"Inhabiting a unique sector where Floydian dreamscapes intersect with the jagged complexity of King Crimson and the improv-guitar happenstance of the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service."
"#2 Independent Album Of The Year"
ROLLING STONE Magazine
“Celebrated Southern Californian progressive-rock band Djam Karet has extended the scope of its Firepool Records label by signing Herd of Instinct. With the ensemble's sophomore release for the label, Karet guitarist Gayle Ellett augments the core trio by performing on a vast array of keyboards, and uses the Mellotron as a vehicle to summon a classic '70s prog sound, at times sparking remembrances of vintage King Crimson.This electrifying unit translucently morphs the days of prog-rock yore with an ultramodern scope. No doubt, the artists tread lots of fertile ground and abide by a polyrhythmic manifesto, shadowed by wide-ranging guitar articulations and keys driven textures. The musicians also render wraith-like atmospherics and bone-crunching riffs, disseminated with brief micro-melodies and a soundscape of opposing cadences and shifting paradigms. The outing is supplemented by guest artists, including bassist Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree fame.
Mike Cook's touch-style, Warr guitar lines are prominent throughout. He either employs streaming, extended notes and legato phrasings or crosscuts through the deep bass parts and variable metrics, but not certain if Cook or guitarist Mike Davidson are responsible for the Robert Fripp-like sustain voicings. Regardless, the King Crimson element veers in and out, yet the band's holistic muse also bridges world music, largely evidenced on
"Solitude One, " and features drummer Jason Spradlin's tabla programming that generates a steady Indo-fusion vibe. Here, the band entwines ambient electronica with a pulsating rock groove while implicating a many-sided and borderless environment, surging forth with glittering hues.
"Vargtimmen" kicks off with Cook's slinky electric fretless bass incarnations, followed by a moveable feast of symphonic electronics effects and mystical spoken word. Moreover, Ellett's Mellotron choruses beckon a hint of antiquity within the classic prog vein, equating to an affable vibe that softens the power-packed assault. They finalize the multifarious festivities with the somewhat ominous "The Secret of Fire," rooted on a thriving progression of guitars, synths and keys. Overall, it's a meticulously formulated and superlatively executed engagement that discloses newfound trinkets on subsequent listens. Indeed, a top-shelf product.”
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
“There was a time and place, when I thought that taking a trip required ... something ... to get you going, to get you excited, to allow yourself a moment of madness, of insanity, of ... sometimes there are no words for it ... moments when your inner self, simply goes away with some magickal enchantment, that none of us can properly define, but we love to spend time on it. I can tell you in my mind, how many times I sat down and listened to two very long pieces by Pink Floyd, Amon Duul 2 and others, in 1972 and 1973, and how much I enjoyed them under many conditions. One of the things I learned was to simply close your eyes, and just let the movie happen ... let it pass by you ... and I did. For several years, I listened intently, quietly and introvertedly to these things ... until one day, I knew what the reflections from this firepool of a body were making suggestions that you were all about! The music, happened to be the enzyme that carries you there ... the actual train, as the notes on the flyer suggest, or the virtual rocket that takes you into the stratosphere, where you are ever the camera looking at ... the sky opens once, twice, three times ... and you groom your own psychosis now and then, wondering what all this ritual continuing is all about! Some of us love all that, though some are afraid of it. I had never called, any of these a "trip", surprisingly enough, and I still do not look at them as a "trip", as I consider that "inner" side as important as the outer side, and thus I have always looked at my experience as a city with two tales, or a person with a mind awake and one asleep! And that is reversed during the night when your diream portal awakens! I may have, over the years, lost (something or other), but not forgotten what all this felt like, and the river of no return is really what it all became for me ... the salmon might return, but we never did ... we could "remember" that moment, but we could not re-live it. It became a sacred land arose from the ashes ... a hungry ghost that still gathered your attention now and then ... swimming in a big sky, that never ended, seemed to have some dark clouds, but no rain ... always beautiful if we could take a screenshot of it all ... the ultimate dream portal in one's life. So, it was quite a nice surprise, when I set about listening to "The Trip" ... and found that I was not going to have a single break, and that I was just going to have to close my eyes, and arise from the ashes of my inner slumber, and go camping with my friends in a new land, a sort of no man's land for those that are afraid ... but a visual treat that asks for a new sign, that might even say ... "for mad persons only". So it is, with this piece of music. It's hard to believe that you just about do not hear the drums for at least 15 minutes, but it tells you that we're not in a hurry, that the band does not have to show off its musical prowess to impress you with the music! This is not about the music per se ... it's about the ability to enjoy a ... well ... a trip ... from here to ... and if you have the patience to enjoy and appreciate a continuity of sounds telling you a story that you can create similar to the one I just told you, then this is for you and then some. It's too easy to say that this is just like those old days 40 years ago, when you had Pink Floyd doing these long things, you had Krautrock doing some eye-popping live experimentations, and of course, you had some reviewers telling you that something sounded like a washing machine, too, but they never bothered to go listen to their wives' washing machine doing their laundry ... later Faust in Germany made sure we knew the difference! It might be suggested that during these 47 minutes or so, that a lot of different moods and styles come and go, and have your head go all Michelangelo, but in the end, amidst all the parts, that I refuse to call "solos" ... to me they are NOT, they are a visual illustration of the music's own story! ... there are many moments where you can hear many different areas of this band ... I can hear "Collaborator" once or twice, I can hear "Burning the Hard City" once or twice, I can hear ... many different parts, but ... what I'm hearing is not even related to those early parts ... this has a life of its own. If there is a favorite part of this, for me, is the "No Commercial Potential" idea ... this is a complete piece that starts and comes to an end 48 minutes later ... if you are used to a more commercial concept and idea of music, you will not likely enjoy this at all, and the total dedication to the continuity of this piece until it's time is up, is excellent, and mature, and only shows that you have a band that is capable of defining and designing its music to be something ... that most of us will rarely listen to, hear, or look for. This is DJam Karet at its best. Scary isn't it? 25 years of great music ... and still the light shines! Of special note here, and one of the great things about this group, is the way that the guitars compliment each other. You are not likely to hear two more different guitars do so much and alternate parts so strongly as they do here, together, or separately! As I used to say, this is a welcome to the church of the electric guitar ... but now I have to update the statement to "welcome to the church of the inner language courtesy of Djam Karet!" On the press release, there were some notes that give you a better idea of how "progressive" this band is, and how they did this work which has almost always been a throwback to the 1970's and the energy that those folks had when they did their work. You'll be glad to know that never has it sounded so good, and that "progressive" is alive and well in the hands of a group that knows what it means ... and makes sure they can take you there! That name? Djam Karet. The album? "The Trip". Sometimes, listening to music is an experience for which there are not enough words, there are not enough paints, and there are not enough notes ... with which to describe it. All you can do is ... sit ... and listen and then listen some more ... and then listen some more ... and this is what all the best trips always do you to and I, isn't it?”
"The Indonesian subtitle “Itu perjalanan – Keluar dari pikiran anda” roughly translates to “The trip – Outside of your thoughts,” which is an appropriate starting point in describing this latest offering from Djam Karet, a single forty-seven minute multi-part suite for five multi-instrumentalists. After listening to this a dozen or so times and trying to count and itemize all the different sections as the piece progresses and evolves, the music quickly draws me in and I completely lose track of where I am, instead becoming part of that organic flow and constant evolution, riding the flux and ending up in some completely different place where the mechanics of the composition is irrelevant. Those who are familiar with Djam Karet’s previous work – everything from the floating ambient to the incisive rock, will be right at home within this expanded sonic wonderworld. The band is now officially a five piece, with Mike Murray (from Hillmen) joining on guitar, while Gayle Ellett has moved over to keyboards and flute almost exclusively; the only thing he plays with strings now is the Greek bouzouki (a larger member of the mandolin family.) Since several sections of this epic feature lengthy quiet passages, drummer Chuck Oken now spends more time with synths, samples and processing. Mike Henderson and Aaron Kenyon, on guitar and bass respectively, round out this new five-piece version of the band. This one was mixed differently that most of the band’s previous efforts, in that even in the heavier guitar parts, one can still hear all the sonic detail and layering of the other instrumentation in the background. If there ever was an album that was made for headphone listening, this is most certainly it."
“The American instrumental five-piece, Djam Karet, have been garnering a cult following since their formation back in 1984. “The Trip” is their sixteenth release though just their second in eight years, and they’ve incisively sidestepped a need for commercial success by making it a single 47 minute track. “The Trip” shows that Djam Karet still hold a torch for their 1970’s forefathers – namely England’s space-prog rockers, King Crimson or Pink Floyd and Germany’s electronically inclined Cluster, Tangerine Dream and Harmonia - and continue to mine cannabinoid landscapes for strange and mysterious leads. They have augmented the classic prog line-up of guitar, bass, drums and synths with digital and analogue effects, samples, fielding recordings, flute and bouzouki. Their craft is to fuel the imagination, to transport the listener through time, space and esoteric places, where the insular flight paths journey from electro-laced fields, through skies of everlasting radio waves, touch down briefly for alien, futuristic and windswept fantasies, and occasional earthbound stoner rock-outs. So load your pipe, stick your headphones on, and head out into the intergalactic airwaves.”
LEICESTER BANGS (UK)
“¡DJAM KARET vuelve a la carga! Es la buena nueva de hoy, la gloriosa noticia del momento: DJAM KARET vuelve al ruedo fonográfico y lo hace con un álbum como “The Trip”, un ambicioso viaje progresivo de más de tres cuartos de hora de duración encapsulado dentro de la concepción de una sola pieza. El quinteto de Gayle Ellett [sintetizadores análogos y digitales, órgano, mellotrón, bouzouki, flauta, grabaciones de campo y efectos], Mike Henderson [guitarras eléctricas, E-Bow y efectos], Aaron Kenyon [bajo de 5 cuerdas y efectos], Mike Murray [guitarras eléctricas y acústica, E-Bow y efectos] y Chuck Oken, Jr. [batería, percusión, sintetizadores análogos y digitales, samples y procesamientos de sonido] vuelve a remecer el mundo progresivo contemporáneo desde su rincón californiano para darle un nuevo giro de tuerca a su propuesta ecléctica que lo ha convertido en uno de los grupos infaltables a la hora de definir los mayores aportes de la escena estadounidense al escenario progresivo desde los tiempos del revival 90ero. Ingenio creativo, eficacia performativa y vitalidad incombustible: tres ingredientes esenciales para hacer rock experimental significativo, tres ingredientes infaltables en cualquier disco de DJAM KARET, y éste es el momento del disco “The Trip”. Vale adelantar que la orientación temática del disco se orienta abundantemente hacia el predominio de lo atmosférico (al modo de discos anteriores como “Suspension & Displacement” y “Ascension: Dark New Age Vol. 2”), una interesante variación frente al crudo vigor del disco de 3 años atrás “The Heavy Soul Sessions”. El primer pasaje de “The Trip” está basado en una consonancia etérea de guitarra acústica y ornamentos de sintetizadores que permiten una interesante cruza de espiritualidad cósmica y relajamiento bucólico. Luego, sin abandonar la aureola de languidez cósmica, la pieza vira hacia sonoridades un poco más tenebrosas, al modo de una expectativa ante el surgimiento de algo misterioso que puede resultar trepidantemente ominoso; pero finalmente, todo desemboca en un paraje ensoñador con matices grisáceos dentro de una amalgama serena de arpegios de guitarra y capas de teclados, al modo de un matrimonio de PINK FLOYD y TANGERINE DREAM. Hasta aquí los primeros 12 minutos y medio del álbum, tras los cuales el grupo inicia una nueva fase con un retorno a los recursos tenebrosos dentro de un enclave cósmico que reincide en el factor krautrock electrónico, armando así la vía de entrada para un jam lento que tiene mucho de Floydiano, y también algo de AGITATION FREE bajo un enfoque sutilmente emparentado con el post-rock. Recién a poco de pasada la barrera del minuto 17 es que se dejan notar los primeros toques de platillos, mientras las dos guitarras y el bajo van acomodando la futura cadencia básica bajo el manto de texturas sostenidas provistas por el órgano Hammond. Y justo en el peaje del minuto 18 _ es que la batería entra a tallar decisivamente para completar la corporeidad del nuevo motivo. En situaciones como ésta, DJAM KARET sabe mostrar su vitalidad dentro de un contexto explícitamente lánguido que principalmente invita a reflexiones introspectivas: los fraseos de las guitarras solistas alternadas fluctúan entre la sutileza elegante de un GILMOUR y la vibración señorial de un BECK-con-HENDRIX. Esta sección duró casi 10 minutos, y lo hizo revelando por enésima vez el poder que tiene la fuerza de convicción de este grupo para explorar inteligentemente un motivo de base sencilla para convertirla en algo sofisticado en sus propios términos. Un pasaje cósmico posterior inserta un epílogo momentáneo que nos lleva a terrenos oscuros donde la quietud es realidad inquietud y la calma onírica oculta una energía tenebrosa en su trasfondo (una atmósfera que nos recuerda en parte a la atmósfera general de “Eraserhead”). Poco antes de llegar a la frontera del minuto 33 _, la banda genera una nueva fase musical en “The Trip”, y para variar, lo hace focalizándose en un minimalismo lisérgico de carácter cinematográfico: en este caso específico, la novedad es que hay ciertas intervenciones de piano que nos permiten intuir algo de lirismo en medio de la niebla sónica que se va desarrollando. Y de repente… llegamos a la sección rockera del álbum, un jam contundente donde los lenguajes del space-rock, el rock pesado de raigambre bluesera y el jazz-rock se funden en una comunión exaltada de extroversión y agilidad. Henderson y Murray se lucen pletóricamente en sus respectivos solos de guitarra, estratégicamente ubicados para que en algún momento pueda Ellett establecer su peculiar dinámica en un fantástico solo de sintetizador. El dinamismo desarrollado en este jam es irresistiblemente magnético, siendo evidentemente diseñado para fungir como clímax decisivo del disco. En efecto, tras el golpe final de batería, solo queda un epílogo definitivo de dos minutos centrados en un reprise del motivo acústico que había servido de punto de inicio: el final de este viaje progresivo llega arropado bajo una aureola de calma que apunta a manifestar una sensación de serena satisfacción después del frenesí. 47 minutos y 8 segundos de esplendor sónico progresivo: esto es lo que nos ofrece DJAM KARET con “The Trip”… y no podía ser de otra manera. Parece mentira que ya hayan pasado 29 años desde que el primer encuentro de Gayle Ellett, Henry J. Osbourne, Chuck Oken, Jr. y Mike Henderson en el Pitzer College motivara la gestación de esta banda, pero aquí la tenemos otra vez, llevando a cuestas una trayectoria donde se alternaron momentos de prolífica creatividad con otros de letargo, pero siempre con miras a mantener vivo el sueño del rock progresivo de hacer del rock algo trascendente para la mente y el espíritu. Ha sido todo un viaje hasta ahora… y por lo visto, ¡lo seguirá siendo!”
