Djam Karet – Recollection Harvest
Putting on a new Djam Karet CD is a lot like opening one of those traditional Christmas Crackers. You sort of know what’s going to be inside but you’re never quite sure. So you grab each end and pull. Then with a loud “snap” out pop the contents and it’s hard not to like what you see before you. Djam Karet are a lot like that. You think you know what to expect and yet when the contents are out in the open it’s always a little different than expected. It’s always a bit of a surprise. Djam Karet whose formation goes back to the mid eighties are back once again as a five piece consisting of Gayle Ellett (guitars, lute, ebow, Theremin, keyboards, effects), Mike Henderson (guitars, ebow, synths, effects), Chuck Oken Jr. (drums, synths), Aaron Kenyon (bass, synths) and Henry Osborne (bass, acoustic guitars, percussion) with a new release. This is the band’s 16th studio recording and its entitled Recollection Harvest. With this release the listener kind of gets two-for-the-price-of-one as Recollection Harvest turns out to be two albums in one, or at least two complete concepts on one disc.
The first 5 tracks, roughly 40 minutes of music fall under the umbrella title of Recollection Harvest and these pieces tend to spotlight keyboards. In fact lots of keyboards. From the opening Mellotron strains of “The March to the Sea of Tranquility” you’ll hear a new variation on the Djam Karet musical pallet. On these first five tracks, all ranging from seven to eleven minutes in length by the way, melody is king as the band move from one symphonic theme to the next as in the beautiful themes developed in the eleven minute “The Packing House.” Their typical aggressive guitars are all held in check providing instead a sort of atmospheric texture. The musical focus of these first five tracks is clearly keyboards and to that end all but one of the members contributes either digital or analog synth sounds to the compositions. What this means is that we get to hear some nice throaty-saw-tooth sounds and effects as in the title track “Recollection Harvest.” In many cases the synths are performing the lead melody lines which have the effect of softening up Djam Karet’s overall musical feel just a little bit. Look beyond the lead lines however and you still hear the complex rhythms churning away in the background.
After a 15 second pause, the second “album” on this disc, if you want to call it that begins. These six compositions are called Indian Summer and here the band take an even softer, more reflective approach to their writing and sound. As the name implies these are moody, somewhat more atmospheric pieces that allow you to drift along. Again the focus is on keyboard textures in looser, less complex compositions. Here the selections are shorter, three, four or at the most five minutes in length and the guitars are more acoustic, with layers of atmospheric synths layered on top. But even in this pastoral landscape the odd-stinging guitar lead will make its appearance in the background such as in “Open Roads” or “Twilight in Ice Canyon.” So beware…it’s not always as predictable as you might imagine.
Djam Karet have done a masterful job of moving their trademarked sound in yet another developmental direction. Their sound is easily identifiable being a mixture of psychedelic, symphonic, industrial and ambient and now incorporates a number of new musical motifs that have the effect of broadening their musical catalog even further. There’s no question that Recollection Harvest will appeal to their fan base, but it should also make great in-roads with newcomers who’ve not yet sampled the delights of Djam Karet. Highly Recommended.