Mike Henderson and Chuck Oken Jr. are two of the founding members of the exceptional US instrumental progressive rock ensemble DJam Karet (an Indonesian word that loosely translates as "elastic time"). And their latest collaboration "Dream Theory In The IE" is just one of two albums currently being released on the bands Firepool Records label - the other being "The Whiskey Mountain Sessions" by The Hillmen, another DJam Karet side project featuring Gayle Ellett and Mike Murray (which I'll also be reviewing).
Since the 1985 release of their debut album "No Commercial Potential", Djam Karet has expanded their improvisational repertoire from free-form guitar dominated instrumental rock with exotic middle-Eastern motifs to include ambient synth and loop effect excursions into the eerie other-world of Zeuhl and abstract electronic nightmares. "Dream Theory In The IE" is one such example featuring 7 lengthy improvisational tunes that begin with a simple sequence pattern, tape loop, or digital percussion program and build upon it with spontaneous guitar and synth riffs and layers of on-the-spot effects. "Dream Theory In The IE" is the result of three live shows and six hours of spontaneous improvised concerts pared down to just over 76 minutes - recorded without overdubs directly to 2-track digital. With the exception of minimal post-production effects such as re-verb, delay and EQ the music that you hear on the disc is exactly what the audience experienced during that live recording session in December of 2011.
Unlike the energetic uptempo Djam Karet albums "Reflections From The Firpool" and "The Devouring" the minimalist music on the Henderson/Oken collaboration is comprised of hypnotic sedate compositions for those who find the works of Tangerine Dream, Richard Pinhas, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp's Frippertronics, Pat Metheny, and Klaus Schulze palatable. If not - this may lull you to sleep.
Fans of the legendary Belgium Zeuhl band Univers Zero should find the title track a welcome surprise. The eerie dissonance of "Dream Theory In The IE" would have been perfectly suited for the albums "1313", "Heresie", or "Crawling Wind". Very creepy and effective. I loved it - my wife was terrified!
I was hoping the track "Zombie Attack" might be inspired by the music of Goblin, the Italian band renown for scoring Romero's flesh eating zombie epic "Dawn Of The Dead", but the music was more in keeping with the soundtracks of filmmaker John Carpenter. Instead of conjuring up grotesque images of the walking dead overtaking an isolated farmhouse or shopping mall, a scene from the film "Escape From New York" played out in my head, as Snake Plissken silently maneuvers his glider over the barren wasteland of Manhattan Island onto one of the Twin Towers. Midway into it, when the drums kick in, the tune took on a hard-driving Ozric Tentacles feel, adding some much needed energy to the overall tone of the album.
As the press clipping implies and I agree: "Henderson/Oken are multi-instrumentalists and strong players who have a very keen sense for mood, texture, and space and embrace all kinds of gear whether it is acoustic, analog, digital, or electronic." And it is in evidence by the instruments used during the recording of the album:
- Mike Henderson: 12 String Acoustic and Electric Guitars, 6 String Lap Steel Guitar, Analog and Digital Keyboards, Effects and Loops.
- Chuck Oken Jr.: Synthesized Electric/Acoustic Guitars, Keyboards & Sequencing, Digital Drums/Percussion, Effects, Loops, Live Sampling & Treatments.
Recommended for fans of spacey electronics and hypnotic minimalist music.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on December 18th, 2011