Nuevo Vaije Y Nuevis Trayectos Para (Peru)
“First thing you notice about this album is that there's just one track. A band who've not shied away from long tracks in the past, but this is way beyond that the thing is 47 minutes long yep, 47 minutes!!! Bearing in mind that the last studio album was 8 years back, from an instrumental quintet who boasted a twin electric guitar frontline and wasn't afraid to use it, I guessed we'd be in for some serious guitar jamming, leads, riffs and all, backed by complex rhythms and the arsenal of keys and synths providing the textural depth. No sirreee Bob this another beast altogether................ When it opens with cosmic washes into which delicately played acoustic guitar, equally serene wailing synthesizer and flute combine to create a thing of tranquility, you think ah yes the intro any minute now, they'll erupt. But they don't........ Rhythm-less space-tronics create cosmic music that's got a river of subtle textures flowing through it as all of a sudden, the guitar chimes like a bell, echoed and sounding electro-acoustic, ripples of chords hanging in the air as the mood intensifies, still the darkness of the cosmos at the back, but now the guitars expanding the horizons, still rhythm (section) free. The synth wanders in and creates a stretched-out semblance of a melody, slow as to be spacey, fast enough not to be amorphous, the layers of textures, soundscapes and slowly flowing half-melodies, a thing of great beauty as it all pervades your consciousness with absolute bliss, albeit a kind of dark, drifting bliss, but bliss all the same. It's genuinely mesmerising stuff, gradually building and layering, flowing inexorably forward, as fine and as rare an example of cosmic progressive music as you'll find. In comes the sparsest of bass lines, as the guitars continue to peal like bells in the distance and the synth continues to be the central focus. All manner of fx and seventies Cosmic Joker-styled atmospherics kick into place as the whole thing comes to a halt to reveal the sound of angels, as heaven is reached and mellotron signals the arrival of the quietly shimmering electric guitar, even more like the first Cosmic Jokers album only with more cohesion and starker. A kind of yawning monster of a sound rises from the depths amid guitars twinkling like stars, sustained guitar textures, deep bass and distant cosmic synths. Then all is quiet once again. Finally, the sound of a chiming guitar melody is heard in the far distance, an organ commands the congregation to assemble as we touch down in some long-forgotten church in a galaxy light years from here. As you walk through, the sound of guitars and organ, deep bass and beautifully understated guitar chime, wrap around you like a warm glow, all still full of emotion and quietly spacey yet constantly travelling. A drum beats, an electric guitar rises up and finally, there's a bite to the soundsculpting as this wondrous sea of melodies arrives from the two guitars, the drumming slow and funereal, the guitars restrained yet electrifying, the organ still in the background, the bass more felt than heard, and the effect is pure vintage Pink Floyd at its absolute finest, only with two guitars and a dirty one, at that. The guitars soar to the skies as another wailing moog-like melody sails into view, the drumming now accelerating slightly as the piece takes on a slight Camel-esque hue before the bass moves upfront briefly, the drumming tumbles over itself and the mood returns to dark tranquility, still not losing the chiming guitars and the synth melodies along the way. The way this music evolves is simply breathtaking and, at no point, not even for a second, do you lose the way, lose concentration or become anything than utterly mesmerised by the sheer breadth of playing and structure, atmosphere and emotion, textures, melodies and rhythms now flowing as one with purpose and conviction. The Floyd feel is there, as the organ moves a bit more upfront, but the spirited twin guitar leads give much more of an electrifying feel than Gilmour could ever do on his own, as heated leads break out of orbit like solar flares escaping from the sun. Slowly it returns to its cosmic happy place as the drums die away. With the sound of twangy bass, eerie synths, what sounds like tubular bells, a new passage stands before us, darker than before, threatening yet curious, as the bell resounds, calling the aliens to prayer, textural electric guitar adding to the sounds of the cosmos, as this vast but eerie horizon stretches out before you in an almost infinite gaze. The sound of the blackness of the universe comes into being. Then with a sudden sound like the beginning of Floyd's Echoes (very briefly), and with a swirling synth gurgling down the plughole, outer space starts to resound with distant thunder, a hum appears, disappears, an electronic texture arises, sails forward then echoes and disappears. This time the piano-like note heralds the arrival of more layers of electronics and cosmic guitar as things remain tranquil, only for the sound of a phased synth to slide into view, very sparse and distant, and all the time, without any semblance of rhythm, you're inexorably hooked on what you're hearing. All of a sudden, the drums pound in and the synth swirls and glides, as the bass takes up the rock solid reigns, the organ provides the melodic background as the guitars take off like a rocket and this blistering set of melodic electric guitar attack, finally lets the band loose on a huge sounding passage of driving, dramatic and, above all, highly emotive and engaging, example of jamming prog-rock with both feet firmly planted in the heady days of the seventies, yet somehow sounding fresh and invigorating after all that's gone before, the tension finally lifted as the rocket blasts off into a new and exciting galaxy. Wailing synths add to the intensity as the rhythm section fly forward. It's exciting, biting and highly charged, never once losing your attention, on what is quite a long passage. Finally it all goes out of sight into the far reaches of space as you're left with cosmic music and then the sound of the same instrumental structures and sounds that began the album, bookending things to perfection. No need to sum up. I think you get my drift......and that of the band, too....superb!!!”
DEAD EARNEST (Scotland)
"Wer sich auf The Trip einlässt, dem neuen Album der wohl besten Jam-Rock Band überhaupt, erreicht ein neues Bewusstsein jenseits der Vorstellungskraft. Nun ja, sagen wir es mal so, die Musik bringt dich zum Träumen und Dahinschweben. Breite Soundscapes, psychedelische Melodiebögen, aber auch trippige Klangspektren sorgen für eine unterhaltsame Dreiviertelstunde. Die Fans von Pink Floyd, aber auch Tangerine Dream könnten wohl am meisten angesprochen werden. Aber auch die Jam Rock Fans, von denen es scheinbar nicht wenige gibt, werden ihre Legenden feiern. Djam Karet gibt es schon seit 1984 und während es in den letzten Jahren etwas ruhiger um die Band wurde und die einzelnen Mitglieder sich mit diversen Soloprojekten über Wasser hielten, hat man sich nun wieder zusammengerauft und The Trip eingespielt. Analoge Keyboardsounds kämpfen mit facettenreichen Gitarrenmotiven um die Gunst des Zuhörers. Sogar ein bluesiges Gitarrensolo darf nicht fehlen. Da der Sound von Djam Karet auch über reichlich Effekte und atmosphärische Zustände definiert wird, sollte man sich am besten hinsetzen, die Augen schliessen und sich diesem Abenteuer mit voller Hingabe widmen. Kann die Seele befreien. Habs probiert!__Die Cd gibt es direkt bei der Band aber auch auf Bandcamp in digitaler Form. Da das Album nur zwischen 10 und 12 Dollar kostet, kann ich es nur empfehlen, die Band zu untersützen._Geiler Sound! 41/2 stars out of 5 TRANSLATED into ENGLISH “If you get involved in The Trip, the new album by probably the best jam rock band ever, you will have reached a new consciousness beyond the imagination. The music makes you dream, float and lose oneself. Wide soundscapes, psychedelic melodies, but also trippy sound effects provide an entertaining three-quarter hour. Fans of Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, would be most impressed. But it is the jam rock fans, of which there are apparently quite a few, who are celebrating their legends with this release. Djam Karet has been around since 1984 and while it has been a little quiet around the band in recent years, and the individual members have been busy with various solo projects, they have gathered forces again and recorded The Trip. Analog keyboard sounds compete with multi-faceted guitar motifs for the attention of the listener. Even a bluesy guitar solo should not be missed. As the sound of Djam Karet is filled with effects and atmospheric conditions, one should best sit down, close your eyes and dedicate yourself to this adventure with full devotion. It can liberate the soul. Try it! The CD is available directly from the band but also on Bandcamp in digital form. Since the album will only cost 10-12 dollars, I can only recommend that you support this band. Great sound!”
4 1/2 stars out of 5
"Avec cette pochette très space, nous pourrions croire à un nouveau disque de HAWKWIND ! Mais non, il s'agit en fait du nouvel et 16e album (déjà!) du groupe instrumental américain DJAM KARET, composé de Gayle ELLETT, Chuck OKEN Jr, Mike HENDERSON, Mike MURRAY et Aaron KENYON. Et en effet, il faut bien une fusée comme sur la pochette pour s'envoler loin dans l'espace infini, là où le groupe se propose de nous emmener avec The Trip. C'est un voyage long et plutôt aventureux, constitué d'une seule pièce de 47 minutes alimentée de guitares acoustique et électrique, de synthés analogiques et digitaux, de flûte, d'orgue, de mellotron, voire de bouzouki grec, et d'un tas d'effets... DJAM KARET part pour une exploration qui ne laissera pas indifférent les amoureux d'une certaine musique des années 1970 et de soundscapes. Cette pièce regorge d'inventivité et d'intensité, mélangeant un tas de styles, de sons et d'atmosphères. Entre passages acoustiques, moments purement progressifs ou électroniques/cosmico-planants et quelques fulgurances vraiment très rock (surtout vers la fin), le groupe aime explorer et s'engouffre assez brillamment dans cette tradition des grands albums des seventies, allant du psychédélisme floydien au krautrock et à la musique cosmique."
