Mike Portnoy of Transatlantic, ©2000 Jeff Kushner
Mike Portnoy of Transatlantic, ©2000 Jeff Kushner
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A Night for Baku Djam Karet
"A Night for Baku" (2003)
[Cuneiform Records]

When I first started to rediscover the many unheard of progressive rock bands that existed in the early 1990’s there was a major vibe about California based Djam Karet. I’d never heard them and sadly it took me many years to discover the band’s unique sonic quality. That was then…now I look forward to each new release. In some ways my listening tastes have matured but on the other hand Djam Karet have hardly stood still musically.

Djam Karet are now a five piece with a new release entitled A Night For Baku. The band is essentially the same although they’ve added new bassist Aaron Kenyon. Musically the new CD picks up where New Dark Age left off and throws in a number of new taste treats for all to enjoy. The name of the album is taken from Japanese folklore. The Baku are mythical inhabitants of the dream world, valiant warriors who devour nightmares as the spoils of war.

The sound this time around is unmistakably fuller and in spots more lush than usual all the while incorporating more than the usual doses of electronics, progressive rock, psychedelic jamming and more. The band are never afraid of veering from one sub-genre to the next….sliding from a psych jam into a more aggressive proggy symphonic sound as on “The Hungry Ghost”. Truth be told there are more electronic keyboard sounds on this release than any of the previous discs. The addition of more keyboards is for me a welcome addition, adding textures and tones that enhance Djam Karet’s ever expanding musical pallet. Just listen to the track “Scary Circus” and you’ll immediately hear what I mean.

Fans of the band will appreciate the fact that everything you liked about Djam Karet before is still there. The industrial dissonance is still there in spots, the spacey-psychedelia guitar is still there, the mechanical ambiance is still there, the punchy guitar/bass interplay is still there, and even the Mellotron is still there. What’s added is a subtle refinement to the compositions and arrangements that allows for each of these elements to stand out in a more distinctive manner. The songs on A Night For Baku all beautifully build on dramatic themes sometimes creating a cacophony of metal tinged edginess and at other times falling loosely into a pastoral jam. But in each case the compositions are complete and emotionally fulfilling.

When their last CD was released it seemed to me to be the best blend of their talents. And you know what at the time it was. But I’m happy to announce Djam Karet have not sat back on their past efforts, instead they’ve taken their musicianship up another notch or two, pulled out a couple of wonderful surprises and given us their best effort yet in A Night For Baku. It’s a truly magnificent recording in every respect. In my mind, there is no longer any question: Djam Karet is one of the front line bands in progressive rock today.

Review by Jerry Lucky
July 31, 2003

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