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Djam Karet: New Release and Connected Project (Spoke of Shadows)

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Progrock dynamos Djam Karet are back with their 17th full-length album, celebrating their 30th anniversary together. and the band is just full of surprises...

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DJAM KARET: Regenerator 3017 (CD on HC Productions)

This CD from 2014 features 41 minutes of comfortable modern jazz music.

Djam Karet is: Gayle Ellett (on electric guitar, Rhodes, moog, mellotron, Greek bouzouki, and field recordings), Mike Henderson (on electric guitar and percussion), Mike Murray (on electric guitar), Henry Osborne (on bass, piano, and keyboards), and Chuck Oken Jr (on drums, percussion, keyboards and effects), with guest Mark Cook (on Warr guitar on one track).

For the most part, this is a uncharacteristically pastoral outing for Djam Karet, exploring a softer sonic disposition than their normal molten style. But even in this softer mode, the band delivers some wonderful tuneage.

The guitars are smooth and smoldering without undue overburn. Their chords lilt through the mix, establishing a comfortable flow. While the general level is low-key, there are a few instances in which the guitar indulges in some fiery displays.

Keyboards play a vital role here, providing dreamy swooshs and agile-fingered riffs that ooze through the mix with effortless ease.

The bass has a particularly tasty rumble that is often subdued to a subterranean vantage.

The percussion is outstanding, always there to contribute the perfect rhythm for whatever's going on, whether it be lazy beats for a contemplative passage or hyperactive tempos for a rock-out piece.

While these compositions tend to be of a softer nature than usual from the band, they still stand as amazing tracks exploring a different sonic terrain. These more gentle songs are akin to modern jazz with their easygoing sashay and pacific delivery. There's little frenzy going on here, just some pure devotion and often intensely tender moments. It's almost as if you're listening to a John McLaughlin album.

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SPOKE OF SHADOWS: Spoke of Shadows (CD on Firepool Records)

This CD from 2014 features 48 minutes of guitar-heavy progrock music.

Spoke of Shadows is: Bill Bachman (on drums) and Mark Cook (from Herd of Instinct) (on Warr guitar, fretless bass, guitar, and keyboards). They are joined by: Joe Blair (on guitar), Gayle Ellett (from Djam Karet) (on mellotron and Rhodes), Bob Fisher (from Herd of Instinct) (on flute), Michael Harris (from Thought Chamber) (on guitar), Tony Rohrbough (from Byzantine) (on guitar), Dave Streett (from Herd of Instinct) (Warr on guitar), Jeff Plant (from Thought Chamber) (on fretless bass), and Shannon Wickline (from Charlie Daniels Band) (on piano).

Expect a lot of guitars here, pushed to their technical limit and handled with ultra progrock sentiments. The result: intense tuneage of a delightful nature.

The guitars are numerous and applied to diverse directions. Some squeal. some growl, some soar, some chitter, some snarl, others snarl even more vehemently. It's like being subjected to several Robert Fripps at once; a dizzying but memorable experience. Hyperspeed fingers manipulate these guitars, issuing a plethora of dazzling riffs. The Warr guitar produces an equal amount of dazzle and bent notes.

The percussion is agile and clever, striving for unexpected turns amid rhythmic rolls and delivering beats filled with exuberant enthusiasm. The rhythms are constantly going, and always delivering intriguing tempos of peerless character.

The keyboards provide the music with slithery liquid threads that often hang like advancing fog banks. Piano offers a more stately expression of such rolling chords.

In music this dense, a degree of strong bass is needed to support the awesome concoction, and the basslines here are more than capable to do that job with their rumbling pops and undercurrent grumbles.

The compositions were crafted with attention to "creating a hybrid progressive music that covers a wide range of moods and styles" (Mark Cook). In that, the band have certainly succeeded, although the majority of the songs lean toward the intense end of the prog spectrum. The softer pieces evoke a dreamy pastoral voyage that often encounters instances of gritty intensity. Comparisons to the current musical stylings of King Crimson can be made, but only in a vague way; Spoke of Shadows will leave you with the same type of after-listen teeth-clenched warmth.

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