TRAVERSES MAGAZINE (France)
“As the music industry goes further into a niche marketplace and with websites such as Amazon, BandCamp and CDBaby, it is becoming much easier for bands and artists to release their material directly to their fan base. This has become essential for many in the progressive and electronic rock genres, and the past few years have seen bands themselves take total control of their catalog, releasing it privately. For Djam Karet, this idea is both a new and an old one for them. Their first few recordings (from 1985's 'No Commercial Potential' through 1994's 'Collaborator') were released on their own label, HC Productions (named after the band which was the precursor to Djam Karet, Happy Cancer). After a nearly 15 year stint with Baltimore based Cuneiform Records, during which the band released such legendary albums a 1997's 'The Devouring' and 2001's 'A Night For Baku', the band has decided to once again take things in house for their newest studio album (and their first new material since 2005), 'The Trip'. Following the band's performance at the 2009 Crescendo Festival in France, the band (which at the time consisted of Gayle Ellett on keys, Mike Henderson and Mike Murray on guitars, Aaron Kenyon on bass and Chuck Oken, Jr on drums and keys) first decided to celebrate their back catalogue with 2010's 'The Heavy Soul Sessions'. Released on their own HC Productions label (their first since the 2004 reissue of 'No Commercial Potential'), 'The Heavy Soul Sessions' is a no holds look at how the band's current lineup attacked much of the band's back catalog at the Crescendo Festival. With that out of their system, the California based group put their sights on writing new material that would expose both sides of the psyche that is the band's trademark. "The Trip" is a single 47 minute track, but it doesn't feel that long as you listen to it. In many ways, it's the 21st century version of Genesis's "The Waiting Room" (from the landmark 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'), but it's not meant as an homage in any respect, rather, it was done completely subconsciously. In fact, when this was mentioned to Oken, he just laughed and said "if it is, we certainly didn't think of it!" Whether it be Kenyon's thundering bass or Ellett's tasteful keyboard lines, 'The Trip' is an album that you cannot get with simply a single listen. Oken's mastery of his modular system, not to mention his drumming in the latter part of the track, is the bed where the others can truly shine. The band is no stranger to ambient music, first evidenced in full bloom on the 1991 album 'Suspension & Displacement'). Most of "The Trip" purposely harkens back to the band's youth in the 70s, smoking dope and listening to old Pink Floyd albums. When the band finally grooves in the final third of the album, it's almost a welcome release to the build up of the previous half hour. With Djam Karet about to celebrate their 30th anniversary, it would have been easy to rest on the laurels of their older material and ride into the sunset. In speaking to Chuck Oken about this, he dismisses the notion fairly quickly. "That's simply not Djam Karet," he states. "The moment we settle for what is there's no need to move forward with Djam Karet. 'The Trip' is as honest of a statement as the five of us can make as to who and where we are in 2013." Djam Karet is a band that simply refuses to compromise, and 'The Trip' is just another chapter in the band's promise to themselves, and their fans, to never sell themselves short. Intent listening is required, as the band has insisted on subtle nuances that make 'The Trip' a feast for your ears. For headphones only, indeed.”
"Ésta es la 16ª realización oficial (^) de DJAM KARET, grupo estadounidense consolidado por Gayle ELLETT (sintetizadores análogos y digitales, órgano, melotrón, bouzouki griego, flauta traversa, grabaciones de campo, efectos), Mike HENDERSON (guitarras eléctricas, E–bow, efectos de sonido), Aaron KENYON (bajo eléctrico de 5 cuerdas, efectos de sonido), Mike MURRAY (guitarras eléctricas, guitarra acústica, E–bow, efectos de sonido) y Chuck OKEN Jr. (batería, percusiones, sintetizadores análogos y digitales, secuencias de sonido), quienes se arriesgaron a crear el que podría ser su álbum más ambicioso hasta la fecha. "The Trip" «El Viaje», es exactamente eso: un viaje. Y es que en sus 47'07" de duración, la música que DJAM KARET ofrece te remonta a la fantástica psicodelia de los 1970, cuando entendíamos de más de las sutiles implicaciones que significaba inducirse a un viaje como éste. En aquél entonces quien reinaba la escena psicodélica no era otro sino PINK FLOYD, aunque Alemania declaraba su dominio con propuestas electrónicas de trance con proyectos como TANGERINE DREAM y derivados. Bien, pues este disco ("The Trip") te remonta nada más y nada menos hacia esas majestades, sobre todo por las largas y alucinadas introducciones del primero y por los infinitos trances atmosférico–electrónicos de los segundos. Pero limitarse a esa pequeña descripción sería imprudente, pues el álbum no se limita a atmósferas espaciales y a trances rítmicos. La sutil presencia de elementos tanto análogos como acústicos, en este caso destacados por teclados, por bouzouki y por guitarra, le otorgan al característico sonido de la banda un contraste equilibrado y bello. Ahí están los típicos despliegues rítmicos y enérgicos que el grupo ha dominado en cada uno de sus discos, deleitando con fastuosos solos de guitarra y moog, rompiendo la quietud de los paisajes lúdicos creados por la mente. Tal y como dice DJAM KARET, "The Trip" no está destinado a ser un éxito comercial (1). Más bien se trata de una provocativa propaganda para demostrar de qué madera está hecho el grupo, uno que se encuentra ya consolidado y cuyo entendimiento musical entre sus miembros no hace más que generar genialidades musicales que, en este caso muy particular, lo mejor será escuchar bajo el abrigo de unos buenos auriculares. Me parece, pues, que este es el álbum más ambicioso que DJAM KARET ha realizado hasta la fecha, apuntándose en las listas de lo “más mejor” que ha dado el año en cuanto a cosechas de rock progresivo (y música relacionada) se refiere. Por eso, no me queda más que aplaudir de pie esta realización, y otorgarle el reconocimiento Manticornio a lo mejor del rock progresivo este año. Albricias, banda, y ¡larga vida al rey!"
"Lange hat es gedauert, acht Jahre um genau zu sein, bis Djam Karet den Nachfolger von "Recollection Harvest" präsentieren (das 2010 erschienene "The Heavy Soul Sessions" sieht auch die Band selbst nicht als reguläres Studioalbum an). Die Besetzung hat sich in all den Jahren kaum verändert (Mike Murray kam für Mike Osborne) und auch in musikalischer Hinsicht liegen keine Welten zwischen beiden Scheiben. Allerdings sind die auf "The Trip" zu findenden Klänge im Vergleich zum Vorgänger etwas elektronischer und ätherischer ausgefallen. Ein über dreiviertelstündiges Stück gibt es auf "The Trip" zu hören, das sich als elektronisch-retroprogressiv-spaciges Gewebe darstellt, das eher verhalten, fast entspannt, aber auch sehr klangvoll und detailreich aus den Boxen wabert. Der hier vertonte Trip war wohl eher ein geruhsamer, ein Spaziergang am Strand, ein Schlendern durch die Stadt, eine herbstliche Wanderung oder eine Fahrt entlang der kalifornischen Küste. Ambientartig-Elektronisches bestimmt erst einmal die Scheibe, postrockiges Klangschweben, gemächlich hallende E-Gitarren, flächige Tastensounds, Synthesizergespinste, verhaltenes Basswummern und allerlei elektronisches Wabern, Zirpen und Hallen. Erst nach gut 18 Minuten setzt erstmals ein Schlagzeug ein und es beginnt verhalten zu rocken. Langsam, ganz langsam steigert sich das Tempo, die Musik wird schwungvoller, etwas heftiger und zudem angereichert mit allerlei Tonbandeinspielungen und Geräuschsamples, bis dann gegen 25 Minuten der voluminöse Höhepunkt des Albums erreicht wird. Danach ebbt das Klanggeschehen wieder langsam ab. Nach allerlei eher freiformatigem Klangwabern, -dröhnen, -hallen und -brummen wird dann die letzten 8 Minuten der Suite wieder spacig gerockt, ehe sich das Ganze mit einer kurzen, von Akustikgitarre, Blockflöte (?) und Synthesizer vorgetragenen Phrase (die auch ganz am Anfang von "The Trip" zu hören ist) ausklingt. "The Trip" braucht einige Hördurchläufe, bis man sich an das Stück gewöhnt hat. Beim ersten Hören, wenn man noch nicht so sehr auf Details achtet, scheint sich hier eher wenig zu tun, plätschern die Klänge so vor sich hin. Beginnt man aber etwas konzentrierter zuzuhören, entfaltet sich ein durchaus farbiges Gemenge an elektronischem Klang und eher verhaltenem Rock, das sich stilistisch an die auf "Recollection Harvest" zu findende "Indian-Summer"-Suite anschließt und auch Elemente des Oken-Ellett-Projekts Ukab Maerd verarbeitet, aber nicht ganz so elektronisch wie letzteres ausgefallen ist. Mit "The Trip" haben Djam Karet die beiden für sie typischen, auf früheren Alben eher nebeneinander existierenden Ausdrucksformen, einerseits gitarrenlastigen, retroorientierten Instrumentalprog, andererseits elektronisch-soundscapeartige Klangmalereien, miteinander verschmolzen (allerdings etwas zu Lasten der Elektronik). Das Ergebnis ist ein eher geruhsam voran schreitendes, nicht weltbewegend innovatives oder vom Hocker hauendes, aber durchaus dichtes, klangvolles und vielschichtiges Tonmonument, das Freunden von exotischer Elektronik, Spacig-Psychedelischem, Soundscape-Ambientartigem und atmosphärischem Instrumentalprog zusagen sollte. man kann hier jedenfalls prima abschalten und einfach zuhören, am besten unter dem Kopfhörer!"
BABY BLAUE (Germany)
"Djam Karet’s new album is only 1 track long (47 minutes). It is called a trip, but ranges a bit in style of organisation. There are more melodic themes (like the starting point, with pickings and analogue keyboards), quickly evolving to slower drones and ambience, slowly breathing improvisations which tend to become guitar ambient (like late Richard Pinhas) or even Ambient-like, then more psychedelic and cosmic-music-like, then with more trippy Floydian improvisations finally towards slightly heavier or even progressive excursions with electric or wahwah guitars and drums. Most of the track is slowly evolving, and is even slumbering a bit at times. It doesn’t show itself so clearly into one, not even after two listening experiences. Somewhere it loses itself slightly at times in that slumbering mode, while the rockier trip still returns with all certainty ending the trip in all its heaviness, still to have thee small picking theme with keyboards return coming out of the analogue synth wind and drone, thus closing the circle."
PROGRESSIVE HOMESTEAD (Belgium)
"Los amantes de la psicodelia, del Space Rock y del Kraut-Rock están de enhorabuena, porque los norteamericanos Djam Karet acaban de publicar "The Trip", su disco más cercano a estas músicas. Esta banda, a los que muchos conocimos gracias a ese clásico del rock progresivo de los '90 titulado "The Devouring", regresan tras 8 años sin publicar nuevo material con un disco que contiene un solo tema de 47 minutos de duración. Sale a 17.90 euros y suena realmente bien. os pongo un video con un sampler de casi 10 minutos.
"My head is still reeling after my first Djam Karet experience! After having heard such great things about them, it’s great to finally listen to their new record, the aptly titled, The Trip. Though I’m generally not a fan of ambient music, The Trip kept me riveted and on the edge of my seat for its entire 47 minute duration, evoking images of the days when bands played in the dark to whirling kaleidoscopes of psychedelic lights and smoke machines. Formed in 1984 at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, by guitarists Gayle Ellett and Mike Henderson, bassist Henry J. Osborne (a position now held by Aaron Kenyon), and drummer Chuck Oken, Jr., Djam Karet built their early live reputation by performing an improvised mixture of heavy guitar-driven rock and Indonesian drone music on the LA area college circuit. The band name (pronounced ‘jam Kah-ret’) is an Indonesian word that loosely translates into ‘elastic time’ and since their debut, No Commercial Potential - named after Frank Zappa’s early motto – they have built up a catalog of 15 instrumental albums, plus numerous compilations and EPs. The Trip, their first studio album in eight years, offers a single, 47 minute track, that is smothered in calming atmosphere and texture. Truly masters of subtlety and nuance, Djam Karet are not really a band that plays chords and drumbeats, but are rather consummate manipulators of sound, creating soundscapes that warp time and space, not unlike Rubycon era Tangerine Dream. However, it is not completely ambient – at times the band shifts into a more chordal rock mode, complete with passionate, screaming guitar jams firmly supported by organs and rolling drums, not unlike Live in Pompeii era Pink Floyd. I can truly say with utter honesty that The Trip is simply one of the most unique albums I’ve ever heard and is a sprawling and atmospheric journey that transcends countless moods and locations, even bringing me to few places I’ve never been before – making for an excellent slice of progressive music. Be prepared, however, to give this recording your full attention. This is music best listened to in the dark, in the middle of the night, with the lights off, and (as the band urges) in a set of high quality headphones – but be prepared to be drawn into an all-encompassing journey that will drift you off into a meditative, musical state. In the end, it will reward you with a clear, refreshed mind and an aural experience like none other. Recommended to fans of Tangerine Dream and perhaps Porcupine Tree’s Voyage 34."
