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Mike Henderson and Ukab Maerd: Djam Karet Solo Projects

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MIKE HENDERSON: White Arrow Project (CD on White Arrow Project)

This release from 2010 offers 57 minutes of gentle music.

Mike Henderson plays acoustic and electric guitar, bass, synthesizer, hand & electronic percussion, mandolin, and effects. He is joined by: Jack Housen (on vocals, bouzouki, and guitar), Caroline Dourley (on vocals), Chuck Oken Jr. (on drums), and Dion Sorrell (on electric cello and bass).

Guitars are the keynote instrument here, but that is not to imply that they dominate these songs, for the other instruments provide ample accompaniment, resulting in soft rock tuneage with a touch of searing passion.

A fair mixture of acoustic and electric guitars generate a delightful balance in the music. Acoustic strumming establishes a pleasant tone that conveys a sultry attitude, while electric notes create a smoldering dazzle of alluring charm. The performance is carefully restrained, allowing emotion to build with each meticulous chord.

Growling electronics offer a gritty counterpoint for the otherwise smooth temperament found in this music. At other times the electronics are sinuous and gentle, producing a vaporous milieu of bewitching mystery.

The percussion suits the prevalent mood of each track. Sedate and pattering for slow pieces, strong and complex for the more dynamic tracks.

Basslines slither amid the mix, providing a subtle adhesive for the other instruments. The presence of cello adds a somber touch to this solidarity. While the bouzouki offers a congenial snarl that is quite endearing.

Seven of the twelve tracks feature lyrical vocals, expressing the softer aspects of human relationships.

These compositions present a relaxed dosage of enchanting tunes. The melodies generate a tight interweaving that stirs the soul. An arid quality is found in many of these songs, often elaborated with subtle Eastern influences that results in a curious fusion of cultures that only exemplifies that emotion is universal and unhindered by cultural elements.

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UKAB MAERD: The Waiting Room (CD on HC Productions)

This release from 2010 offers 65 minutes of surreal electronic music.

Ukab Maerd is Chuck Oken Jr (on analog, digital and modular keyboards, electronic percussion, effects, loops, processing and reconstruction) and Gayle Ellett (on analog and digital keyboards, electric guitar and effects). They are joined by French electronic music pioneer Richard Pinhas on reconstructed guitar loops on three tracks.

A host of electronics are utilized to fuse traditional European electronic stylings with modern technology. The application of guitar effects and languid rhythms serves to pervade things with scope and auxiliary definition, resulting in tuneage that is inventive and mesmerizing.

Track one begins with some abstract blooping that quickly gives way to layered tonalities (which are actually Pinhas' processed guitar loops) which establish an eerie environment punctuated by additional effects and intermittent beats. Soon Ellett's own guitar mutations slide into the mix, lending their scalding sustains to the slowly building miasma of accumulative embellishments. Emerging as from a pool of dark water, Oken's rhythms generate a nucleus around which the diverse effects cluster and cavort. The composition gradually evolves a moody presence amid bubbling diodes and synthetic crickets. The introduction of tonal keyboard sweeps flavors things with portentous illumination, ushering the tune to a winsome conclusion with the resumption of Pinhas' guitar loops.

The second piece starts with gurgling that is summarily silenced by the return of those guitar loops (they're very unique and quite alluring) which are soon joined by metallic percussives with explosive edges to the beats. The loops win out, surviving the detonations and achieving a state of clarity before twinkling electronics usurp the mix and embark on a chromatic roll replete with overlapping echoes. A choral texture emerges to accompany this pattern in a passage of heavenly ascension.

For the next track, warped yet stately chimes generate a swaying presence that leads into a spooky realm of tense drones that gradually abates to allow a different Pinhas guitar loop to hold court. Atmospheric tones rise into play in conjunction with distant but shrill pulsations, some of which could very well be the plaintive wail of a tortured guitar. Sidereal expressions muscle their way into the flow, guiding things out of the darkness and into a celestial light crowded with nervous effects.

The last piece commences with dramatic keyboards tinted with vibrations. A dynamic electronic cycle takes over, propelling the song into chugging activity that eventually employs variations to achieve mounting tension. Auxiliary elements create the impression of a train rushing through nocturnal countryside. As the journey reaches its last stage additional keyboard riffs slide into the mix and generate a fascinating finale.

These compositions rank high on the dreamy scale while also exhibiting a distinctly haunting factor. Hypnotic yet chocked full of unexpected surprises, this music is designed to enthrall and confound the listener.

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