To that percentage of the prog-lovin' populace that favors keeping lyrics out of the aural picture, Djam Karet has been nothing short of a godsend. Forming from the ashes of Happy Cancer in the early-to-mid 1980's, said modest inception has patiently given way to a sterling reputation for fashioning wordless rock rooted in psychedelic and symphonic styles countered by a healthy fetish for electronic music. Celebrating two decades of operation marked by seventeen CD releases (fifteen studio and two live), the Californian quartet whose name is Balinese for "elastic time" has been remarkably consistent in terms of output — maybe frighteningly so. It's been two years since A Night For Baku shocked the rest of the doubting Thomases into submission; Recollection Harvest isn't so much of a one-two punch as a roundhouse kick.
First things first: a quintet of themes that upholds the Burning The Hard City and Baku traditions complements an EP-length sextet of shorter exotic pieces under the banner of Indian Summer (King Crimson, Tangerine Dream, Gong, Goblin and Heldon resonate throughout spectrally, the prying eyes of ancestors looking forward in time). Original bassist Henry J. Osbourne performs on only two tracks — the rest feature Aaron Kenyon — yet his contributions are strong as ever. The other three-quarters of Djam Karet remain intact — guitarist Mike Henderson, drummer-synthesist Chuck Oken, jr., guitarist-synthesist Gayle Ellett — as does the band's spirit and time-forged sound. This outing also boasts the band's heftiest keyboard work to date: a bevy of gorgeous sounds from an array of digital and analog synthesizers — MiniMoog, Alesis Andromeda, various Nord units, etc. — is employed, along with the latest Mellotron, the MkVI.
A most ominous beginning is given over to "The March To The Sea Of Tranquility," courtesy of Henderson's moaning guitar voice and Ellett's Mellotron strings and [Korg] Triton organ. Oken's opening tom-tom fill assists in striking a most Goblin sort of vibe, and this could very well be something from Nonhosonno up until the middle section, especially with Kenyon's swarthy bass presence. "Dr. Money" features Osbourne, who won't resurface afterward for a bit, his markedly dexterous yet in-the-pocket touch a familiar and welcome one; he's also credited with the melodic acoustic guitar part. "Dr. Money" is the sort of track that showcases Henderson at his best, meting out phrases that shuffle across the demarcation lines of blues-rock and fusion — "bluesion," if that doesn't sound too shrill. For the synth crowd, Ellett dials up a Roland SH-101 and an ARP Omni-2, minions of a bygone era! "The Packing House" and "The Gypsy And The Hegemon" are artful exercises in atmospheres ambient, jazzy and funky. Kenyon's bass is again fused seamlessly, flaring up into angular runs that eventually succumb to anchor the proceedings. In "Hegemon," Ellett's [Nord Electro] Fender Rhodes cruises along like rubber on marble for spells, interrupted by a wailing staccato motif emanating from a Nord Modular. "Recollection Harvest" becomes the vehicle the guys' fans love 'em for; the start-stop funk-laced rhythms (Oken's time to shine) and amped-up dosage of 'Tron choir echo Red-era Crimson. Key letup points balance density with brevity where it's called for, Nord Electro bullets etching paths in the margins.
The title track of Indian Summer is as close as we'll get to a meeting between old school Steve Roach and Tangerine Dream, the bouncy sequence recalling the former's Empetus, the Mellotron chorals harking back to the latter's Rubycon. "Open Roads" recaps the motif of Santana's "Aquamarine" but for a bar or so before Osbourne's melodic bass waltz stirs to life. A manic guitar solo creeps over a dynamic textural base of tablas, steel drum and hand percussion; acoustic guitar and porous synth timbres complete the portrait. Arguably Summer's best endeavor, this also is the second and last of Osbourne's, for now, his role a fleeting but effective one. "Dark Oranges" is mostly electronic, effecting a murky, brooding mindset spiced with frenetic guitar shadings and devoid of drums (a not-too-far-fetched comparison would be Arc). "Twilight In Ice Canyon" reprises a similar guitar attack against an acoustic backing now complemented by drumming and shimmering Korg tones that conform to a patently "Djam" jam. The analog & digital textures of "Requiem" coax a mournful trembling.
Ah, to sum up a new Djam Karet release. This is one band that always lets the music do the talking. Which is what I'm going to do now.
1. The March To The Sea Of Tranquility (7:18)
2. Dr. Money (7:12)
3. The Packing House (11:11)
4. The Gypsy And The Hegemon (9:20)
5. Recollection Harvest (10:06)
6. Indian Summer (4:10)
7. Open Roads (4:57)
8. The Great Plains Of North Dakota (3:13)
9. Dark Oranges (3:44)
10. Twilight In Ice Canyon (5:16)
11. Requiem (4:16)
Total time – 71:36