"Progressive space rockers Djam Karet have seemingly been around forever, delivering unique, often times jaw dropping displays of atmospheric, jammy, space rock/prog-rock excursions on a long line of solid albums. To much of the world however, they remain completely unknown, but within the underground progressive rock community they have been a much loved and respected band for quite some time. The Trip is their latest release, a CD comprised of one long 47 minute title track. Quite meditative with tranquil soundscapes, spacey keyboard flutterings, and liquid guitar lines & textures, The Trip lacks the more raucous Djam Karet arrangements from some of their previous releases, but still shows them in fine form delivering soothing, atmospheric & spacey material. Gayle Ellet once again provides much of the framework here with his arsenal of analog & digital synths, organ, Mellotron, bouzouki, flute, recorders, and effects (he's turned over guitar duties it seems), but his instruments are used more to create colors and textures rather than lead melodies. The same can be said for guitarists Mike Henderson & Mike Murray, as well as bassist Aaron Kenyon, as their axes create lush cascades of intriguing sounds and effects, not really charging through the mix with any sort of King Crimson styled angular thunder till much later in the epic track, which for some might be bit of a disappointment if you are looking here for six-string heroics. Chuck Oken's percussion work is outstanding yet completely understated; again, just like the rest of the band he's more going for adding colors and textures rather than bombast. Fans of some of the early works of Tangerine Dream or Pink Floyd will no doubt find lots to love here, however, if you need melody and song structure in your progressive rock there's a good chance that 47 minutes of "The Trip" might wear at your patience level a little. Got to give Djam Karet credit though for putting together a epic piece of music that's basically a 'middle finger' to the music masses and mainly for themselves and their ever loyal fan base."
SEA OF TRANQUILITY (UK)
"S'il existe sur la planète un groupe de rock à tendance "progressive" qui, par le caractère invariablement protéiforme et spontané de sa musique, surprend son public à chaque nouvelle parution d'album, c'est bien Djam Karet ! Et comme ce combo originaire des USA reste injustement méconnu dans l'hexagone, malgré une déjà longue et productive carrière, un minimum de présentations s'impose. Djam Karet (dont l'étrange patronyme est composé d'un mot Indonésien que l'on peut traduire par "le temps élastique") a été fondé en 1984 au Pitzer College, un campus de Claremont en Californie, à l'initiative des guitaristes Gayle Ellett et Mike Henderson, du bassiste Henry J. Osborne (qui a quitté le navire depuis), et du batteur Chuck Oken Jr. Au départ, le jeune groupe au propos entièrement instrumental s'intéresse surtout à l'expérimentation et à l'improvisation pure, avec de très nombreuses prestations live à l'appui. Leur style unique, et finalement inclassable jusqu'à aujourd'hui, combine un rock aventureux avec des éléments empruntés aux musiques "drone" et texturales. Au fil du temps et des parutions, le groupe se laissera aller à davantage de concision et de structuration dans son processus créatif, avec à la clef des compositions et des albums plus aboutis (citons ici en point d'orgue l'excellent "Recollection Harvest" de 2005). Gage de qualité, Djam Karet signera à la fin des années 90 chez Cuneiform Records, prestigieux label indépendant américain dédié aux musiques avant-gardistes à base de rock, de jazz, d'électronique, ou de tout cela à la fois ! La maison de disques aura également la bonne idée de rééditer au passage une partie de son back-catalogue, qui comporte quelques bien jolies perles, telles que "The Devouring" ou encore le fabuleux et antagoniste diptyque "Burning The Hard City"/"Suspension & Displacement", meilleur résumé qui soit de tout l'univers Djam Karet ! Le quintet californien nous avait laissé en 2010 avec "The Heavy Soul Sessions", un disque de reprises plutôt flamboyantes de son propre répertoire, exception faite d'un titre de Richard Pinhas, pionnier de la musique électronique française et ex-membre d'Heldon, formation dont l'œuvre générale est à ranger quelque-part entre King Crimson, Can et l'école Zeuhl de Magma. Sur cet album au matériel "revisité" et enregistré en mode "live in the studio" pour une spontanéité optimale, Djam Karet nous délivrait sûrement le versant le plus dynamique de son art, avec une fougue que nous n'avions pas entendue chez eux depuis bien longtemps (un deuxième guitariste permanent y rejoignait le line-up en la personne de Mike Murray). Puissant, groovy, psychédélique, dissonant sans oublier d'être mélodique, regorgeant de guitares tantôt rageuses, atmosphériques, et d'un festival de claviers virevoltants (Hammond et Mellotron en tête), le disque est une nouvelle réussite à créditer à l'actif des californiens. Ces derniers nous reviennent aujourd'hui avec le bien nommé "The Trip", qui n'est autre qu'une unique et longue plage fleuve de 47 minutes, que je qualifierai personnellement d'"ambient-rock" à défaut de "rock-ambient". En effet, j'appliquerais plutôt ce second qualificatif au Porcupine Tree des débuts, dont les chansons aériennes et éthérées incorporaient ici et là (avec un incontestable brio) des éléments empruntés à cette grande famille musicale à part entière, bien souvent totalement incomprise par les amateurs de rock progressif au sens large. Ce n'est d'ailleurs pas un hasard si Djam Karet a collaboré à plusieurs reprises avec Steve Roach, l'un des grands maîtres et chefs de file du genre, artiste que j'affectionne tout particulièrement et grâce à qui j'ai pu découvrir il y a des années ses talentueux compatriotes de la côte Ouest. Avec "The Trip" (qui risque donc d'en désorienter plus d'un !), c'est bel et bien le contraire qui se passe, l'album étant conçu comme une longue pièce texturale et immersive à souhait, à écouter en continu, ponctuée de quelques passages "rock" avec, en guise de climax, un déferlement rythmique "space" et heavy typiquement 70's qui doit tout autant au meilleur Hawkwind qu'aux italiens de Goblin ! En quelques secondes, "The Trip" s'ouvre sur des vents à la "Meddle" (de qui vous savez), quelques bidouillages électro-analogiques dignes d'un vieux film de SF et une mélodie acoustique évoquant les premières fresques pastorales de Mike Oldfield. Puis c'est parti pour un voyage cosmique et imprévisible sans escale, ou l'instrumentation habituelle du rock s'entremêle avec des nappes atmosphériques et des bruitages synthétiques, sans oublier quelques très jolies contributions acoustiques signées Gayle Ellett (à base de flûte et bouzouki), qui ponctue également "The Trip" de textures naturelles enregistrées par ses soins. L'album comblera de bonheur les fans des premiers Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Popol Vuh (ambiance "Aguirre" signalée à 12'17 !), mais aussi de sonorités plus modernes, avec en références le Porcupine Tree planant, Bass Communion (Steven Wilson, encore !), voire le Future Sound Of London de la période "Lifeforms". La production sonore signée Gayle Ellett et Chuck Oken Jr est assez remarquable, et le "trip" n'en sera que meilleur avec un bon casque rivé sur le crâne, en position allongée et les yeux fermés, paré pour le voyage intérieur. Stimulé par les méandres d'une musique passionnante en constant mouvement, entre envolées psychédéliques jubilatoires et apaisements climatiques, votre imaginaire risque de vous réserver de bien agréables surprises ! Si vous ne connaissez pas encore Djam Karet malgré une longévité qui n'altère en rien son étonnante forme créative, le contemplatif et émotionnel "The Trip", joyeux cocktail ambient, prog et krautrock, est une excellente occasion de vous y mettre… Enfin!"
CLAIRE & OBSCUR (France)
“For the past 29 years Topanga, California has been the home base for Djam Karet, one of America's premiere instrumental progressive rock groups. And in that nearly three decade span the band has churned out an impressive discography of 16 albums, as well as several side and solo projects (two of which I reviewed here at Prognaut in December of 2011: Henderson/Oken - “Dream Theory In The IE” and The Hillmen - “The Whiskey Mountain Sessions”). With the 2013 release “The Trip”, this may well be their finest ambient electronic soundscape. Over the years Djam Karet have displayed something of a dual personality, initiated by the release of two extremely diverse albums in 1991 - “Burning The Hard City” and “Suspension & Displacement”. The two releases were so completely different that it's easy to assume the albums might well have been recorded by two separate bands. “Burning The Hard City” was an all out sonic assault, with the guitar crunching power and fury of “Larks Tongue In Aspic” era King Crimson. While “Suspension & Displacement” was a darkly ominous electronic soundscape more in keeping with the spacey electronics of German synthesizer bands like Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Temple. This split personality has been something of a trademark for the band as they alternate between a raucous guitar-driven wall of sound and sedate cinematic soundscapes. “The Trip” is a n extended 47 minute single track, mixing acoustic instruments such as flute, guitar, and bouzouki with the interstellar otherworldly textures of Moog and Mellotron, creating a sonic dreamscape reminiscent of the experimental electronic music of Klaus Schulze, Meddle era Pink Floyd, Tim Blake, Steve Roach, Harvey Baindridge, Cluster, Louis and Bebe Barron - creators of the ‘Electronic Tonalities’ employed in the 1956 electronic score “Forbidden Planet”, Amin Bhatia (composer of “The Interstellar Suite), Frippertronics, an on occasion Ozric Tentacles. In their press release the band likens “The Trip” to a 70s' head-phone stoner album. And in order to capture a more dynamic analog sound, the band employed no digital compression or limiting during the production of the album. So naturally I donned a pair of head-phones, turned out the lights, and proceeded to give it a listen. And what I discovered was a true retro recording that harkens back to an era when a pair of microphones were positioned in two corners of a small basement recording studio, plugged directly into a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and the band performed live with everything picked-up by the two microphones. I'm speaking from experience. I can remember my earliest recording sessions in the mid-70s' when our band's practice sessions were recorded in just this way. Microphones dangled from the cross-brace of an acoustic ceiling tile grid, picking-up every extraneous sound from both upstairs and down - footsteps, my kids shouting at one another, a barking dog, the creak of a squeaky wha-wha pedal, the audible sound of my fingers plunking on the keyboards, the popping of a soda can followed afterward by a loud burp, impromptu arguments, and occasionally poorly recorded music from a group of mediocre musicians. But unlike our crude muddy recording sessions the faux retro recording techniques on Djam Karet's “The Trip” emulates the simple two mic recordings I'm reminded of when listening to the mix, yet in this case the music is crisp and clear with plenty of separation. A perfect headphone experience. But just as with our primitive recording techniques, the drum kit on “The Trip” is pushed into the background, with the bulk of the drumming captured by the nearest microphone. There is no distinct stereophonic separation of the kit as in most modern recordings. While this might sound like a complaint (and normally it would be) in this case it's actually a compliment as the band manages to recreate the very essence of those early stoner albums by capturing the raw unvarnished sound of the era. Psychedelic Head Music in it's purest form. And it should be noted that the drums are sparingly used throughout the recording of “The Trip”. Percussionist Chuck Oken makes his first appearance at the 18:30 mark in the album providing little more than a slow beat, which goes on for another ten minutes before falling silent again. He then returns with a flourish at 38:08 mark as the band transitions from the sedate ambient soundscapes that dominate the album to hard driving rock and roll. It's here where the split personality of Djam Karet takes hold, transforming the group from the sedate Dr. Jekyll of “Suspension & Displacement” to the raucous alter ego Mr. Hyde responsible for the smoking albums “The Devouring”, “Burning The Hard City”, and “Reflections From The Firepool”. I'm not sure if this was recorded in one continuous take as a free-form jam session, with overdubs added later, but it sure flows with the spontaneity of a marathon jam session. And it's not till that 18:30 minute mark when the band comes together to rock out, that there appears to be some semblance of a pre-determined composition coming into play. On my first listen I was immediately reminded of the Alisa Coral's space rock album “Neutron Star”. Like Djam Karet's “The Trip”, her use of analog and digital synthesizers on “Neutron Star” provide a similar texture of ominous drones, sequenced blips and beeps, eerie modulating echoes, washes of ambient orchestral soundscapes, and sweeping Mellotron choirs, giving a trance like heartbeat and Cosmic Voice to the expanding galaxy. Imagine dangling a pair of microphones from the Voyager space probe as it hurtles through the vastness of space, recording this Voice of the Cosmos. “The Trip” is that recording - an aural voyage beyond the looking glass piloted by the five talented musicians who make up Djam Karet: Gayle Ellett (analog & digital synths, organ, Mellotron, Greek bouzouki, flute, field recordings and effects), Mike Henderson (electric guitars, ebow and effects), Aaron Kenyon (electric 5-string bass and effects), Mike Murray (electric guitars, acoustic guitars, ebow and effects), and Chuck Oken Jr. (drums & percussion, analog & digital synths, live samples and processing). Not only do I highly recommend the album to fans of adventurous experimental music … but I also suggest you get yourself a good set of head-phones to experience the full effect.”
