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Djam Karet: No Commercial Potential—Rock Improvisations from 1985-2002

Out of print for nearly twenty years and only ever issued as a cassette album, No Commercial Potential can now take its place in posterity's bosom. The three improvisational jams of 1985 are remastered and matched with three new counterparts on a second disc that features both the Mk. I (bass: Henry J. Osborne) and Mk. II (bass: Aaron Kenyon) lineups. To those "in the know," Osborne's deft bass work is a key component of the group's magic, and the younger Kenyon (formerly of Atavism of Twilight and Controlling Hand), himself an accomplished bassist, joined in 2001 for the east coast gigs as Osborne had outside obligations to fulfill. Kenyon is an official member and contributed to last year's amazing A Night For Baku. The percussive and synthetic machinations of Chuck Oken, jr., and the kaleidoscopic axe-isms of guitarists Gayle Ellett and Mike Henderson are ever-present.

Vangelis once said "I function as a channel through which music emerges from the chaos of noise," and this platitude certainly holds true for Djam Karet. It's long been known that the Djam'mers start each "rehearsal" with an unscripted improv, each of which is recorded to DAT by Mike Henderson. Sans rhyme or scheme, each invention can begin life as an amorphism, or jagged guitar riffs can slash instantly across the canvas of sound. One can imagine intangible tendrils of raw sonic power strained through an unseen filter, to emerge as the fusionoid bass solos and the wrung out banshee death wail guitar notes of "Blue Fred," which begins spatially well enough. The groove doesn't congeal in "Where's L. Ron??!!" until roughly seven minutes in after an amorphous opening, at which point things veer off into a long, spaced-out jam tapped from the mental recesses of the Ashra collective. "Dwarf Toss" is a rather cohesive, spaced-out rocker with breakneck leads that gradually take over and "lock" the drum groove down. The middle section (around 18-19 minutes in) is wrought with tension, thanks to a militaristic drum pattern.

The second disc carries the title of …And Still Getting The Ladies. Henry J. Osborne plays on the first track, Aaron Kenyon plays on the third. "The Building" is nothing less than a concrete slab of prime Djam-sonics, opening with successive layers of synthesizer sounds, and no percussion for ten of its twenty minutes. Osborne's bass roams until it centralizes its two-note pulse around the eight minute mark, and not long thereafter goes into full melodic bass mode. A bona fide creepshow, "The Door" is a vehicle for phantasmal atmospherics consolidated by background chatter (provided by the band) and the warped moans of guitar feedback. "The Window" is the epic of the trilogy, closer to one half hour's length, as with its older cousin, "Blue Fred." After a serene prelude, a slight downtime occurs wherein the music stops (Kenyon also plucks a few notes and chords); Oken then launches into a stark, mean rock pattern that ushers in a new sense of urgency. This track is the most "live" sounding — specifically, the instruments are mixed loud (especially the drums and Henderson's guitar), and the entire jam has a raw, headfirst feel. Ellett & Henderson are the stars of this track, burning it up with astral solos that fire repeatedly like falling stars, but with the lingering effects of a cosmic storm. On virtually every DK album, Ellett and Henderson simultaneously channel metal, folk and blues, transmuting each element and transmitting the new homunculi as torrents of aural energies. And always, the resultant electrical display is but half of the action, with the rhythmic sector releasing much solar heat of its own.

Another stellar CD release under a great band's belt, yet this one still seems to be criminally under-exposed. As director Michael Mann tends to favor alternately ambient and upbeat textural instrumentals for his films (he contracted Tangerine Dream for Thief and The Keep), DK excel at both, and the vibe these instrumentals give off, for example, would be well-suited to underscore any of Mann's sprawling oases of cinematic urbana nocturna. One last tidbit: this 2CD release carries a mere $15 price tag for nearly two hours of music. So pop the tab, and let your mind soak it up. After all, it's safe to say Djam Karet is southern California's house prog band!

Track Listing:

— Disc One: No Commercial Potential (1985) —

1. Where's L. Ron??!! (16:52)
2. Dwarf Toss (11:16)
3. Blue Fred (29:42)

— Disc Two: …And Still Getting The Ladies (2002) —

1. The Building (20:03)
2. The Door (7:56)
3. The Window (27:22)

Total time – 113:11

Added: August 24th 2004
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: DJAM KARET Dot Com (Official Site)
Hits: 2525
Language: english

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