There are not many bands who can say they have been going for nearly 40 years, and even less who can say that on their twentieth studio album all four musicians also played on the debut. Gayle Ellett (acoustic & electric 6- & 12-string guitars, EBow, analogue synths, Mellotron choir, 8- & 4-string tenor ukulele, Greek bouzouki, harmonium, Rhodes, Hammond organ, vibraphone, bowed upright bass, viola, udu, ocean drum, field recordings), Mike Henderson (12-string acoustic guitar, keyboards), Chuck Oken Jr (analogue & digital keyboard sequencing & soundscapes, drums) and Henry Osborne (bass) have certainly followed a path less travelled over the years, and they show no sign of switching to the mainstream any time soon. They do also have a few guests, most notable of which is Todd Montgomery whose sitar playing on two tracks is incredibly important to the overall sound.
Back in the 90’s I remember being sent a wonderful promo photo (which I still have) of the guys, probably by Cuneiform, where their faces were obscured by the guitars they had stuffed down their shirts (apart from Chuck who had a crash cymbal) and even without hearing their music it had a massive impact on me just due to the way it implied the art was so much more important than the individuals. That follows through with their latest album as this is true art, where dark keyboards and synthesisers take us in one direction, and the acoustic instruments take us in another altogether. It is almost as if they are taking us on a fantastical journey, and if parts of this appear in a film in the future I would not be surprised. In some ways they are bringing in elements of Krautrock, most notably Tangerine Dream, but are then combining it with world music, folk and so much more so the brain has issues with putting it all together yet somehow it makes sense, although I am not altogether sure why. It is not an album which can be played once and then the listener feels they have got it, as this requires multiple plays to get the most out of it, as it is only with repeated hearings that one starts to understand the majesty and depth of what is being played. At the very end they do something I don’t think I have come across previously, in they have a very short track and after some silence we are
It is an immensely deep album, and I can only imagine how many tracks are utilised on every song (I know, all of them), but it never feels cluttered or drowning and instead is fresh and exciting. Nearly 40 years into their journey, Djam Karet are still finding ways to excite the discerning proghead. 8/10 Kev Rowland