“With almost 30 years of activity and 16 albums behind them, southern Californian quintet Djam Karet (Indonesian for "elastic time") are one of the few progressive rock bands formed in the early Eighties that did not subscribe to the neo-prog aesthetics, and, instead of opting for a revival of the classic symphonic prog modes of the previous decade, went for a completely instrumental (and, at least in the early years of their career, improvisational) format. This choice earned them a mention in Edward Macan's seminal book on the genre, Rocking the Classics, as one of the most promising instances of "post-classic" prog, embodying the archetype of the cult band that has never compromised its artistic integrity to cater to current trends. After releasing a steady stream of albums for the best part of 20 years, the band's activity seemingly ground to a halt after the release of Recollection Harvest in 2005 - with the sole exception of their "live-in-the-studio" album The Heavy Soul Sessions, released in 2010. In the meantime, the band members kept busy by concentrating on various side projects - such as the launch of their independent label, Firepool Records, which saw the debut one of the decade's finest new bands, Texan outfit Herd of Instinct (whose second album, Conjure, features Gayle Ellett as a full-fledged member). Often tagged as a "proto-jam band" - a definition that is at the same time accurate and somewhat misleading, suggesting to some a kinship with commercially successful modern jam bands such as Phish or Umphrey's McGee - Djam Karet's recording output has always been the epitome of eclecticism, ranging from angular, intricate King Crimson-inspired pieces to hypnotic forays into the electronic progressive tradition of Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. The band's interest in ambient and electronic music has also been reflected in the side projects released in recent years, such as Ukab Maerd's The Waiting Room (2010) and Henderson/Oken's Dream Theory in the IE (2011). Though not exactly prolific in terms of live appearances, the five current members of Djam Karet - founders Ellett (keyboards, bouzouki, flute, field recordings and effects), Mike Henderson (electric guitars, e-bow, effects) and Chuck Oken, jr. (drums, percussion, synths, live samples and processing), plus Aaron Kenyon (5-string bass, effects) and Mike Murray (electric guitars, acoustic guitar, e-bow, effects) - have been playing together long enough to have achieved an almost uncanny synergy, in which no instrument prevails on the other, but all strive together to create a sound that is intense and atmospheric at the same time. As Djam Karet's first album of completely new material in almost 8 years, The Trip - whose title rings as a clear statement of intent - was highly awaited by the band's loyal following and fans of instrumental progressive rock. Cleverly introduced by vintage-flavoured cover artwork referencing the Indonesian origin of the band's name, it combines the electric and the electronic strains of their inspiration, exploring hauntingly sparse soundscapes before launching into a full-tilt psychedelic rock workout. In a dauntingly bold move, the album features one single track, a 47-minute composition which, however, is divided into four clearly recognizable sections. In spite of the heavy reliance on electronics, The Trip comes across as warm and organic rather than mechanical, and in that it works much better than the slightly chilly (though flawlessly executed) output of early Porcupine Tree. While unabashedly retro in inspiration, it also possesses a timeless feel of its own, and its intriguingly cinematic sweep reflects Gayle Ellett's extensive experience as a composer of movie and TV soundtracks. Like those Seventies albums to which it proudly pays homage, The Trip is a quintessential headphones album - one that deserves the listener's full attention, rather than being left to run in the background. The composition's extended ambient/electronic build-up is made of short, almost self-contained passages in which the electric and the acoustic components complement the electronic one - a sonic patchwork that may at first feel a bit disjointed, but will gain its own internal coherence from repeated listens. After almost 20 minutes, drums finally emerge, together with organ and electric guitar, describing a slow, stately tune that may bring to mind Pink Floyd circa Meddle. Then things revert briefly to the spacey, trippy mood of the first section, with a sparse, improvisational feel - before a veritable eruption of sound led by Chuck Oken's drums signals the beginning of a Hawkwind-meets-Pink Floyd electric cavalcade. Fast-paced and exhilarating, this final section displays all of the seamless synergy between the band members, eliciting all-round stellar performances, then ending almost abruptly. The album then comes full circle, closing with the same whooshing wind-like sounds and gentle acoustic guitar chords that had introduced the track. The Trip is undoubtedly a fascinating album whose intensely atmospheric, apparently unscripted musical content is also somewhat of an acquired taste, and may therefore put off those who like their prog highly structured and song-based. On the other hand, even if the album's one track may be perceived by some as a lot of pointless noodling, the music is far from being random in compositional terms. Lovers of early Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream and Krautrock - as well as space-rock freaks - will not fail to love The Trip, and hope that Djam Karet will finally come out of hibernation and get back on stage to perform their music before an appreciative audience.”
8 out of 10 stars
DPRP (The Netherlands)
“Major Jason cuts a lonely figure walking across the tarmac, the acoustic guitar refrain written by his good friend Mike for the occasion playing in his ear buds. Suited up and carrying his temporary oxygen supply in what looks from a distance to be a padded briefcase, he seems every inch the commuter on his way from the car park to his office. The main difference being that his place of work, although like thousands of others at the end of an upwards elevator ride, is not at a desk, but buried snugly within the cosseting deep-cushioned ejector seat in the nose cone of White Arrow One. His mission; to keep on going, to keep on going, to keep on going... Now strapped in, the intravenous feed coursing liquids through his system that shut off all sensory perception, suspending Jason in anima for the next...no-one quite knows how long. The craft goes through launch and eventually hyperdrive initiation somewhere the other side of the asteroid belt, and reforms at a random point way out there in the vast reaches of interstellar space. Slowly, slowly, Jason becomes aware of his body as life creeps back round his veins, a new invigorating drug replacing the drip fed soma of aeons before. He is aware of a chink of light entering the field of obsidian nothingness that passes for his consciousness. The three suns are rising in the Seventh System. The light is of a strange hue; golds, greens, yellows and blues cascading around a centre of ochre-red. Meteors occasionally flash across the spacecraft's field of vision, the banks of computers winking away as data is mined and stored, hopefully for another human being to interpret at sometime in the future. The stark lights and mad shadows eventually coalesce into a stunningly beautiful vista, and Jason can hear the soaring glid guitar solo Mike played him back at the ranch. Something had launched the hi-fidelity sound system Jason had insisted was installed into his cockpit. In fact, Jason realised it had been playing for the last twenty minutes or so, but as it formed such a fittingly marvellous soundtrack for this opening into another dimension that he was privileged to be witnessing, he had not noticed. It just seemed natural. Smiling to himself, Jason recalled watching his friends in Djam Karet as they recorded their highly polished 47 minutes of unashamedly Floydian but nonetheless modernistic epic space rock back on Earth at White Arrow Studios in California, in what now seemed like a parallel universe, or an implanted memory. Gayle Ellett's stately keyboards and electronica forming the backdrop for the two Mikes' Henderson and Murray's guitar journeys into uncharted territories pinned down by the reassuringly steady and occasionally ominous 5-string bass of Aaron Kenyon, all anchored on Chuck Oken's rock solid rhythms. Now becalmed in deep space, the soundtrack mirrors the endless stillness and unsettling nature of the unknown places in which Jason finds his ship cast adrift, engines shut down, solar panels recharging batteries. "No-one will believe any of this" thinks Jason as visions of faces remembered flash past, his spirit communing with the basic building blocks of life. There is an underlying current of darkness that Jason embraces, no longer afraid. "I'm alone in this tin can" he says aloud and smiles inwardly, and probably outwardly, for there is no-one here to see. Suddenly, the craft kicks into life, driving along on an accompanying motorik rhythm from Chuck; it's time to go home. There are routines for Jason to go through, as the guitars and organ cook up a rip-roaring space-boogie. An unquantifiable amount of time passes, the ship eventually emerging from the hyperdrive portal and back into Earth's orbit; Jason regains consciousness and just in time to catch again the guitar refrain from the start. We have come full circle and a strange but thoroughly enjoyable trip it has been, too.”
8 out of 10 stars
DPRP (The Netherlands)
“Desde mediados de la década 80, que la banda de la psicodelia instrumental estadounidense, viene proponiendo una invitación musical extremadamente interesante, que ha tomado para sí la gran tradición musical del progresivo, el space rock y la electrónica alemana. Tangerine Dream, Heldon, el Pink Floyd temprano, Gong y Ozric Tentacles, sólo por nombrar algunos, son ejemplos de la hermandad histórica, que une al quinteto con un pasado estético y espiritual común. Djam Karet viene trabajando sin parar desde 1984, cuando editaban su música en cassettes y lo entregaban de mano en mano. Es decir, música independiente pura y dura, con una labor que nació realmente desde el underground. El primer disco de la banda, ya editado por HC Recordings en 1985, fue bautizado con el sardónico título de “No Commercial Potential...And Still Getting The Ladies”. Ha pasado mucho tiempo desde aquellos años y la tarea creativa de la agrupación ha sido inquebrantable. Decenas de discos, proyectos paralelos, múltiples colaboraciones y una larga estadía en un sello de la categoría de Cuneiform, son el reflejo de una avidez artística, que no ha menguado en los últimos 30 años. En estricto rigor, “The Trip” es el primer álbum de la banda en estudio en ocho años. Sin embargo, la cifra es engañosa, pues sus miembros, se han mantenido plenamente activos en este tiempo, e incluso, Djam Karet lanzó en 2010, el celebrado álbum “The Heavy Soul Sessions”, con covers y nuevas versiones de algunas piezas de trabajos anteriores. El álbum está compuesto por una sola composición homónima de 47 minutos, que lleva de la mano al auditor por una verdadera experiencia auditiva que pasa por diversos estadios. De este modo, generan una especie de –digamos- rock post-progresivo, en el que los márgenes de uno u otro estilo, se difuminan. (Con post-progresivo no quiero hacer alusión al post-rock, ya que dicha corriente, aunque tiene influencias, por ejemplo, del krautrock, su ética es mucho más cercana al punk y el rock alternativo). Justamente, como primera cosa, habría que decir que las composiciones progresivas en el sentido más común y estricto, han sido reemplazados por verdaderos viajes galácticos, más en la línea de proyectos de electrónica experimental que de los complejos constructos del progresivo o también, del jazz-rock que, en algún momento, formó parte de acervo musical de Djam Karet. Lo que se haya en “The Trip”, son más bien pasajes de jams instrumentales, muy cercanos a sus contemporáneos británicos de Ozric Tentacles. Otro punto en extremo relevante en “The Trip”, es el uso que el quinteto hace de de numerosos instrumentos y la conjunción de las diversas familias, que se escuchan en el álbum. Podemos pasar de la electrónica más espesa, a momentos acústicos de gran luminosidad, hasta llegar a potentes secciones de rock de guitarras. Instrumentos tradicionales como el bouzouki griego o la flauta, se unen a sintetizadores digitales, melotrones, efectos, samples, procesos y, por supuesto, con los instrumentos tradicionales del rock: guitarra, bajo y batería. El resultado es un viaje musical que va directo al subconsciente; que pese a ser estático, paradójicamente, está en perpetuo cambio, en un constante devenir desde y hacia lugares insospechados. Un nuevo álbum, que sigue reafirmando la condición de Djam Karet, como una verdadera institución de libertad artística y compromiso con sus propios valores musicales.”
