Djam Karet - A Night For Baku

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Cuneiform Records
Catalog Number: Rune 169
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:28:00

Djam Karet are band who should be doing soundtrack work, something I've said before. Oh, I don't mean winding up on a teen-flick soundtrack or the like. No, rather the film would be as slick and sophisticated as the band's music, more a thing of high art that easy entertainment. The kind of film that doesn't see wide release but becomes an art house classic. A Night For Baku is but one further example of this and shows a different side to the band, a bit harder edged at times, a bit jazzier at others. "Chimera Moon" is a little audio movie in and of itself. Things are idyllic at the beginning - here painted by chirping birds and ambient textures -- cut off suddenly by an industrial sounding clang of a heavy door. Oddly enough, what came to mind was Silent Running. I can't explain it, but if you just think of the change in tenor of that film from beginning to end, the same dynamic is here. Things are good at the beginning, content, but then something happens that turns everything dark? and far from idyllic.*

Djam Karet's latest opens with an atypical track where crisp and sinuous guitar lines sing at front and center, leaving one with the impression that Djam Karet are a guitar based jazz ensemble. In fact, in contrast to some of the band's past material, "Dream Portal" seems almost sensible and mundane -- except that it sounds great. And children's voices do add a hint of the otherworldly. A more recognizable DK emerges however with the very next track "Hungry Ghost" the guitars take on their familiar distortion. Later in the same track, the band venture in metal-like realms of fusion -- a la Planet X sans high velocity keys, though keys are an element.

"Heads Of Ni-Oh" is another guitar centric track that gets Pink Floydy towards the end, "Ukab Maerd" is a chunky psychedelic trip though a colorful fractal-filled landscape -- much like the artwork featured on the cover (by Bill Ellsworth). But like many of the tracks here, it is not just one thing, as this also gets into dark and rumbly atmospheres -- the dark and hidden corners of your nightmares, maybe -- then morphing in what sounds like a typical day on the street market (in some Middle Eastern city), all the while something lurks, watching, waiting. Again we see the band's cinematic quality at work. This track also features a guest appearance from Steve Roach who closes out the track with those guitar atmospheres that signal the patient darkness.

But for the guitar atmospheres, "The Red Thread" would be - at least at the outset -- a classic AOR track (san vocals). One can almost hear Journey in the driving rhythm. This being Djam Karet, you know that's only a momentary state, a point of departure. Especially since in the same breath we could say, but for the AOR elements, "The Red Threat" would be a classic avant-garde prog rock track. One can almost hear King Crimson in the driving rhythm. Oh, yeh, maybe Crimson is the band that comes to mind specifically because of the title ? but I think that would be a true impression anyway. And, you might even find a hint of Yes (and of Wakeman like keys specifically) long about the 7 minute mark, and later, a hint of blues rock, in each case given a DK flavour.

All in all, I feel its another solid release from Djam Karet, a band who don't seem content to "sit on their laurels" and continuously underscore what progressive rock means, even as the defintion of that term shifts.

* for those not familiar with the film, I recommend you rent it and see it at least once. Some might find it's ecological themes a bit quaint, and the decidedly 70s/folky sound track doesn't age well, but I have always found the film quite moving (no pun intended).

Dream Portal (5:26) / Hungry Ghost (9:17) / Chimera Moon (7:08) / Heads Of Ni-Oh (8:03) / Scary Circus (3:41) / The Falafel King (3:23) / Sexy Beast (4:25) / Ukab Maerd (7:56) / The Red Thread (10:29)

Gayle Ellett - electric guitar, ebow, slide guitar, organ, analog & digital synths, 8 string lute, theremin, field recordings, and effects
Mike Henderson - electric guitars, ebow, synths, field recordings and effects
Aaron Kenyon - bass (2, 4-7,9)
Chuck Oken, Jr. - drums and percussion, analog and digital synth, sounds and sequences
Henry J Osbourne - bass (1, 3, 5, 8)
Steve Roach - ending guitar atmospheres (8)

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)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 24th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1270
Language: english


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