Djam Karet - No Commercial Potential

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Independent
Catalog Number: HC013
Format: CD
Total Time: 113:11:00

Shotgun comment:

If you're a Djam Karet fan, go and buy this two-disc release. Now.

Concept and meaning:

Almost two decades ago, cornerstone prog outfit Djam Karet released an unusually brave debut in the form of No Commercial Potential, an album consisting of three extensive improvisatory tracks with no overdubs. The band has just re-released this long-out-of-print recording after giving the originals some appropriate sonic treatment in the manner of digital remixing. Annexed is a collection of new material called ?And Still Getting the Ladies, consisting of three new improvisatory tracks that were put down on CD during recording sessions for the excellent A Night For Baku. This means that IBM will be giving out free computers in a couple of weeks. Ok, maybe not. It does mean, however, that one gets an immediate comparison of where the band was in 1985, and where it is now. Do not fool yourselves, boys and girls, the difference is as bewildering as that between the Millenium Falcon and a Jawa, except that neither element from Star Wars makes much sense when considering the sound of each disc.

No commercial potential? Really?:

Maybe none whatsoever in the song-dominated world of popular music, but as prog fans should well know, that doesn't matter one bit. Well, what about prog potential? Well, if we were to remain in the Star Wars world and created a scale based on people's favorite characters from that universe, No Commercial Potential would be Lando Calrissian; not as kickass as Han Solo or Darth Vader, but a long, long way from sucking eggs like Jar Jar Binks. In other words, it's one of those albums that will find comforting sanctuary in the hearts of some, and be graciously dismissed by others.

The sonic focus of the record, despite the fact that the percussion at its very beginning could suggest a trace of Indonesian Gamelan, is firmly entrenched in the world of improvisatory rock. While some moments of more ambient nature arise here and there, energetic drums, blistering guitars, and bass grooves form the more palatable backbone of the entire effort. And while the result can be too sprawling for its own good, as in the largely unfocused "Where's L. Ron??!!," it can also be mind-numbingly effective; especially towards the end of "Dwarf Toss."

Remember, however, that this was recorded in 1985. Djam Karet's choice of instrumentation back then was much rawer, precluding synthesizers and thus straying closer to sometimes blistering rock improvisations than to the "classic" sound of prog. Curiously enough, however, there is nothing suggesting the heaviness of some of the band's later material (as opposed to what one would deduce from the instrumentation), stylistically leaving No Commercial Potential in the world of jam rock with progressive influences and a broader musical ambition. In other words, definitely do not expect Marillion. Definitely do not expect the Grateful Dead. If you for some reason do, go back and pay attention while reading. And if you're a Djam Karet fan, you're definitely reading-impaired. Go and read the shotgun comment. Now.

So who's getting the ladies?:

Maybe the lack of commercial potential kept the members of Djam Karet from getting the ladies twenty years ago. If it didn't, however, Lord knows why they wouldn't be the ones getting the ladies today. Bringing out our newly infamous Star Wars scale will explain: ?And Still Getting the Ladies is more like Chewbacca. Not only more beloved, but also larger and more powerful. This second disc also happens to be more intelligent, so the Star Wars scale does not work perfectly. Sue me. Actually, sue George Lucas; he has a lot more money than I do.

Although there is definitely a rock ethos to this recording, not to mention a wonderfully delicious and memorable groove towards the end of "The Building," it is a beast far different from its companion disc. Sure, you probably had deduced that from putting Chewbaca and Calrissian side by side, but we digress and you still don't know why it is so different. For one, the much thicker instrumentation, including synthesizers, provides an immediately different texture. More than that, however, the three improvisations contained herein have a soundtrack-like quality to them that is miles away from the rawer rock improvisation of No Commercial Potential, and much closer to the subtle stylings of a Carl Weingarten. Sonic swells and ambient textures are often the focus here, which in turn gives every flash of actual rock added impact.

Despite the greater maturity and focus, however, ?And Still Getting Ladies sometimes becomes too atmospheric for its own good, just like its companion becomes too sprawling with the same effect. Attention will inevitably drift away every once in a while, and things will seem to slow down a bit too much; especially in "The Door." But when the band leaves such matters behind, the result is quite enjoyable, and shows that Djam Karet is simply a prog entity that cannot be ignored.

Ok, you just made me read 7 paragraphs and one more line. Do I buy this or not?

If you're a Djam Karet fan and have just asked that, I will kill you. Otherwise, go back and read the entire review. And for the love of God, do not ask this question again once you've done that!

Similar Artists: Kong, Mind Gallery, Carl Weingarten

Disc 1- No Commercial Potential (1985): Where's L. Ron??!! (16:52) / Dwarf Toss (11:16) / Blue Fred (29:42)

Disc 2 - ?And Still Getting the Ladies (2002): The Building (20:03) / The Door (7:56) / The Window (27:22)

Gayle Ellett - guitars, devices
Chuck Oken Jr. - drums, percussion
Henry J. Osborne - bass, fish
Mike Henderson - guitars, devices

Gayle Ellett - guitars, devices, voice
Chuck Oken Jr. - drums, percussion, synthesizers, voice
Henry J. Osborne - bass
Mike Henderson - guitars, devices, voice
Aaron Kenyon - bass, voice

No Commercial Potential (1985) (Out-of-print)
Kafka's Breakfast (1987) (Out-of-print)
The Ritual Continues (1989)
Reflections In The Firepool (1989)
Burning The Hard City (1991/2000)
Suspension and Displacement (1991/2000)
Collaborator (1994)
The Devouring (1997)
Still No Commerical Potential (1998)
Live at Orion (1999)
New Dark Age (2001)
Ascension (2001)
#1 (2001) (via band only)
#2 (2001) (via band only)
Afghan: Live At The Knitting Factory (2001) (via band only)
A Night For Baku (2003)
Live At NEARfest 2001 (2004)
No Commercial Potential (expanded) (2004)
Recollection Harvest (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: October 24th 2004
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website:
Hits: 1003
Language: english


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