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The Gutsy Guitars of Djam Karet

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Djam Karet exemplify every potential of the instrumental guitar band, delivering power and verve with every composition.

Djam Karet is: Gayle Ellett (on guitar, electronics, et al), Mike Henderson (on guitar, electronics, et al), Chuck Oken Jr. (on drums and electronics), and Henry J. Osborne (on bass and didgeridoo).

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DJAM KARET: New Dark Age (CD on Cuneiform Records)

Searing guitar pyrotechnics rule Djam Karet's music on this 56 minute release from 2001. Powerful chords, complex riffs, and riveting structure expand the listener's imagination with their insistent cries. Compelling drumming pummels the audience's rhythm-sense, maximizing every moment to its richest dramatic potential. Thunderous basslines flood the mix like electrified honey, rumbling like a hornet the size of a stationwagon. Elegant keyboards and serpentine electronics swoop from every sonic corner, adding to the compulsive intricacy of each thrilling melody.

This instrumental music compresses modern rock, progressive jazz, astral funk and avant garde into a single vivid style that defies classification as readily as it attracts enthusiastic praise.

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DJAM KARET: Ascension (New Dark Age Volume 2) (Limited Edition CD on Djam Karet)

This 46 minute CD is a companion release to the "New Dark Age" CD. It further explores the themes and concepts explored by the band while recording that album.

Expect the usual guitar overload as powerhouse riffs belt out with sinuous and relentless fury amid a flurry of piercing electronics. But what guitar grandeur is worth its salt without drums and bass? The bass thunders throughout, a sonic cement providing a sturdy foundation for the nimble and versatile guitarwork. While the dynamic percussion is vibrant and exhausting with its intricate and inventive rhythms.

Each instrument flows with the others, fusing to create a wondrous sound that fills the listener's lungs with anticipatory breaths.

The guitars on "Licking the Skull" are quite shrill, and barely distinguishable from tortured synthesizer wailings. Generally, though, the guitars involve themselves in rock pyrotechnics, with soaring sustains and passionate riffs intended to dazzle and stimulate. Even when the guitars go acoustic, they are accompanied by intensely growling electric guitars.

There is a particularly organic feeling to this music, in startling contrast to the igneous flair exhibited by the music on "New Dark Age".

The CD concludes with "Disintegration", a 16 minute epic that thunders with ominous undercurrents beneath a turgid sea of gurgling electronics and searing guitar which surprisingly diverts into a driving excursion into trance percussives and mangled vocal effects before settling into a cacophonic return to stable soil.

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HYBRID VIGOR : 11 by 3 (CD on Djam Karet)

Hybrid Vigor is Norma Tanega, Mike Henderson, and Rebecca Hamm.

Tanega's multi-percussive talents deliver an active rhythm base for Henderson's exotic guitar stylings. Bongos and steel drums cook while acoustic guitar establishes luxurious melodies. The balance of dominance often slips back and forth between the two instruments, affording each musician opportunity to pursue the riffs and rhythms with entertaining results.

The compositions are strong and moving, blending Latin roots with modern airs.

Jessica Hamm provides vocals in some tracks.

While the xylophonic percussions are quite apt in the "Clockwork" track, interestingly in contrast to the atonal scrapings in the song "Elephant". Expect some other strangeitude in the way of different instruments like didgeridoo, flute, and violin in later tracks.

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THE MASKIT CHAMBER: The 4th Wave (Limited Edition CD on Djam Karet)

The Maskit Chamber is a side solo project by Gayle Ellett.

This release from 2000 features a single 50 minute track that hides a considerable degree of sonic enthusiasm in its ambient framework. While the bulk of the piece consists of electronic soundscapes, that drift seething with barely restrained vigor, these atmospheric stretches serve as bridge between the more exciting sections of the greater track. Light percussives surface, signalling the appearance of lilting guitar strumming. The tone escalates from minimal to dreamy as the guitar expands with pleasant melodies. Meanwhile, the electronics growl away, generating a constant backdrop of severe tension, for not all the electronics are passive, some display a remarkable density with their ominous drama. Although the majority of guitar is electric in nature, there are some instances of acoustic expression lending a rustic humanity to the ongoing ascension.

While this music never quite explodes, it does maintain a rivetting presence that is engaging and satisfying without going rock-out.

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THE MASKIT CHAMBER: Heaven Machine (Limited Edition CD Djam Karet)

This time, Ellett explores more conventional song structures with music that blends soundtrack sensibilities with contemporary independent modes.

Guitars share the sonic spotlight here with droning keyboards, while luxurious percussion provides a pleasant basis of rhythm. Why, there's even the ghostly wail of a theramin spicing up the "Italian Horror Movie Soundtrack #6" track.

But don't fret, not everything is sedate and moody. The electric guitar still blazes with stellar fury, passionate and vibrant amid the heavenly musical environment.

Despite the instrumental nature of this tuneage, several tracks exhibit takes on politics and modern sociological situations, as in "Free Tibet", "Transcendental Medication", "Bill and Monica Shuffle", and "Indian in the City."

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