ROCK AXIS (Chile)
“All Aboard Space Hippies. Get Your Tickets Ready Hypothesise this: A jam session with the Hawkwind lineup from 1972 who have been supplied with limitless amounts of LSD 25, Tangerine Dream in the mindset of their Rubycon days and Cluster who have been convinced that this is a remake of Cluster 2 and an alien hypnotist has been called in from planet Zebulon 9 ( constellation unknown ) all expenses paid to convince them all that they are all virtuoso musicians at the top of their game. It is being secretly recorded and supervised by David Gilmour who is chief engineer, musical consultant and has final say on everything. That's what you have here on this mind blowout. The Trip by Djam Karet is a manifestation of ideas and concepts that tingle, capture and numb everything that has ever occurred within the inner mind and then some. This baby would have Timothy Leary running for cover. The sonic images conjured here make the Jupiter sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey seem like some sort of kids amusement park cheap tunnel of horrors. Pure frightening brilliance.”
5 out of 5 stars
“American giants of instrumental progressive rock return with their brand new album, The Trip. The album contains one single epic track. When you put on The Trip, you almost feel it's not the same jam band that made the last album, which was both heavy and very technical. This one is quite soft and more reminiscent of their electronic side project Ukab Maerd. The music does go into Pink Floyd mode in the middle with some electric guitar soloing and proggy goodies, but the laid-back atmosphere remains. They keep their focus or to put it better, purpose. There's a real sense of purpose throughout the album, as if the guys know exactly where this trip is going, even though it might seem like it's taking a long time to come to its point for some people. Only the ending is reserved for some heavier stuff, more appetising for fans of classic prog rock. The album is like swimming in a peaceful ocean. It's a long way from boring though. The ocean might be serene, but it's full of interesting creatures and wondrous activities. There are some livelier events along the way, but the ethereal flow and the feeling of floating is never disrupted. Djam Karet's trip seems to be more spiritual than actual, however I think the music is all the better for it. I applaud them for going into yet another unexpected direction and creating a fascinating album with The Trip. I have to say I was surprised, but pleasantly.”
9 out of 10.
THE ROCKTOLOGIST (Sweden)
"I really like Djam Karet and I own several of their many brilliant albums! Yes here comes the BUT...this is..well I am not really sure what to believe here! Is this the outcome of many hours in the studio?! To be honest, this album sounds like its been recorded one take in the studio. Yes I follow, it is a sort of Homage to the fine psychedelic days of smoke and flowers and as such it works, only problem is this is 2013!! If this really is composed, arranged and has trillion hours of studio time I am truly sorry, for it sounds...well yeah read the former sentences!! The first 15-20 minutes of this release has murmur and very very laidback soundscapes, then things start to happen, but seriously there are nothing that didn't happen on several psych/acid albums in late 60´ and/or early 70´ !! Tell you what... I will believe it when (IF) Djam Karet performs this live, start to end!!"
“From what I know of the writing staff of Ave Noctum, and such is the spread out geography that I’ve met surprisingly few of them, I guess I was the ideal candidate to review this album. Whilst many of the staff consume a diet of black and death metal for breakfast, I’m as likely to start the day with a healthy portion of Yes, Jethro Tull, or Hackett era Genesis, musical morsels that would have corpse faces sneering and gurning even harder then usual. And so it fell to me to cover this latest release from Californian prog merchants Djam Karet, a release that boasts a single instrumental track of over 47 minutes, and is called ‘The Trip’; maybe it won’t be as New Age as I first feared, and it could rival Sleep’s ‘Dopesmoker’ in intensity? Sadly, no. Instead my first impression was right, and ‘The Trip’ is just that, three quarters of an hour of instrumental noodlings. Please don’t get me wrong, the musicianship displayed here is immense, with each of the bands 5 members taking on multiple duties, with flutes, bouzoukis, and mellotrons fleshing out the sound, the musical soundscape stitched together with suitably ethereal samples of birdsong, running water, and other trippy staples. Solid duty is done too with an Ebow, an electronic bow designed to draw unearthly sounds from the electric guitar, a standout feature on Scott “Wino” Weinrich’s ‘Premonition 13’ album. About all that was missing was a Theremin, but that sound was in part created with synths and keys. What to me, this album lacked was some sort of hook to draw in the listener. Different sections of the album had different characters, each reminiscent of bands of the past, and could easily have been separate songs, rather then part of one rambling whole. Scattered throughout the album were obvious homages to early Pink Floyd, the jazzy guitar of King Crimson, or the choral samples of Genesis, but with nothing to hold them together, it didn’t gel for me. Yes I could admire the skills on show, but at times it sounded like self indulgence. It might well be that Djam Karet’s ‘The Trip’ will be the soundtrack to accompany future encounters with The Camberwell Carrot, and if I were 20 years younger and still a fan of the then legal mushrooms, this album would get some plays. As it is, it just rather washed over me like the background music for any number of incense selling stalls in Camden.”
AVE NOCTUM (UK)
In una puntata del 1978 Fonzie facendo sci nautico con il giubbotto di pelle saltò uno squalo: cominciò in quel momento il lento declino di Happy Days, una decadenza talmente celebre che ancora oggi, quando un prodotto televisivo comincia ad inabissarsi, si usa dire “jumping the shark”. Quando i Djam Karet hanno saltato lo squalo? Domanda difficile anche perchè la formazione californiana è tra le poche, ultime e grandi certezze del “vero” rock indipendente e di qualità che il panorama internazionale conosca. Eppure c’è stato un momento in cui abbiamo percepito che il genio di “The ritual continues” e “The Devouring” andava ridimensionandosi: è stato in seguito a “A night for Baku” (2003), in quel periodo in cui l’improvvisazione non era più un magico momento di luminosa espansione ma qualcosa di prevedibile e scolastico. Non a caso negli ultimi anni Gayle Ellett e soci hanno tentato altre vie, esplorando l’acustico e l’elettronica con divisioni più nette, poco assistiti da quella “fata buona” tanto cara ai King Crimson. “The Trip” è l’occasione migliore per riflettere sullo stato di salute dei nostri, un disco che si presenta allettante e ghiotto: un unico brano di quasi 50 minuti, la line-up migliore (Ellett-Henderson-Kenyon-Murray-Oken jr.), la consueta idea di composizione estemporanea sempre più “nuda e cruda”, vista l’assenza volontaria di qualsiasi compressione. La lunga intro minimalista (17 minuti) fa da preludio ipnotico all’esplosione elettrica, che simboleggia il nucleo pulsante del brano insieme alla rovente reprise finale. Più che una suite lunga e articolata, si tratta di un fermo-immagine da un’altra galassia, un’esplorazione di due componenti costanti nella poetica karetiana, ovvero l’anima rock fluviale e dirompente, circondata dall’elemento visionario alla tedesca con qualche spunto acustico. Mai come in questo sedicesimo album i DK puntano sull’esperienza psichedelica, consigliando l’ascolto in cuffia per gustare meglio il viaggio dal sapore floydiano. “The Trip” è un’avventura che catturerà l’attenzione dei fan del gruppo di Topanga ma difficilmente ne porterà di nuovi. Peccato che non fornisca una sintesi dell’universo parallelo esplorato dal gruppo in più di un trentennio: “The Trip” conferma gli standard di classe ai quali i DK ci hanno abituato ma da una band del genere è sempre lecito attendere uscite sorprendenti, che facciano la differenza."
DONATO ZOPPO (Italy)
“In the late spring of 2011, the self-titled debut album by Herd of Instinct – a hitherto unknown outfit named after the only album by Talk Talk offshoot O’Rang - was released on Firepool Records, the label created by Gayle Ellett and Chuck Oken Jr, founding members of veteran US progressive rock band Djam Karet. Based in the Dallas-Forth Worth area of Texas, the idiosyncratic “power trio” of Mike Davison, Mark Cook and Jason Spradlin was augmented by a number of guest musicians – some quite high-profile, such as drummers Jerry Marotta, Gavin Harrison and Pat Mastelotto, and touch guitarist Markus Reuter and Gayle Ellett himself. After a few spins, the album – at first deceptively unassuming – quickly became one of my favourite albums of 2011, also earning and Herd of Instinct my personal “best new band” award.
In the months prior to the release of Conjure, their highly anticipated second album, some things have changed in the Herd of Instinct camp. The trio is now a quartet, with Ellett (an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and composer involved in a myriad of different projects) now a full member, manning the keyboards and providing some exotic accents. While the debut featured vocals on two tracks out of 10, with Conjure Herd of Instinct have chosen a completely instrumental format. The album expands on the ideas presented on the debut, introducing subtle adjustments to the band’s distinctive sound rather than opting for a dramatic change in style – though avoiding the all too common syndrome of the sophomore effort being an inferior copy of its predecessor.
This time around, the presence of guest artists is kept to a minimum – with Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin the only household name on the list – emphasizing Herd of Instinct’s status as a real band rather than a loose group of musicians. With Ellett’s keyboards used discreetly to accent the work of the other instruments, and a smattering of programmed drums to supplement Jason Spradlin’s deft work behind the kit, the musical texture is profoundly atmospheric, often hypnotic and occasionally hard-edged, each instrument meshing with the other to produce an organic flow. On Conjure – even more so than on Herd of Instinct’s debut – the four band members bring their wide range of
influences and keenly eclectic attitude to full fruition.
Clocking in at around 53 minutes, Conjure features 12 tracks, the longest of which falls short of the 6-minute mark. However, there is plenty of complexity for fans to sink their teeth into, and a lot of interesting details are packed into each of those apparently short numbers. The one criticism I might level at the album is that, though anything but overlong, it temporarily loses steam in its second half. In fact, a couple of somewhat repetitive tracks might have been omitted without any detriment to the rest of the material. On the other hand, the performances of all the artists involved are top-notch, possessing that effortless quality that is not always easy to achieve when playing highly complex music.
Immediately creating a connection with the band’s debut, “Praxis” successfully combines variety and fluidity, its many layers subtly and skillfully rendered. Gayle Ellett’s Mellotron – an essential ingredient of the album’s instrumental texture – fleshes out the sleek, intricate work of Mike Davison and Mark Cook’s guitars, blending with the liquid polyrhythms of the Warr guitar and contrasting with an array of eerie electronic effects, while flute adds a soothing, pastoral note. “Dead Leaf Echo” introduces a keen metal-like edge reminiscent of King Crimson ‘s late Nineties incarnation; the many tempo changes are handled deftly, with peaks of riff-heavy intensity followed by low-key passages dominated by the evocative sound of Mellotron and Warr guitar. Starting out in similar fashion, “Brutality of Fact” soon turns solemn, tapping into that cinematic vein evidenced by the band’s debut, and pushing Mellotron and Hammond organ to the forefront together with the guitars and Jason Spradlin’s powerful drumming.
With the one-two punch of “Alice Krige pt. 1” and “Solitude One”, Conjure reaches its creative peak. The former explores the rarefied, atmospheric territory that had made Herd of Instinct’s debut such an intriguing proposition, with ethereal trumpet and flute complementing the echoing sound effects and sparse lap steel guitar, spiced by warm-sounding percussion; the latter, based on the Indian dilruba (one of the many exotic string instruments mastered by Ellett), juxtaposes haunting ambient and ethnic elements with trance-like electronics. The first half of the album closes with the clear, intersecting guitar lines and wistful Mellotron of “Ravenwood”, accented by a sprinkling of electronic effects.
