What is there to say about a band that may have recorded its finest offering nearly twenty years after forming in an atmospheric suburb of Southern California called Claremont? Djam Karet's presence is an enigmatic and permeating one; the band's albums & live appearances have something in common with a bolt of lightning, appearing without warning before spiriting away back into the ether. Their live performances graduated from rare to uncommon within the last five years, and the energy they generate onstage makes the experience well worth the jaunt.
A Night For Baku accomplishes quite a bit — it brings out the best of All Things Djam, and not without some new developments. A larger role for synths & electronics is afforded; [guitarist] Gayle Ellett & [drummer] Chuck Oken, Jr. continue to pull double duty on Mellotron & synths/electronics, the latter responsible for several delicious solos on some choice analogish sounds. Landmark ambient synthesist Steve Roach joins Chuck on the penultimate track for 'sonic surgery' & reconstruction of a band piece. Finally, Aaron Kenyon steps in as official second bassist alongside original member, Henry J. Osborne — Aaron on five tracks, Henry on four (the integration of both bassists is rather seamless). Henry's bass talent has made him a favorite in many circles, and Aaron is on his way, having already performed with the band on three live dates. As ever, Mike Henderson's passion for the guitar is as unwavering as his affinity for unifying the soul & beauty of blues with rock & roll histrionics. Plus, Mike's low-key stage presence actually draws attention to his playing. Both Ellett & Henderson cook up many of the field samples which pepper the band's compositions; Mike also sits in the engineer seat while the entire band produces, making this a typically in-house affair. Expectedly, the production is excellent.
A concept album dealing with mystical warriors of the dream dimension, A Night For Baku is commenced by (may we assume) Henderson's hypnotic riff for "Dream Portal," replicated by Ellett on synth: its liquid grooves and Mellotron line recall the DK template and serve as a calm overture to the turbulent, nine-minute "Hungry Ghost," a teeth-gnashing poker hand of provocations and aural balms. As a long, blazing guitar solo outros the track atop a percolating analog bass, "Hungry Ghost" will be quickly endowed as one of the band's most exciting pieces, ever. "Chimera Moon" is equally rousing, its canvas a background of electronic space highlighted by a fantastic guitar lead and haunting 'Tron choir. If "Hungry Ghost" wasn't convincing enough, heads will roll as "Heads Of Ni-Oh" breaks out into a frenzied jam for wake-up call #2.
The beat goes up but won't come down. "Scary Circus" and "The Falafel King" are separate tracks, but the changeover is so short we can posit these 3-½ minute pieces comprise one seven-minute composition (they work better as one; imagine a two-beat rest). A quaint organ patch and complementary background sample begin the latter; the intro is cut away by a scorching Henderson lead and some burning licks courtesy of Henry J. The latter is marked by trilling on Spanish guitar and a synth solo which is much too short. The menace apparent in "Sexy Beast" sums up the Djam Credo — to conjure. Nightmares. Hellish visions. Soundtracks for mind movies. "Ukab Maerd" (Baku Dream) is a band piece with some remixing & additional samples, FX and parts by Oken & Steve Roach; hi-octane sequencing pulls everything closer toward Tangerine Dream territory, evoking "Thru Metamorphic Rocks." Henry's bass tone plumbs the depths with an unearthly resonance while spatial textures saturate the second half.
Untapped energies are finally unspindled to run rampant in "The Red Thread," the boldest album closer this reviewer has heard in some time. Power chords galore, this is a true sequel to "Ten Days In The Sand" and "Burning The Hard City," the muscular groove breaking the bid for serenity with crushing force. This is the longest track, at 10-½ minutes — a "mini-epic." The final quarter is something of a coda, as the band stops and starts again. The manic rovings of each instrument coalesce into a single aura; in true character with the Baku, the music is unrelenting.
Indulge! Your $13 may not be better-spent this year. Order A Night For Baku directly from the band, and through the end of May, it will be autographed by Ellett, Henderson, Kenyon, Oken, Jr., and Osborne, at no extra charge.