infinity the legendary Supertramp member John Helliwell joins with his distinctive saxophone play, blended with sparkling piano.

Finally the titletrack that contains a slow rhythm, slowly turning into bombastic and compelling with fine work on piano and a moving guitar solo.

What a promising duo, and what a debut album, thumbs up for Illuminae!

 Dark Horizons by ILLUMINAE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.91 | 47 ratings

Dark Horizons
Illuminae Crossover Prog

Review by Pumpkin lord

4 stars Dark Horizons is a wonderful album. It has all the emotional vocal delivery of neo-prog, the wonderful instrumentation of symphonic prog but with somewhat of a classic gothic undertone, don't let that put you off, its gothic in the sense of the the literature and art, not anywhere near as post punk as the cure. This does work to the albums favour since it matches the emotional delivery of the vocals more. Speaking of delivery the rest of the instrumentation is wonderful. The keyboard has that modern symphonic prog organic feel so it blends wonderfully with the rich guitar tone. The guitar tone, as with many modern prog albums is great and just as with the keyboard, has an organic feel, but with more of an overdriven punch which sounds great. As of time of writing this, this is within my top 10 new prog albums of the year so far. It's a great listen for neo-prog fans who like more guitar driven neo-prog.
 Dark Horizons by ILLUMINAE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.91 | 47 ratings

Dark Horizons
Illuminae Crossover Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Dark Horizons is the album from a new project, Illuminae, fronted by Ian Jones, founder and guiding hand of South Wales band Karnataka, and on vocals Agnieszka Swita, who has a solo album Sleepless, which is now on my must buy list, but is better known for her collaborations with Clive Nolan of Arena fame in Caamora and "Alchemy. The Musical".

This is a wonderful album, which I was reminded of by my very good friend Thomas "Tszirmay". I initially downloaded it on iTunes, but this is far too good for a mere digital download, and after a couple of listens, I clicked on the relevant Caerllysi Music button to get the digipack cd. Worth every penny.

Before I discuss the album in any great detail, I really must pay tribute to Agnieszka's stunning vocal performance. There are times, most especially on opener The Lighthouse and closer Dark Horizons, when I am listening to her voice, and the hairs on the back of my neck literally stand up. This incredibly talented vocalist takes you to a place that is full of joyful noise and must rank as one of the finest female performances in prog in recent years.

It has taken me until the fourth paragraph to mention the guest performances. Whilst these are important, and obviously a decent selling point for any prog project, I really must stress that the likes of Steve Hackett on The Lighthouse, John Helliwell of Supertramp fame on Sign of Infinity, Craig Blundell superb on drums throughout, as are Troy Donockley, one of my favourite musicians, and Luke Machin on lead and rhythm guitar, simply enhance what is, at its heart, a rich and beautifully woven tapestry written in its entirety by the two lead protagonists, and produced to wall of sound effect by Jones. The key word here is atmosphere, because the album has it in spades.

So, to the music, and the opener exemplifies that atmosphere perfectly. The Lighthouse opens with foreboding menace, but develops into a paean to a journey we all must take one day. The first hair raising moment comes when Swita sings out "and the weather will be clear", backed by a symphonic storm, and this has become an all-time favourite of mine already, it really is that good. Her voice is angelic, yearning, the orchestration is soaring, and Hackett adds that special ghostly cream on top, because, remember, whilst he does many guest appearances, he is choosy about what he does, and he adds as much as you would expect from a maestro. This track is worth the entrance price alone, and you are left exhausted by the power of it at the denouement.

How do you follow that? Well, with Blood On Your Hands, a thumping track about the dangers of following demagogues set at a blistering pace, but with enough space to allow for Swita to soar. Lyrically, I think that this theme owes much to One For The Vine, another (and I do mean another) classic intelligently warning us of the dangers of following madmen who pander to our worst fears and desires. Jones and Blundell form an incredibly powerful rhythm section, and, again, the orchestration is spot on.

Edge of Darkness takes us into a Gothic world of wolves, and forbidden love. The sound is thunderous, with some lovely guitar breaks by Machin especially. This is intelligent music, and Swita simply takes you above all of this to her own special place.

Lullaby initially takes us down quite a few notches, and features at its heart some of the lilting Celtic themes Jones and co do so well in Karnataka. It reminds me in places of a latter day favourite of mine, namely Feels Like Home. Donockley is stunning on pipes and whistles, and combined with Swita's gorgeous lilt, some amazing fret work, and such intelligent drumming and orchestration, at the closing When The Hopes Are High passage, the dreams become reality. Quite beautiful, really.

Jones plays an atmospheric organ to begin Twice, which is a lovely ballad I take to mean something ever so important, namely seizing the moment and opportunity for love when it calls us. Machin once again brings some wonderful fret work to the fore, and Swita simply makes you fall in love with her by this point with her yearning vocals. The history of progressive rock is full of beautiful love songs. Twice has joined that pantheon.

Heretic and Prophecy takes us back to a fairly dark place, fused with Celtic menace and cruelty. Donockley is again key to much of this. A man is a wolf to another man. The flames of retribution and so called justice, this is a very knowing and intelligent song.

Sanctuary takes us once again to some horror, with lilting organs setting the scene for a rollicking song about bloodlust. If ever Hammer should decide to remake Dracula, they should call on these two for the soundtrack. This is a song with relentless pace and focus, driven by thumping drums and bass, and Swita playing the foil perfectly.

Black Angel is more fantasy than horror, and rips along. The short chorus is gorgeous, and the sequencing is clever rather than intrusive. This is the shortest track on the album, and is enjoyable fare which does suffer a little bit from comparisons to all else here.

Sign of Infinity features a really nice piano extended piece by Gonzalo Carrera of Karnataka. The theme is once again of death and what comes after. Swita dances with her ghost, and the track simply comes alive with the blues when Helliwell adds a gorgeous sax and clarinet.

The title track closes proceedings, and is the longest track with an epic eleven plus minutes. Epic is, in fact, the word which more than describes this, and Swita again delivers her hair raising impact upon the listener. Initially, this track struck me as being a return to the theme of the opener, but upon more careful listening I think it is, in fact, about coming out the other side, reaching out for one another, some form of redemption and an appreciation of what we have and what should be to come, so pretty much summarising where many of us are right now in this pandemic. The production is crystal clear, and there is such a gorgeous guitar solo in the midpoint by Machin that you know we have a successor to Gilmour in both its feel and execution. This is not, however, a copy, a "neo" tribute, it is, rather, quite unique and the whole song rises with it with some wonderful orchestration and programming. From the final "Like an island" in the closing passages, you are once again taken to a different plain, the four main protagonists creating such a sumptuous noise it really has to be heard to be appreciated. Words are simply not enough. This is music as experience wrought large.

If any artist releases an album as good as this in the remainder of 2021, it will have to be an all-time great. This is about as good as our genre gets, and proof positive that it is well and truly alive and kicking creatively, artistically, and intelligently.

Very highly recommended. A masterpiece of modern progressive rock.

Thanks to dAmOxT7942 for the artist addition.

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