The Mellotron takes a lead role again in the aptly titled “Mother Night”, a stately, faintly gloomy piece redolent of Scandinavian prog icons such as Anekdoten. “Vargtimmen”, based on a percussion sample from Steve Tibbetts’ Friendly Fire collection, is introduced by recorded voices that intensify its brooding, ominous quality; while the somewhat harsh-sounding “Malise”, rife with buzzing electronics, is in my view the weakest link on an otherwise strong album. Urgent drumming and sharp, assertive guitar lines propel the Morricone-influenced “New Lands, which also features a particularly expressive guitar solo (almost a rarity on an album based on a tight instrumental texture rather than on individual performances). Slow and measured, “A Sense of an Ending” hints at some episodes of Trey Gunn’s output, as well as the more sedate compositions of second- and third-phase King Crimson, while the airy, spacious melody in the first half of closer “The Secret of Fire” leads to an entrancing, almost slo-mo finale enhanced by piano and spacey sound effects.Herd of Instinct have also upped the ante in terms of artwork, and Conjure comes with a strikingly sinister cover that suggests one of the Three Fates ready to sever the thread of life. Like its predecessor, the album may be a grower rather than a “love-at-first-listen” affair, and require more than a couple of absent-minded listens to make its full impact. On the other hand, with its sophistication and eclecticism, it strengthens the band’s reputation as one of the most interesting presences in the variegated “instrumental prog” universe, and will not disappoint those who had appreciated their debut. It is to be hoped that some festival organizers – either in the US or elsewhere – will also take notice.”
“We are always on the look out for the next ... progressive music ... something or other ... and somehow, it seems like it never arrives ... and we can never find it. And sometimes our searches take us to the usual things ... that we have heard before, and they don't excite you anymore, but you can still listen ... it still has some energy that you remember from yesterday, or last week ... or it might just be that you like that one special kind of sound ... similar landscape for your mind. Well, if there is enough courage to listen to something that you have no idea what it will be, or sound like, that has musicianship that rivals anything that you can think of, there is an album for you! There is a requirement first ... your suspension of the belief, or disbelief, that what music means to you, or that it should have this or that in it, or where are the lyrics that supposedly take you to all the lands of the mindscape? Given that condition, you will, then, be ready to experience this album. That album is HERD OF INSTINCT's latest album "Conjure". It's always a challenge for me to find words to describe the feelings and the excitement of a lot of the music I listen to, but on occasion the combinations are just way ... way out there ... and they just stand up so well, that you wonder ... how can someone come up with all that ... where is the creativity and design coming from? Yep ... the wording matches! It's a massive herd of instinct and then a desire to put it together. This album, is for those folks that like many things ... and specially an unbelievable combination of material that will have you sitting and wondering ... what was that? They just did that? Yeah ... some of the best music I have heard in the past 5 years, and that is saying a lot for a group of folks that I have loved for a long time, with a few friends here and there to create a magic journey in listening. This album starts well, and it is not until you get to the sequence of "Brutality of Fact", "Alice Kriger pt. 1", "Solitude One" and then "Ravenwood", right up to "Mother Night" ... that the real strength in this band comes so strong ... like there is no such thing as "heavy instruments" or a description that tends to define anything, and when you hear the mix here of soft and hard, it will surprise you, and probably help you re-think what progressive music really is. This album, probably features some of the best guitar and bass work I have heard in quite some time. Some of the press material loves to tell you that this has elements of King Crimson, and that this album will fit those fans really well ... but you all of a sudden hear something else that might surprise you ... and that was one of the things that used to keep us all in touch with that band a long time ago. And now, if you need something that will get your tastes flying around, the work in this CD should be enough to get you going and then some. In my book, this is better than King Crimson for my ears! In the midst of all this, there are loops by Steve Tibbetts and some work by Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree ... and if you think the mix of these people is odd, then you don't know the atmospheric pieces that Djam Karet has been doing for more than 20 years, and the mixes of many of these things with ambient sounds, and then the band flying with it ... is one of those things that kinda defy, not only tradition, but also the bounds of the definition of music ... there are not that many albums of music out there where the compositional standard is so insane and amazing, that you will be lucky to hear it in your lifetime. But I can tell you that this is going to be in my car on my drives every where for a while, as fruit for the soul to appreciate music, and some folks that not only believe it, but live it, and don't have to talk about it! Just play ... just play! It was, for me, the start of the 2013 year, as I just received this, and had no idea what it was or what it would be about ... but I can not tell you how to describe many albums by Djam Karet, or various solo albums, the last of which I still do not have the right words to describe it for you. Such is the nature of tripping along with music that loves to take you away ... and wait until you get the pieces at the end ... they will floor you even more ... a massively great finish that defines what this
album is really all about ... MUSIC ... absolutely GREAT music ... and there is no other set of words for it. I have re-written this about 20 times ... in between the listens ... of a great album to start out the year! "A Sense of Ending" and "The Secret of Fire" ... will pretty much tell you what this is all about, and how these mixes come together so beautifully. It leaves you wanting more ... and a lot more! ... please ... some more ... “
5 out of 5 stars
“Herd Of Instinct est à la base un power-trio originaire de Dallas qui gravite dans la nébuleuse Djam Karet, avec à ce jour deux albums produits sur leur label Firepool. Ce n'est donc pas un hasard si on retrouve Gayle Ellet, claviériste de cette référence incontournable du rock avant-gardiste, embauché à plein temps pour les besoins de "Conjure", ce qui en dit long déjà sur son originalité, ses influences et son ouverture. Le combo se fait connaître en 2011 avec la publication d'un premier opus éponyme qui ne laissera personne indifférent, particulièrement radical et complexe, avec à la barre les guitaristes Mark Cook, Mike Davison et le batteur Jason Spradlin, tous trois crédités sur une multitude d'instruments (avec "warr guitar", basse fretless, sitar ou claviers rien que pour les deux premiers). A cette solide entreprise vient aussi se greffer un grand nombre d'invités, dont un casting de rythmiciens qui laisse rêveur, jugez plutôt : Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel), Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) et Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson). Parmi les noms les plus célèbres, on retrouve également un certain Markus Reuter (actuellement à l'œuvre au sein de Stick Men avec Pat Mastelotto et Tony Levin) crédité aux "loops" et à sa fameuse "touch guitar". Rappelons que l'aventureux musicien allemand, co-fondateur du duo ambient-pop Centrozoon avec le chanteur éthéré Tim Bowness (No-Man), n'en est pas à sa première collaboration, déjà associé à divers projets à géométrie variable dans les sphères électroniques avec Ian Boddy et Robert Rich, ou le rock protéiforme avec Herd Of Instinct !
Le premier opus des texans est un joli coup d'essai, largement dominé par l'influence de King Crimson, et délivrant une musique instrumentale complexe, souvent dissonante et portée sur l'improvisation, teintée d'effluves jazz, ambient, progressives ou électroniques. Aujourd'hui, le trio devenu quatuor enfonce le clou avec "Conjure", un album encore plus riche mais tout aussi alambiqué que son prédécesseur, et où l'ombre du roi cramoisi (dernière époque) est toujours bien présente. Des titres tels que "Dead Leaf Echo" ou "Brutality Of Fact" semblent d'ailleurs, à peu de choses près, tout droit sortis de "The Power To Believe" pour le premier, et de "Thrak" pour le second ! La musique délivrée ici reste donc toujours aussi technique, mais avec une palette sonore bien davantage enrichie et colorée. Cela notamment grâce à l'apport non négligeable de Gayle Ellett et sa panoblie de claviers, parmi lesquels trônent Mellotron, Moog, orgue Hammond et piano Rhodes, sans que jamais l'esthétique de "Conjure" n'en sonne "vintage" pour autant, bien au contraire même."Conjure" est une œuvre progressive au sens le plus noble du terme, sachant qu'elle arrive à mixer une somme impressionnante de styles avec un brio confondant, tout en proposant à l'arrivée un ensemble harmonieux, moderne, et résolument anticonformiste. Entres autres morceaux énergiques et globalement torturés, parfois teintés de climats cinématiques renvoyant à l'imagerie fantastique ou horrifique ("Mother Night" et son atmosphère mellotronée digne de Morte Macabre, "Praxis" et son thème au piano qui croise "Halloween" et "L'Exorciste"…), on trouve quelques pièces plus apaisées, pour ne pas dire carrément planantes. Dans cette catégorie, on décernera une mention spéciale à "Alice Krige pt.1", un titre qui fait curieusement écho à l'artwork de l'album, aussi glauque que magnifique, et qui semble
directement emprunté à l'univers inquiétant du premier "Silent Hill". Il s'agit là d'une sorte d'escapade apaisée et introspective, formée par un enchevêtrement de textures et de rythmes lancinants, qui laissent s'échapper ici et là des flûtes virevoltantes et réverbérées, ainsi qu'une trompette jazzy onirique à souhait, façon Miles Davis ou Nils Petter Molvaer.Parmi les pauses atmosphériques, citons également le très gracieux "A Sense Of An
Ending" et ses motifs rythmiques répétitifs, sur lesquels viennent se poser délicatement les notes de basse fretless de Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), musicien qui compte parmi les invités de marque de cette cuvée 2013. La world music s'invite également parfois au menu, avec les tablas programmées du nerveux "Malise" ou du groovy "Solitude One", sur lequel vient aussi se greffer le son envoutant de la dilruba, vielle indienne jouée ici par Gayle Elett, avec une mélodie qui ne dénoterait pas dans une composition signée Dead Can Dance.Pour conclure, s'il devait y avoir un point faible attribué à "Conjure" (certains pourront lui reprocher un certain manque de cohérence auquel je n'adhère pas), je le situerais pour ma part au niveau de l'enregistrement de la batterie, qui sonne parfois un peu "artificielle". C'est un peu dommage, surtout quand on connait le rôle central et déterminant de la rythmique (ici plus organique que jamais) dans la musique de Herd Of Instinct. Amateurs de surprises, de sensations fortes et de fusions éclectiques furieusement audacieuses, ne passez pas à côté de "Conjure", un maître album à ranger quelque-part entre Gordian Knot, Bruford Levin Upper Extremities (B.L.U.E.) et Mick Karn, multi-instrumentiste regretté à la démarche exploratoire dont on
ne compte plus les collaborations fructueuses. Indispensable!”
(9 out of 10)
“Soms verrijst een fenix onder een andere naam uit zijn eigen as. Herd Of Instinct bleek de ideale doorstart voor 99 Names Of God. Met hun titelloze debuut uit 2011 zetten deze Texanen zich meteen prominent op de progressieve kaart. Opvolger ‘Conjure’ bevestigt: de muzikale intuïtie is intact gebleven.De sterren stonden gunstig voor Herd Of Instinct. Schoon volk meldde zich aan voor de eerste worp: artrockdrummers Pat Mastelotto, Jerry Marotta en Gavin Harrison, gitarist Markus Reuter en toetsenist Gayle Ellet droegen bij tot de blijde geboorte. Ellet zorgde meteen voor een release op Firepool Records, huislabel van LA proggers Djam Karet (spreek uit: Djem Keré).En die laatste beschikt over een ware cultstatus. Volgens Rolling Stone is Djam Karet Amerika’s beste, onbekende band. Dat Herd Of Instinct mag genieten van hun patronage, wil wat zeggen. Meer nog: DK-lid Gayle Ellet sloot zich voor ‘Conjure’ op permanente basis aan bij de Herd en zorgde voor de eindmix. De opnamen kwamen afwisselend tot stand in
Arlington (de Texaanse thuisbasis) en Ellets woonplaats Topanga.Naast Djam Karet geldt het Britse King Crimson als hun grootste invloed. Gezien de
hoeveelheid elektronica en Mark Cooks spel op de Warr Guitar (vergelijkbaar met de Chapman Stick), ligt de muziek in het verlengde van recente KC-albums ‘The ConstruKction Of Light’ en ‘The Power To Believe’. Gitarist Mike Davison toont zich een geïnspireerd leerling van Fripp; drummer Jason Spradlin en Cook goochelen met ritmes met de lenigheid van een kat. Ellet giet hier een lekker retrosausje over middels de klankkleuren van Moog, Mellotron, Hammond en Rhodes. Het resultaat is een plaat waarin de twaalf compacte nummers nog beter zijn uitgewerkt dan het debuut. De stilistische veelzijdigheid is aantoonbaar: van hoekig gitaarwerk (bijvoorbeeld Vargtimmen) tot een jazzy soundscape met gesmoorde trompet en lapsteel (Alice Krige pt.1). Of luister naar het geweldige New Lands, waarin Davison zijn gitaar laat janken en zingen tegelijk. ‘Conjure’ grijpt je bij elke luisterbeurt bij de lurven en is – de pensionering van Koning Karmozijn in acht genomen – verplicht voor KC-fans.”
