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The Dazzling Return of Djam Karet

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Djam Karet have a long and strong reputation for producing outstanding progressive rock music.

After five years of silence, the band returns from a brief tour (playing selected dates in Los Angeles and headlining the Crescendo Festival in France) and goes right into the studio to record selections from their extensive catalog of material, infusing these performances with no-overdubbing to capture their dynamic live sound.

Currently the band is recording a new studio album for release in 2011. But Djam Karet felt fans and audiophiles deserved a release to remind them what they've been missing.

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DJAM KARET: The Heavy Soul Sessions (CD on HC Productions)

This release from 2010 offers 65 minutes of thrilling progressive rock music.

Djam Karet is: Gayle Ellett (on organ, analog and digital synthesizers, and mellotron), Mike Henderson (on guitars, ebow and effects), Aaron Kenyon (on bass and effects), Mike Murray (on guitars, ebow and effects), and Chuck Oken Jr. (on drums and altered voices).

With one exception, these are all songs from earlier Djam Karet releases, given fresh delivery with this revisited performance.

Track 1 ("Hungry Ghost") delivers intense synth wailings that lead right into dual-guitar pyrotechnics which establish a dazzling euphoria laced with sultry keyboards swimming just beneath the surface. Rumbling basslines provide a sturdy foundation, while frenzied percussion establishes a driving propulsion for this feverish piece.

Track 2 ("The Red Threaded Sexy Beast") offers dynamic guitar riffs compressed between slippery keyboards and pounding drums. A squealing synth solo emerges to give the listener a brief respite, then there's a searing guitar passage before things tumble back into a seething pit of brilliant intensity. Another breather occurs, embodied by twinkling guitar stylings and a liquid stretch of prominent bass, and then the vigor resumes with ambrosial fervor.

Track 3 ("Consider Figure Three") offers a more subdued Djam Karet as the band explores a somewhat ambient (for them) pastiche of endearing guitar sustains mixing with dreamy electronics and eerie voices.

Track 4 ("The Packing House") starts with hesitant guitars and progresses into bewitching synth riffs supported by classical jazz percussion, all culminating with a dose of stunning guitarwork that threatens to scorch the paint from the wall. Sinuous bass and liquid organ threads lend a seductive edge to the song's conclusion, which gets a celestial touch with the addition of heavenly keyboards.

Track 5 ("Dedicated to K.C.") is the exception mentioned above, being a cover version of a classic Heldon song written by Richard Pinhas. (While the piece has never been on a Djam Karet album, they did do a take on the song for an old Cuneiform compilation release.) This new version flourishes with radiant basslines grumbling beneath haunting synth, urgent keyboards, and nimble-fingered guitar. All the while, the percussion maintains a constant state of mounting locomotion.

Track 6 ("The Gypsy and the Hegemon") adopts a smoldering motif for the album's finale. While tone guitar sets up a pensive riff, another contributes a twangy counterpoint that evolves a snickety edge. Fusion keyboards establish a languid dreaminess in contrast to the drums' ever-rising rhythms. The bass conveys a molten touch that surfaces to illuminate the piece on its way to a blinding guitar outburst.

The manner in which each instrument strives for cosmic eminence is amazing, matched equally by the way every chord and beat blends together into a cohesion of shimmering stature. Comparisons to early-Seventies King Crimson and Grateful Dead jams are left far in the past, for Djam Karet have evolved a distinct style of their own, making them a yardstick to measure other bands by.

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