In 1983, Mark Holiday and David Powell, two school friends originating from Doncaster, United Kingdom form Castanarc. They had been members of the group Transic, which for a long time toured the club circuit of the North East of the UK. Shortly after their establishment the group signs a contract with the record label Peninsular. Beside singer Holiday and keyboardplayer Powell the group consists of: Paul Ineson on guitar, Neil Duty on bass/guitar and Dave Kirkland on drums.
The band books a studio and records material, written during their Transic period, and also writes a new number Journey To The East. In 1984, the album is released with this title. The album receives good criticisms and is compared to Genesis' Wind & Wuthering, and besides comparisons to Camel, with the early work of Pendragon and also tracks such as Wondrous Stories and To Be of Yes are mentioned a reference. The catchy music sounds generally open and melodious and propagate a very positive character, in which the acoustic instruments and vocals play an significant role, including impressive instrumental soli, which are divided by the synthesizers and electric guitar evenly. Holiday turns out to be the right vocalist for Castanarc, and to whom it concerns, the use of his vocals can be compared with Jon Anderson. Since the consistent level of the record is very high, it is difficult to pinpoint the favourites, but the two long tracks The Fool and Journey To The East and the seizing closing track Am I, most qualify for it since they are weighed and alternating construction.
Finally now that the material has been released on vinyl, unfortuantly for the band the disputes start within the group, which leads eventual by the end of 1984 to the departure of Duty and Kirkland. Holiday, Powell and Ineson decide to carry on and start writing new material. Because the band is almost bankrupt, Powell and Holiday start doing pubconcerts, and from that moment officially Castanarc only excists as being the duo Powell and Holiday. During one of those jam sessions they're able to confince someone in the audience to lend them money. With that money and producer John Spence they return to the studio and start recording new material. In 1986, they sign a contract for the RCA Records sublabel Cue Rain. In the meantime Journey To The East experience its second release, this time through Cue Rain, with an improved revision and an altered tracklist. Also an extra track, Rhyme, is added, on which guests John Sawyer playing the acoustic guitar.
At the beginning of 1988 Castanarc releases a first result: a limited edition cassette called Burnt Offerings. On this tape the group tries to expand their borders. A fine remix of Peyote, originating from Journey To The East, can be found and with From Shadows a foretaste of Rude Politics is already delivered. The remaining four tracks show a particularly original rather quiet atmosphere, with soundeffects and weird sketches linking the tracks. Like Sally of the Police or the fourth side of IQ's Nine In A Pound Is Here, they are used to experimentate with the material. Especially closing track No Man's Land makes a crushing impression. Like in a canon Holiday sings, shouts and speaks the lyrics over machine-gun noise and a splendid keyboard melody of Powell.
In September that year the album Rude Politics is released. Besides Holiday, Powell, Ineson and Sawyer it guests guitarist Richard Burns, guitarist Pat Mount and bass player Pete Robinson. Mount and Robinson, both fine musicians, are drafted in for the record, after doing some studio work with John Spence. He simply asked them to be involved on Rude Politics, to which they agree.
The ambient atmosphere of Burnt Offerings can still partly be found. More important to the band is the lack of value to technical ingeniousness and/or a sublime production. They emphasis more on originality and striking, not everyday rhythms, a rather uncommon phenomenon in the progressive rock scene which is dominated by layered keyboard parts and whining guitars. Rude Politics can be roughly devided in whipping high-energy rocksongs, in which the binding role of drums and percussion are most striking (first 4 numbers), and ballads with fancy vocal lines (last 4 numbers). Again with the help of producer John Spence, in an impressive manner, the writing duo Holiday and Powell combines style ingredients of godfather Gabriel (intelligent Afro-ritmes), Rush (mastered power) and Big Country (simplicity) which they intergrate in their particular songs, where especially the spectacular The Bow Break and From Shadows turn out to be the highlights of the album.
