For over 30 years the California group Djam Karet have been recording some of the most exciting and adventurous instrumental progressive rock music in the US. And doing it on their terms.
The same artistic spirit and independent attitude that prompted the band to christen their debut album "No Commercial Potential" back in 1985 is ever present on their 17th album, the 2014 release "Regenerator 3017".
And while most modern recordings fall victim to the on-going Loudness Wars, whereby recordings are mixed and mastered with a harsh 'loud-all-the-time' over-compression, the production of "Regenerator 3017" proves to be an audiophiles wet dream. No compression, computer manipulation, studio gimmickry, or digital accoutrements. And best of all no ear fatigue. The end result is a CD with all the warmth of a vinyl LP - minus the occasional pops and clicks. This is as close to a vintage analog recordings as your likely to hear - short of climbing into Mr. Peabody's 'Way Back Machine' and setting the controls for the mid-70s'.
Unlike last year’s 47 minute epic "The Trip" which made up the entire album, "Regenerator 3017" is a collection of 7 medium length tracks, ranging from 3:49 to 8:36 minutes.
This is vintage Djam Karet ... complete with melodic ethereal soundscapes and pyroclastic fury. The tunes are awash with soaring guitars, the pastoral splendor of a Mellotron, Fender Rhodes piano, and the single greatest analog synthesizer known to man, Robert Moog's legendary MiniMoog.
This album is neither as loud and raucous as "Burning The Hard City" and "The Devouring" or as sedate as the eerie ambient soundscapes of "Suspension And Displacement" - but represents a melding of their melodic jazzy side on "Recollective Harvest" with the polished harder-edged style on "Dark Age".
Although the release date reads 2014 this album might well have been recorded at the height of the Canterbury movement. Tracks like "Prince Of The Inland Empire", "Living In The Past", and "Wind Pillow" are reminiscent of those great 70s' Canterbury groups like early Camel, National Health, Egg, Soft Heap, Gilgamesh, and Soft Machine.
"Regenerator 3017" is a wicked concoction brewed up in an alchemist's cauldron. The music is infused with the mystery and menace of Fripp's King Crimson, the regal majesty of symphonic prog, a heavy dose of Canterbury, jazz fusion, and the 'black light and Dayglow' psychedelia of "Meddle" era Pink Floyd.
Considering their longevity and expansive discography it seems downright disrespectful to resort to my common practice of drawing comparisons to similar sounding artists as a point of reference.
Djam Karet sounds like ... Djam Karet!
And "Regenerator 3017" is the culmination of 30 years of musical experience from a group of accomplished musicians who have persevered far longer than most marriages.
The line-up on the album (which remains pretty consistent throughout the years) includes: Gayle Ellett (electric guitar, Fender Rhodes piano, MiniMoog, Mellotron, solina, Greek bouzouki, field recordings), Mike Henderson (electric guitar, percussion), Mike Murray (electric guitar), Henry Osborne (bass, piano, keyboards), Chuck Oken Jr. (drums, percussion, keyboards & effects), and guest musician Mark Cook (Warr guitar).
For fans this should come as a welcome addition to their collection - and a great companion piece to last years "The Trip". And for the newcomer this is a great introduction to one of America's top progressive bands.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on March 31st, 2014