Djam Karet

Djam Karet – Collaborator 1994
Djam Karet – Still No Comercial Potential 1998
Djam Karet – The Devouring 1997
Djam Karet – The Ritual Continues 1987

This is my newest “find”, a band somewhere between Pink Floyd and King Crimson. The albums are either very ambient, spacey ones (Collaborator) or hard, angular and rockier.

Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, April 1999
This latest release by Djam Karet, Still No Commercial Potential starts off with slow burning guitar led track entitled “No Vacancy At The Hotel of Noise.” Guitar led is somewhat of a misrepresentation, because the simple drum rhythm sticks with you long after the track has ended. And throughout I found I was tapping to the same rhythm.

Which is both good and bad, as the next track begins with a subtle ambient passage which continues under another memorable drum rhythm.

This release is a limited edition of 750 containing six tracks of improvised Djam Karet, the longest of which is the closer “Strange Wine From A Twisted Fruit” at nearly 29 minutes. Not uncommon, of course, in progressive music.

This is more acoustic, more stripped down than last year’s The Devouring The pace here is more leisurely, more introspective.

“Twilight In Lonely Lands” (the second track) has a very “World Music” feel to it – which means, of course, that the rhythm track has overtones of either Native American or Aboriginal or African influences. But would we say that about any instrumental track that has drums up front, in a very non-pyrotechnic manner?

The now almost ubiquitous didgeridoo makes an appearance here as well, on the atmospheric “The Black Line”. This track brings to mind this image: all alone on a crisp, clear, pitch black night where the only light is from the pinprick of stars. In the distance you can hear these sounds – frogs and other water creatures gurgling, some strange animal (the didgeridoo) calling out in the night. When the percussion makes its appearance – sounds like kettle drums though I suspect either digitally produced or some other percussive instrument – you come to realize you aren’t alone, but that you are part of some activitiy – almost ceremonial.

“Night, But No Darkness” picks up the pace a bit with its anxious rhythms, guitars skreech quietly here, though with frantic intensity. Not one to listen to if you’re a little jumpy, as this will only highten it. This is what confused fear sounds like. Actually, with a title like “Night, But No Darkness” one can image that the jitteriness of the track is similar to what those in climes north enough to have 24 hours of sunlight go through about halfway through that long period.

This is a very interesting album to listen to, well worth repeated listenings, as one can discover new things each time. As with nearly all – if not all – of Djam Karet’s releases, this one comes highly recommended.

[The Fall/Winter 1998 (#29) issue of Progression has an interview with Djam Karet, circa the release of The Devouring. -ed.]

More about Still No Commercial Potential:
Released: 1998
Label: self-released

Track Listing: No Vacancy At The Hotel of Noise (7:04) / Twilight In Lonely Lands (7:10) / Room 24, Around Noon (8:41) / The Black Line (10:01) / Night, But No Darkness (8:09) / Strange Wine From A Twisted Fruit (28:51) Total Time: 70:32

Musicians: Gayle Ellett – Guitar, E-bow, Organ, Percussion Mike Henderson – Guitars, E-bow Chuck Oken, Jr. – Drums, Digital Keyboards, Percussion Henry J. Osborne – Bass, Didgeridoo, Percussion

Website: www.djamkaret.com

Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, August 1998
If you are looking for cool, jazzy instrumental rock, then you need look no further than Djam Karet. The first half of The Devouring would fit the bill. And if you are looking for tight, precise, guitar playing, you’ve found that here, too. Each individual composition is worth an examination in its own right.

The Devouring is Djam Karet’s latest release and thematically it owes a lot to The X-Files. Whether this was intentional or coincidental, I’m not sure, but with track titles like “Night of the Mexican Goat Sucker,” and “Lights Over Roswell” there has to have been some thought of the cult series.

Regardless, The Devouring is a great album, and can truly be called progressive – both in execution and in spirit. “Forbidden By Rule,” the second track in, features some stellar guitar work, but that is really true for the whole album. There is a freedom in not having to following the pop formula and Djam Karet make good use of that freedom – each track here (and on their previous albums) is expressive – almost bigger than can be contained in the song format. There’s a feeling of movement in Djam Karet music, as if somewhere there are visuals to accompany the music – whether a movie or a PBS nature special. Therefore, listening to this, you need merely close your eyes to be transported where Djam Karet want you to go.

In both “The River of No Return” and “The Indian Problem” a dry Southwestern feeling is evoked. In the first, you can almost see and feel, towards the end of the track, sandstone canyons towering high overhead as you float along the…well, “The River of No Return” (I suppose, too, depending on your mood, you might think of the river Styx, or be reminded of Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness).

While guitars (Gayle Ellett and Mike Henderson) dominate this album – the sultriness of “Lost, But Not Forgotten,” or the elegant etherealness of “Myth of a White Jesus”, for example – the bass and drums (Henry J Osborne and Chuck Oken, respectively) provide a solid base from which the guitars can take flight. Even still, Osborne and Oken get chances to show their mettle, most strongly in “The River of No Return” and “Old Soldiers’ Disease”.

While stand out tracks are hard to pick out, at any one moment any of them would apply, as of this review, the ones that have stuck with me are “Lights Over Roswell,” which starts out atmospheric – not unlike Steve Roach, with whom they collaborated with on…um,… Collaborator, and strangely reminiscent of the Babylon 5 theme music – but soon morphs in to a rollicking, funky, bouncy sci-fi tune with just enough otherworldliness to earn its title.

The bottom line is this: go out and buy this album. It is the best thing to come out thus far for the 1997-1998 music year.

More about The Devouring:
Released: 1997
Label: Cuneiform

Track Listing: Night Of The Mexican Goat Sucker (7:04) / Forbidden By Rule (5:55) / Lost, But Not Forgotten (7:45) / Lights Over Roswell (6:44) / Myth Of A White Jesus (4:19) / The River Of No Return (8:47) / Room 40 (8:36) / The Indian Problem (5:30) / The Pinzler Method (4:48) / Old Soldier’s Disease (11:04) Total Time: 70:28

Musicians: Gayle Ellett – Guitars, E-Bow, Organ, Keyboards, Mellotrons, Theremin, Wind Talker, Koto, Birds, and Percussion Henry J Osbourne – Basses, Guitars, Keyboards, and Percussion Chuck Oken, Jr – Drums and Keyboard Sequencing Mike Henderson – Guitars (#1, #2, #3 & #5) Judy Garf – Rhythm Violin (#4)

Website: www.djamkaret.com