For the first time in eight years on 11 March 1989 Castanarc enters the stage. Since Ineson, Sawyer, Mount and Robinson aren't available, their place are taken by Vincenzo Lammi (Cocteau Twins) on drums, Rob Clarke (ABC) on bass and Steve Beighton on keyboards and saxophone. The group leaves, in spite of the short practise time and unfamiliarity with the material, a crushing impression at the Noorderligt in Tilburg, where that evening they play a double concert with Pendragon.
Back in the UK the band records the 12" This Island Love for the Pyramid label, a sublabel of Cue Rain. This light track is released a couple of months later. In spite of the superb sleevecover the number is nothing more than background music for a commercial of decaffeinated coffee. Healthy but without spirit; in spite of the splendid vocals and saxophone part. The b-side on the other hand is a well known song and compensate a lot. It is the instrumental track Everything But The Boiyd, which in a rather modified form could be heard on Burnt Offerings and also appears on the second Ugum progressive rock sampler (although this version is very slow). Also the particularly nice leftover Heroes is included.
Then it fell silent around Castanarc. Terrible silent. Until by the end of 1991 suddenly the album Journey To The East is released again by American label Kinesis. This CD version contains the same tracklist as the 1987 vynil release. Holiday and Powell sign for the re-mixing of the album. The ungentle criticism which both deliver to their old bandmembers isn't nice, but makes clear who really are Castanarc: ?We are deeply in their debt and are honoured to trick their names below in our gratitude; though not hounered enough to actually pay them.? It also turns out to be that Holiday and Powell are already working for two years towards a future release, which will carry the title Little God. This concept album deals about the solar system, the planet Earth and the impact of the humanity on the environment. The last news about Castanarc at that moment is that the band is still alive.
In 1997 the band loses their contract with Kinesis, and for a moment it looks like ths would be the end again, but it turns out that Castanarc returns out of this proces much stronger than expacted. With their own label Khepra Records Mark Holiday and David Powell, the main figures behind Castanarc, and their producer John Spence return to the music scene. Within months all predecessors of Little Gods are released on the new label.
The album, already announced in 1991, is finally released in 1998. Traditionally Little God has a new guest line-up which turns out to be not that impressive concerning the changes. Besides Powell and Holiday, Lammi is the only one left from the live-lineup of 1989. In Dave Richie they have recruited a new bass player and guitarist Neil Duty has returned on the old nest. Little Gods turns out to be the first new album of Castanarc after ten years. Little Gods is like a beautiful diamond, and continue to follow the atmosphere and music direction the band undertook in earlier releases like Burnt Offerings and Rude Politics. The listener is confronted with a mixture of ambient progressive rock and uptempo high-energy rocksongs, in which the band doesn't silt up in copying earlier work. It takes some time to listen to the album to get into it. This because songs now and then aren't that long, or contain sudden breaks. But after that period the appraisal of this album grows strongly, because not only the band payed attention to the strong songs and the beautiful artwork of Mark Holiday, loads of attention is payed on the production side as well.
With Little Gods Castanarc continues to maintain their own style, and also tries to widen their boundries of musical interest. In 1999 it seems this will be the year of Castanarc. With the CD release of Burnt Offerings, which contains extra tracks, the band returns back to the scene, and shortly after a rarities album, with BBC recordings and some single- and unreleased work is announced. They even return to the stage when they play a concert for The Classic Rock Society in September 1999. It turns out to be their only one. The rareties album is shelved, due to credit problems with the BBC, and soon after the band is disbanded.
1984 - Journey To The East
1987 - Journey To The East (+ bonustrack)
1988 - Burnt Offerings
1988 - Rude Politics
1989 - This Island Love
1991 - Journey To The East [1987 version]
1998 - Journey To The East
1998 - Rude Politics (tracklist changed)
1998 - Burnt Offering (different tracklist)
1998 - Little Gods
Ugum's Progressive Rock Sampler (1993) [Everything But The Boiyd]
Kinesis Progressive Rock Sampler Volume 1 (1995) [Peyote]