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A Night for Baku

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Album Review

All the clichés ever used about instrumental prog rock at its best would be appropriate here — "soaring," "anthemic," "powerful," "gorgeous," "cosmic," and so on. In truth, the CD itself builds on such clichés, but that's good news for anyone who wants to revisit the glory days of the genre — or find out why this type of music still has so many fans. The veteran Djam Karet quartet (here bolstered by a second bassist) is blessed with two superb electric guitarists who also double on analog and digital synths, theremin, and samplers and a percussionist who also doubles on synths. Their music has a sweeping, epic sound very much in the tradition of early King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (minus the vocals). Djam Karet has been together for a rather remarkable 20 years with the same personnel, while remaining essentially an underground, West Coast phenomenon. Early on, they were essentially a guitar-driven electric jam band in the mode of Ozric Tentacles or even a stripped-down Grateful Dead, but they have steadily evolved and grown over the years. On this CD, the group avoids jam-band tedium by breaking most of the nine tracks into sections, either alternating between fast and slow movements, or introducing a new melodic theme in the middle of a piece before eventually returning to the original melody or riff. One section may feature a particular guitar style or sound, and the next may be centered around a Moog or other contrasting synth voice. "Scary Circus" opens with a solo organ segment. Liner notes identify the Baku as spirits of the dream world who do battle with a sleeper's nightmares, and several pieces on A Night for Baku pick up on this theme, incorporating spacy, electronic effects and samples that create a darker musical landscape filled with strange sonic phenomena. This relatively new aspect of Djam Karet's music, on pieces such as "Chimera Moon" and "Ukab Maerd," sometimes moves the group sound in the direction of vintage Pink Floyd but also points to new sonic possibilities for the future. This is an excellent, mature recording by a band that is still commendably intent upon exploring and expanding its musical universe. Recommended.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Djam Karet was formed in 1984 in Los Angeles, CA, by a group of musicians who wanted to play improvisational rock music: Gayle Ellet (guitar), Mike Henderson (guitar), Chuck Oken Jr. (drums), and Henry Osborne (bass). Although the band never lost interest in instrumental progressive rock, they would later expand and experiment with droning ambient music that was years ahead of the explosion of similar styles in the late '90s. The group returned to their unique brand...
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A Night for Baku, Djam Karet
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