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Djam Karet

Recollection Harvest

Review by Gary Hill

Djam Karet have worked hard to create their own unique brand of guitar dominated instrumental prog. They have been at it for twenty years now, and with their latest, Recollection Harvest, they are working to challenge themselves, their listeners and all preconceived notions about the band's sound. They have worked towards incorporating more keyboards and a more melodic retro prog sound into the mix. The result is a very listenable and strong release - well, actually two. As the band defines it there are two distinct albums on this CD Recollection Harvest and Indian Summer. On both they seem to be very successful at incorporating classic prog elements while still staying Djam Karet. These guys never cease to amaze or entertain me, which is why they are one of my favorite neo-prog bands. It's hard for me to pick a favorite Djam Karet disc, but this one is definitely up there.

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Track by Track Review
Indian Summer
Indian Summer
A bouncy, playful keyboard sound portrays a drastic contrast to what came before. Eventually other waves of sound come gradually over top, weaving layers of texture in this slowly morphing number. This never really wanders far, instead focusing on slowly moving patterns and overlayers.
Open Roards
A pretty sedate pattern gives way to a section of strange keys, which in turn drops to a bass driven sedate section. Then the opening segment joins in. They move this cut to just a tribal percussion with weird keys, then eventually a new bass pattern emerges and is joined by pretty keys. This moves after a time into odd territories partly by bringing in sounds from earlier in the track and partly by new sound over the surface.
The Great Plains of North Dakota
A guitar pattern that reminds me of California Guitar Trio comes in and carries the backdrop while keys that at times call to mind Pink Floyd and at others Hawkwind provide the coloration. This one doesn't move far, instead relying on pretty atmosphere to paint its pictures.
Dark Oranges
This one feels a lot like one of the weird space keyboard excursions Hawkwind frequently does. It is spacey, atmospheric and quite cool, but doesn't really develop. This has a slight Native American texture at points.
Twilight In Ice Canyon
Pretty keys start this and they bring in a very evocative acoustic guitar pattern to provide the backdrop. Noisy guitar lines come over the top to create the main thematic emphasis of the composition. Eventually, though this turns to a heavier and dramatic jam that feels a like the herder segments of "Echoes" by Pink Floyd. This one is quite cool.
This is a pretty and sedate series of tonal textures and mellow melodies that combine prog beauty with spacey elements to good effect. Floydian textures show up here, too. Frankly, I think had they placed this album first on the set then "Recollection Harvest" - the song - would have made a stronger closer, but this works reasonably well.
Recollection Harvest
The March to the Sea of Tranquility
Starting with keys, as this carries forward guitars enter and the sound resembles a standard Djam Karet guitar dominated piece a bit more. However, shortly they begin to utilize short segments that feel a bit like old Genesis. Other more dramatic textures are infused as this moves along. I am particularly fond of a movement based on picked guitar lines that is repeated here, each time getting a bit more intense through its overlayers. They eventually resolve this into a highly melodic section that does a nice job of merging the trademark Djam Karet sound with more vintage prog elements. They drop back to ambience to take it to its conclusion.
Dr. Money
Coming in with an almost funky groove, this one does well at combining the classic Djam Karet sound with something more akin at times to Kansas at other times ELP and maybe something a bit like UK at other points. After running through a while like this a false ending gives way to a more charged up and retro sounding take on the same themes. This gets pretty intense as it carries on and begins introducing varying themes across the familiar backdrop. Another false ending after a cool bass run gives way to a mellower slow prog ballad approach. They shift it again to a great slightly off kilter jam that includes some of the best instrumental work on show thus far. This section takes the cut out.
The Packing House
This one starts very gradually, merging a slowly moving bass line with ambient overtones and sound loops. Eventually this morphs into an off kilter faster progression with fusion like overtones and soaring instrumentals. This feels quite a bit like the instrumental side of Pentwater. They eventually move this into another slower paced melodic texture and gradually work their way through that. This drops down to a sparser jazz like arrangement that calls to mind vintage Pink Floyd a bit. Then they up the ante with some harder edged textures coming across the top, but drop it back down for a short time. This alternating pattern becomes the order of business for a time with another harder segment taking it next. A false ending gives way to a cool start and stop progression that works very well. They drop it back to the Floyd-like textures after a while. Then it bumps up the power and intensity with a cool guitar laden jam that runs through for a short time, then fades away to end the track.
The Gypsy and the Hegemon
This one begins very slowly with playful ambient textures fritting around in the background. Then a guitar soars across bringing with it a slow tempoed progression that feels somewhat fusion oriented. Keyboards lend a retro texture. They carry on with this basic musical theme running through a number of journeys without leaving these comforting confines. Then a crescendo leads to a transitionary holding pattern. The group move from here into a killer jam that feels like one part Meddle era Pink Floyd and one part Red era King Crimson. As it moves on Emerson Lake and Palmer like elements emerge, too. This whole section is one of the coolest on the disc, running through a number intriguing changes. This eventually wanders out with noises and processed sound bites ending it. This is one of my favorite Djam Karet tracks of all time. It successfully incorporates a lot of classic prog elements while never losing sight of Djam Karet's musical identity.
Recollection Harvest
The vintage Floyd sounds are back to start this and the cut carries forward in this mid-tempo format. Hawkwind like keys wash over top for a time, then take over and turn to total space to carry it through. This gives way to a short odd sort of segment that reworks to a new cool sort of jam with both KC and ELP textures. The Hawk keys wash over, then take it again with the KC ELP riff emerging from time to time as if seeking to regain control. The band instead move this into a fusion type groove that is textural and gradually modifying. This then moves into a funky sort of jam that feels like a prog take on Average White Band. They take this into more hard rocking prog territory, then cut it back again. And this begins an alternating pattern of the two segments, but the harder edged only returns one more time. A crescendo gives way to ambience. They very slowly build on this with strange textural sounds, eventually letting go of control ever so slowly to a Red era Crimson like sound slowly rising from the depths. This quickly gets heavy and dramatic as it moves on. Then it drops back to ambience again before exploding out into a plodding heavy metallic jam that feels a bit like Rush's "Cygnus X-1." This gets quite powerful before giving way to the keys that end the piece.

* an extended silence is included between the two albums on the CD.
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