Djam Karet — Collaborator
(HC Productions HC008, 1994, CD)
by Dan Casey, 1994-10-01:Finally, the wait is over. Three years after the awe-inspiring double release of Burning the Hard City and Suspension & Displacement, America's premier progressive ensemble have returned, but have undergone a major facelift. Drummer Chuck Oken, Jr. has bailed out, and before that word was out of lead guitarist Mike Henderson's departure. Although Mike has returned to guest on this effort, Djam Karet are currently bassist Henry J. Osborne and guitarist Gayle Ellett. The premise of Collaborator is this: using tidbits of incomplete musical fragments created independently by friends of the band onto DAT, Djam Karet would take those bits and finish them off with their own unique touches. These collaborators include Marc Anderson, Kit Watkins, Jeff Greinke, Steve Roach, Walter Holland, Loren Nerell, and Carl Weingarten. With a cast like that, it shouldn't be surprising that this album would further explore the more ambient side of the band, but rest assured this album is a far cry from a rehash of the ground already covered on the amazing and revolutionary Suspension & Displacement. Where that album used many acoustic guitars and electric guitar loops and patterns, this new release is void of either of those. There are more keyboards than ever before (again no surprise when you consider the musicians involved) and more emphasis on percussive backdrops. Holland's bright sequence which opens the album, and Greinke's delicate piano chords which close it are both timbres previously unfamiliar to the Djam Karet lexicon. The first two tracks are deceptive in their optimism and brightness, since the rest of the album is remarkably dark and haunting. Djam Karet continue to pioneer the electronic genre, with an unparalleled understanding of the timbral complexity required to make music of this nature succeed. And succeed they do, on a grand scale. This album strikes a deep nerve, and is emotionally stirring — the mark of master craftsmen. Highly recommended, and undoubtedly one of the year's best efforts.
by Peter Thelen, 1994-10-01:
Having followed this band since their 1987 cassette release The Ritual Continues, I've always felt that their strongest suit was their ability to create atmospheres, emotional sonic textures that speak to the inner being. In their earlier days these were well integrated with their 'rock' tendencies to create a powerful and well balanced musical whole. In recent years the band has developed a split-personality, one of moody electronics and the other of jagged edged progressive rock, exemplified by their 1991 dual CD releases Burning the Hard City, which contained almost none of their experimental electro/acoustic material, and Suspension & Displacement, which essentially contained no rock. The division left less room for those tracks which straddled the lines in between the two styles, which was always their most interesting material. After three years and some personnel changes, the band has returned with this latest effort, a collaboration with seven other artists in the electronic/ambient realm. The collaborators include some well known folks like Steve Roach, Kit Watkins, Carl Weingarten, Jeff Greinke and Walter Holland, as well as a couple names most may not be familiar with — Marc Anderson and Loren Nerell. These artists all prepared some material for the project, but purposely left it incomplete. DAT tapes of this material were then sent to the members of Djam Karet, who completed the project by mixing in their own inputs. Surprisingly, most of the material here works quite well, although it's all very low-key in nature, probably even more so than Suspension, and like most of the material by Roach, Greinke, Holland and such, this is great music for relaxing and freeing up the consciousness, but I wouldn't recommend it while driving or operating heavy machinery! Most of the tracks are in the three to six minute range, short enough so that they don't wear out their welcome, but you'd know Steve Roach would have to contribute the longest track here, clocking in at nearly thirteen minutes; even so, it works. Standout tracks here include the "Salt Road" collaboration with Carl Weingarten, "Moorings" with Kit Watkins and Loren Nerell, and the Walter Holland contribution "Cliff Spirits." At 72 minutes, though, I rarely last through the whole play (of course the same could be said of World's Edge or any of a number of records by the various 'collaborators'). Overall an excellent release, but in the long term I think the band could do themselves a big favor by re-integrating their sound.
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more
Joel Vandroogenbroeck RIP – Word has reached us of the death of Joel Vandroogenbroeck, best known as one of the founders of Brainticket, He also recorded electronic music under a variety of names. He was born August 25th, 1938 in Brussels, Belgium and died December 23, 2019 in Arlesheim, Switzerland, aged 81. » Read more
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Grand Opening and Closing – It sounds cheesy to admit but the cover art for this CD is what I thought most impressive about it. Independent releases are usually fraught with problems in presentation. But SGM come at you with a... (2001) » Read more