Music Reviews



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Artist: Djam Karet (@)
Title: The Trip
Format: CD
Label: HC Productions
Rated: *****
You have to love a band who draws inspiration from 1970s 'stoner albums.' Djam Karet has been around for 30 years now, providing their take on the jam band. On this album, the press sheet states that 'The Trip' 'takes listeners on a psychedelic journey through the mind's eye. The unique offering is literally the soundtrack of a journey to places both familiar and otherworldly.' This is one 47 minute track of everything you would imagine. Improv jazz, mellow guitar, space age bachelor pad music with some electronic bleeps and bloops thrown in, and some prog rock guitar solos thrown in for good measure. About a quarter of the way through we kick into a pretty rockin' section. To paraphrase an old commercial, 'You got your prog rock in my jazz!' 'No, you got your jazz in my prog rock!' But like the aforementioned commercial, this is two great tastes that taste great together. This is a fun ride and it hangs well together. I can't help but think that this would be even better live. This album weighs in at around 47 minutes.
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Artist: Franz Rosati & Francesco Saguto (@)
Title: Gridshape
Format: CD
Label: Nephogram (@)
Rated: *****
The label describes this as 'an intersection of heavily distorted violent sounds with points of kinetic aural quietness through the interaction between digital electronics and guitars.' If you're thinking that this is going to be harsh guitar-based noise music, however, you will be somewhat disappointed. We start off with acoustic guitar arpeggios that become increasingly chaotic with background noise. 'Progression Through Transmutation' continues this formula. 'In A Liminal State' changes it up though with a rambling and clattering noisy track with bursts of feedback and pounding. But then, as soon as we found noise, we're back to a minimal piece; 'Progression Through Reposition' sounds like listening to someone tune a guitar for two minutes. Not terribly engaging. 'Shifting Threshold" brings us back to the acoustic guitar meets distorted electric guitar formula, but with a twist. Toward the end it starts to sound as if the disc is skipping because of the way that they are played. This was quite well done and interesting. 'In A Post-Liminal State' brings it back to guitars that start off mellow and get increasingly crunchy and distorted. Overall, I really wanted this to unload with both barrels, but I felt like they kept holding back. For me, it began to sound too formulaic. Well done, but didn't really seem to break any new ground. This album weighs in at around 32 minutes.
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Artist: Grouse (@)
Title: Heads
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
The post it note on the press sheet said to file under 'downtempo electronica.' Grouse is the work of Dublin-based artist Ronan Carroll. This is his second album, but this is the first I had heard of him. The press sheet calls it 'abstract, cinematic and almost entirely instrumental.' At first this seemed far too minimal, sparse, and repetitive. However, I gave it another listen with headphones to drown out the noises around me and it was a whole different experience. It's still a bit on the repetitive side, but the compositions are delicate, as if they are houses made of flowers that could be blown away by the wind at any moment. Think a really stripped down Alpha, and you're getting close to what Grouse is throwing down here. 'Arm the Harmless' was a break from this, where it sounds like he's channeling a Mediterranean folk song. Really quiet, mellow stuff overall. This album weighs in at around 46 minutes.
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Artist: Marrow Mandler (@)
Title: Escapist Grounds
Format: Tape
Label: Beläten (@)
Rated: *****
The label calls this 'up-tempo, industrial synth punk' with 'heavy, arpeggiated analog synths, twitching drum machines and drug hazy lyrics' and explains that this is a 'celebration of escapism.' Not quite sure what the escapism part means, but musically this is pretty good synthpop. Imagine old school Depeche Mode with thick analogue synths stolen from Kraftwerk's tour bus and vocals reminiscent of a more raw Clan of Xymox or Depeche Mode if they were much more bitter. And my favorite part of old new wave synthpop was the dark vocals, which are present and accounted for here as we are treated to such lyrics as 'I will never be alive again.' The compositions are simple and very raw, but they work well. This was very enjoyable and took me back to the early 80s without sounding dated (which is impressive in itself). I only wish that this one came with the download code for the digital version like the other tapes from Beläten. Mine was blank ' hopefully this was only a glitch in mine. This album weighs in at 19 minutes.
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Artist: Kakawaka (@)
Title: Ein fröhliches Lied auf den Lippen den Wandersmann kann nichts erschüttern
Format: Tape
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
When you see that the instruments used in the release include 'hunting horn, pan lid, monkey drum, toy keyboard, human voice, rain, computer, laundry rack, door,' you know that you're in for a noisefest. And that's what we start with on side A, 'Ãberall nur widerlicher Schmerz.' Weird heavily processed droney sound source combine with heavy slabs of harsh noise for an interesting juxtaposition. There are lots of analog machine noises mixed in for good measure. Fun stuff. Side B, 'Immer diese Schuld,' lays down some drone and ambience, but this is somewhat unsettling after the previous excursion into noise. You keep waiting to get blasted, but the wall of noise never comes. It gets a bit more raw, but mostly keeps with the weird wailing drone that reminded me of Lustmord's work. Overall this is a good tape and you can pay what you want for it on his Bandcamp site if you want to check it out. It's worth doing so. The tape version is limited to 100 copies and weighs in at around 20 minutes.
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