DA MUSIC (Gernamny)
“There is nothing routine happening on this jewel. Conjure crosses fine red musical lines as the surreal cover concept implies and the listener is never ready for where or when each composition is going to decide to end. Certainly nothing verse / chorus / verse about this Frankenstein. Dark mysterious forces lurk on this spooky instrumental whose themes and inspirations form sonic images of everything from a Swedish gothic horror
movie ( Vargtimmen ) to delving into the supernatural qualities of fire ( The Secret of Fire ). The foreboding blackness of night ( Mother Night ) is explored with Crimsonian mellotron backdrops and gothic synth harmonies which contrast with more soothing overtones that paint a terrible yet sublime portrait of this fascinating time of day when everything that lives seems to undergo enigmatic transformations. The opening track, Praxis seems to draw some cues from Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells intro that was used in The Exorcist horror film which sets the mood for the rest of the album,a precursory for the rest of the work which takes the listener through a mind trip of abstruse fluctuating ideas and moods.
Stylistically Conjure is a hybrid beyond category assimulating eclectic interpretations of electronic, ambient, metal, eastern stylings with tinges of psychedelia and traditional jazz and at times even sounding like a dreamy new age soundscape. Like any cutting edge musical exploration Conjure can take you to many places in relatively short time periods using many different musical devices such as reverse reverb, loops and the use of unexpected instruments such as the trumpet and flute on the smoky Alice Krige pt.1 with it's cool hypnotic electro beats. The meticulously constructed pieces also give the listener the illusion of missing time. I was surprised to find that only 53 minutes had elapsed after the first listen and thought the clock was playing with my head and even then I didn't want the album to end! It is one of those first listens that leaves you aghast, saying to yourself: this I gotta freaking hear again man! It is definitely music for the future while maintaining a conspicuous mystical future/primitive aura throughout.
The masterful employment of the Mark Cook's low action Waar guitar and fretless bass lines of Colin Edwin ( from Porcupine Tree ) lend an overall visceral feel and provides a common denominator that fuses the individual compositions together. And when Gayle Ellett's angry synths enter into the fray a legendary sound is created. He audaciously integrates the rather antiquated moog, mellotron, Hammond Organ and Fender Rhodes piano with cutting edge recording technology which make them sound like novel inventions of the 21st century. Conjure might be sporadically compared to King Crimson's later work as well as some of Bill Bruford's solo work ( think : One of a Kind ) but the overall aftereffect emanates from the creative recesses of the individual players that meld as one single entity that give Conjure it's magical preeminence. Despite their intrinsical differences, the 12 tracks each live up to their namesakes and manage to create their own visions within themselves. Even if they are subiect to abrupt mood swings at times the compositions still maintain an individual musical intellection, and though Conjure is not a concept album per se, the result is a circumscribed harmony. I got the impression that the music was actually some phantasmagoric living entity. Solitude One ( my fave ), which also demonstrates the group's ability to adapt to another composer's intentions, reflects this impression magnificently. There is so much happening in this integration of middle eastern / east Indian rhythms and charms with western technologies. The coda simply numbs the mind. While I am not familiar with composer Lisa Lazo she must have arrived from some other dimension of time and space that I don't know about yet. The employment of the traditional bowed dilruba alongside modern guitar loops/synths and keyboards and programmed tabla-like percussion is a perfect marriage that defines the delicate future / primitive intricacy of the music found on Cojure.
Dark & moody as it is, Conjure is a mysterious creature of depthless substance that definitely beckons the headphones. Conjure is not an album to be listened to from across the room or while tinkering with your 1966 Pontiac GTO project car. It requires fully focused, attentive ears or you miss out on subtlties that colour the album. Whether it be the sublime Alice Krige pt. 1 or the furious Dead Leaf Echo with it's poignant intro and Sabbath-like riffing before grinding to a halt. The barrage of changes and suprises on Conjure are not unlike what was being unleashed by Gentle Giant in the early seventies with their incongruous renderings and unresolved musical inversions. The very Crimsonian, conflagrated Brutality of Fact aptly demonstrates this with Mike Davidson's Frippish guitar lines that are constantly persecuted by Gayle Ellett's relentless synths. Conjure is not all that doomy and gloomy though. Upon the arrival of track 10, the evocative New Lands, a sweeping folky tone emerges which is evocative of a quest for discovery. It comes as close to mainstream affections that you're going to hear on the album complete with an almost conventional guitar solo at the conclusion which consolidates and gives the piece a conquering finality.
This is no garden-variety contemporary instrumental album. No showboating here, just solid musicianship and compositional structure. This is one of the most together instrumental groups that I've heard in a long while, tight rhythms, complex musical phrasings and complete disregard for convention. I'll be listening to this baby when I'm in my eighties for sure.”
5 out of 5 stars
"Although I pretty much liked Fernwoods explorations, I needed a bit more time to grasp this one. The duo Gayle Ellett and Todd Montgomery (of Djam Karret fame) still plays with a lot of instruments, mentioning 25 old mostly wood instruments (including accordion), which are mostly picking instruments, like bouzouki, but also sitar and Indian violin, I might have heard an occasional short breath of mellotron. The album took several listens because each track starts anew with certain picking patterns repetitions, including pauses and long notes, enriched with arrangements, harmonies and overdubs, with a couple of musical theme changes or evolutions but in fact still a little melody-based composition and with improvisation into an infinite open mood. The effect remains that of a patchwork of colourful carpets, of which there’s mood an independent improvisation and an exotic, at time Indian touch or flavour to it because of the used instruments, with only now and then an occasional real song-like melody or recognisable folk-blues rhythm, dissolving again into arrangements. It is that open ending each time, with each track, that is dissolving also the invoked creative touches, and that let them sink away in nothing too specific... ; - in a way I wish there had been more specific direction instead of these endless waters, in which there is a not really knowing where to go and where one dissolves into next mood portion or flavour emphasis like dissolving from one dream into another dream, a colour into colour, until no true colour focuses are left. A few times on top of the carpets we hear a welcome lighter dance, a swinging theme with mandolins and such but never too long and never with much of a further story to tell. 300 extra copies will be pressed on vinyl this time too."
PSYCHEDELIC FOLK (Belgium)
"Fernwood is the duo of Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett, the latter better known as one of two guitarists (or is it three now) from Djam Karet – but Fernwood is a very different animal, where the duo plays mostly acoustic stringed instruments made of wood from around the world (OK, the Mellotron is the exception – well, I guess they contain some wood), taking them out of the folk and traditional context that they would normally be played in, and applying the sounds to their own original pan-cultural compositions, which tend to take on a more cinematic approach. The sound is delicate and gentle in its approach, evoking bits of imagery to pique the listener’s imagination as one travels through this eleven track journey. No one instrument is dominant, other than possibly acoustic guitar, and that gives the material here plenty of variety. I could easily spend the rest of this review on Montgomery and Ellet’s instrument list, but I’ll limit it to some of my personal favorites: mandolin, Irish bouzouki, Greek bouzouki (yes, there is a difference, both in the structure of the instrument and the string tuning), Electric mandola, tenor banjo, violin, dobro, upright bass, sitar, tenor ukulele, ruan, tanpura, harmonium, surmandal, bells, chimes and much more. There are no drums, per se, so the unique character of the various stringed instruments stand out strong, providing their own rhythms, and don’t get buried in a mix of other sounds. The duo overdubs on most of the cuts, but the album was wisely recorded without any compression or sonic manipulation so the true dynamics of every sound in the mix can be heard clearly. A wonderful and exotic musical journey that needs to be heard.”
"It is now six years since their last record, "Sangita". Part of the reason that it has been so long is that Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett are so busy with other musical projects. Easier said then done, it may seem that the duo is "wherever music is being created." It is obviously impossible to be everywhere! Yet it feels like they have their musical fingers in all sorts of new musical projects. We will not use all of our time here to brag about the musicians talent and bravado, but its worth mentioning that Ellett is a very skilled producer. He proceeded during the past few years to produce music that was chosen as “Top 10 album of the year" in five different genres! Electronic music, rock, jazz, new age and world! That he plays countless instruments at an immensely high level, is also telling. Greek bouzouki, Ruan, quirquincho, bulbul Tarang, jal Tarang, oud, koto, dotar, gimbri, Dilruba, Rabab, surmandal, Tambura, ravanhasta, tumbi, bugchu, Gopichand, cumbus, Suling, harmonium (husorgel) mizmar, Manjira, Shehnai, mandolin, flute, ocean drums, Tibetan singing bowls, piano & organ & analog synths, guitar synth, Theremin, bass plus many more! When these instruments are used in the context of Fernwood it creates a very unique sound! One of the unique aspects comes from the fact that the music is both traditional and contemporary. Beautiful, occasionally fragile and often dreamy and very cinematic. "Arcadia" can also be considered as a means of providing a path to get away from the world's hustle and bustle. Calm down to a healthy and safe feeling and splash around in Fernwood's universe, and you will come back with renewed energy. Many musicians claim that their music has this effect, but so far Fernwood is the absolute leader in providing music for meditation and contemplation. Fernwood’s music is quality, in all aspects. Musical ethnic elements from the East and West complement each other in an exemplary and clever manner, but also contest each other along an east-west axis! The twenty-five instruments are made from various types of wood and are mainly from the nineteenth century. With such a setting so the premise is to create music that stands out in an optimal fashion. Montgomery and Ellett has definitely created music that is original and refined, and has character in spades. The album takes us on a wonderful journey that is full of mystery, lush melodies, exotic hues and global sounds. It is traditional music, but with a comprehensive and modern upgrade. Constantly performed with this respect for the past. A gentle and rather subtle use of modern instrumentation is also incorporated into the music in the form of Mellotron, Moog and electric guitars. Wisely, these more contemporary instruments are only used as the very last stroke to create an almost perfect and heroic sound. "Arcadia" is an album with an almost etherial and detailed beauty that all genuine music lovers should enjoy. Indulge yourself in forty-five minutes of "Arcadia" and shut the world out for a moment, and live and breathe as you never have before. You deserve it!"
"Fernwood, many times award-winning acoustic instrumental duo from Malibu, California, USA, consists of Gayle Ellett (Djam Karet) and Todd Montgomery. Each of the two of them is playing about 20 different musical instruments. Their music is made in their own studio. They strive for a natural sound and try to avoid any form of compression or computer manipulation. Their rich musical and life experiences are poured into their music. The wealth of different instruments gives them the possibility that their sound is varied. In their music weaves the influence of traditional American music, Irish music, Eastern European music, Asian music and music of the Middle East. So, they have created a hybrid style that gives them a unique character and identity. Fernwood (Gayle Ellett and Todd Montgomery) have recorded four albums so far – “Almeria” (2008); “Sangita” (2009); “Fernwood Compilation CD with Al Di Meola” (2009) and current issue, “Arcadia” (2015). I happened to come to some concert, perceive the club space, the audience, the atmosphere, (sometimes by force of circumstances), and I listen to the support band, then wait for the headliners, they start their program and I go home after two of their songs. Not because they are so bad, not at all. The reason for my departure is the knowledge that the evening they will not offer anything new. In advance I know it well. When, however, in the CD player you put in the album “Arcadia”, from the first tone it will creep you into its story. In any case, you are going to listening it, you will not give up and you will ask yourself – what will this album offer. Their album offers a lot – music rich with melody, different rhythms, rich with different harmonies. This music is played on instruments that, with its sounds offer a variety of “images”. It is up to you to surrender your imagination, and the picture will promote itself in your mind. Although there are two artists, you have the impression that a whole orchestra is playing. Various instruments take turns, each telling its own story. The songs are stylish with lots of variety, but the atmosphere is the same. This atmosphere is the cohesive factor of this album. Many of the songs end in fade out mode… but you find yourself wanting to repeat the recently finished theme. It says a lot about their music. The album “Arcadia” has been sent to me, personally, by initiative by Mr. Gayle Ellett (Topanga, CA, USA). I’m still in wonder, why he sent it to the editor of Barikada, why it was importance to him… But I can not hide the joy that he did it so. I would not like to spoil this beautiful moment with examples of their relationship with other musicians or local area “stars”. The album “Arcadia”, the Fernwood duets (Gayle Ellett and Todd Montgomery), has my absolute positive recommendation.