Archive for March 10, 2014

Djam Karet – “Regenerator 3017″ (HC Productions 2014, HC017, CD017)

Djam Karet’s 17th album is a 30 year celebration of this band that formed in southern California in 1984. Throughout the years Djam Karet has covered a variety of territory, including Progressive Rock, Hard Rock, Psychedelia, and ambient/soundscape explorations. All these elements came together on their last album, 2013’s The Trip, which consisted of a single 47 minute journey. For Regenerator 3017, which includes all the original band members, we have Djam Karet in full blown 70s inspired Prog mode, though there are spacey psychy bits to be enjoyed as well.

Prince Of The Inland Empire sets the tone for the album, having a Canterbury-Prog and Jazz-Fusion feel, augmented by beautifully tasteful and melodic guitar solos and killer sounds of the 70s keys. Living In The Future Past is similar but heavier on the Jazz-Prog-Fusion side, and includes cool grooving Rhodes and luscious spacey Mellotron. Desert Varnish starts off sedately floating, and then develops into a spacey Prog instrumental, and we’re treated to impassioned acidic rocking guitar licks, spacey keys, soundscapes and alien effects. The freaky effects continue on Wind Pillow, along with awesome melodic and spaced out guitar leads on this blend of classic Prog, Fusion and Psychedelia. Lost Dreams demonstrates how a simple peaceful grooving vibe can be so exquisite when you have the combination of scrumptious guitar and keyboard sounds and rip your heart out melodies. Ditto for the dreamy sauntering melodic Empty House. And On The Edge Of The Moon is at once the most intense and most majestic track of the set.

Wow, 30 years is serious longevity by any measure. What’s kept me excited about Djam Karet all this time is their ability to follow an exploration like The Trip with a 70s Prog influenced but distinctly Djam Karet experience like Regenerator 3017. The promo sheet describes the album’s intent as, “we wanted to create a melodic album with a classic sound.” I’d say that nails it. The combination of monstrous melodies and classic sounds are striking. 30 years and going strong. You ROCK Djam Karet…

For more information visit the Djam Karet web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Glass – “Palindrome” (Musea Records 2014, FGBG 4935)

Gritty, raw and earthy are not usually words associated with progressive rock. So it was strange to me at first that these words would come to mind while first listening to progressive rock group Glass’s new album, Palindrome. They are apt descriptors, although they don’t quite tell the whole story. The album is quite a unique listening experience.

I’m almost tempted to drop the word ‘rock’ from the progressive rock tag here, because the music on Palindrome doesn’t really rock in the traditional sense. It has some rock influences, but it is steeped much more deeply in jazz and experimental and even folk idioms than those usually associated with rock, even progressive rock. It does certainly draw from the Canterbury school of progressive rock, a sub-genre that the members of Glass have made no secret to loving (many of the luminaries of this sub-genre have previously appeared on Glass albums and on some of the individual members’ solo efforts). But even that particular school often diverged far enough away from what was rock music that it developed something else wholly unique and unheard before. And that’s sort of what Glass is doing here; because really, Palindrome sounds like no other album out there, not just in the progressive rock genre, but in any genre of music.

The opening track, No Sanctuary, is about the closest thing on the album you’re going to get to a ‘typical’ Glass track (if there is such a thing!). It’s a grand and symphonic opening statement heavily featuring an 1849 Whalley Genung pipe organ recorded in the First Presbyterian Church of Port Townsend. But even here, something is different. The sounds are recorded very dry, in the sense that they are not laden with effects. They’re raw and organic, even minimalist in nature. The music itself is simple, yet powerful. The short second song, Satori, despite its title which might suggest something more contemplative, is a jaunty little song that may be as close to pop music as Glass gets. But if the concept of Satori means an awakening, then this is indeed an awakening to the fact that something very different is going on here.

Much of the music on Palindrome is far more minimalist than is usual for the progressive genre. It’s frequently cyclic or repetitive. It’s like Terry Riley jamming with Joe Zawinul. It’s also often improvisational; the band went into the studio with very little planned out as to what they were going to do, and just began playing together with the kind of telepathic-like communication that musicians that have been playing together for forty-some years possess. But it’s also got that raw and gritty feel to it too. Just dig that heavy fuzz bass on Hughtopia or the simple, folksy acoustic guitar on The Water is Always Moving On, or even the buzzing, analogue synths of the album’s very experimental centrepiece, the 20-minute long Arrhythmia/Linger Longer. “Listen to your mind,” Jerry Cook, the band’s drummer intones as the music shifts from the traditionally Glass-like symphonia of the first part into a sonic mindscape of cymbal taps, pulsing electronics and hazy, dream-like musical meanderings that is equally disorienting as it is mesmerizing. This track is my personal favourite on the album.

The rawness and simplicity of the music is often tempered with overlaying moments of symphonic beauty, as with the breathtaking Mellotron sounds on The Rain Song, and the combined swells of organ and Mellotron on Wake for Owsley (a tribute to LSD guru Owsley Stanley, who had passed away just a few weeks before the recording of the album). The latter is particularly exemplary of this combination, for underlying the lush swells of symphonic sound are some really kind of crazy, madly strummed fuzzed out bass guitars that shift rhythms in odd ways that sound almost like mistakes were left in on purpose. It’s this loose, go for broke style that sets the album apart from other Glass albums, but also from the genre of progressive rock in general. Gritty, raw and earthy, Palindrome is an inimitable listening experience that once it gets a hold on you, won’t let go. So it’s best to do what the musicians did when recording it. Just go with it. You won’t be disappointed.

For more info, visit:

Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald

Space Mirrors – “The Golden Path EP” (self-released 2014, Download)

The Golden Path EP is not the new Space Mirrors album, but rather a 10 year anniversary digital download only collection of re-recorded songs, previously unreleased outtakes and demos from the early years. It’s also, in terms of length, not an EP as it includes over 70 minutes of music.

The Dune Trilogy, originally on the 2006 released Memories Of The Future album, is the re-recorded track. The new version is as heavy as the original, which is no surprise as Alisa has increasingly incorporated Metal influences into Space Mirrors. And this new version does so while staying firmly in the space rock arena. But what makes the new version most interesting to me is the distinct character of the musicians in the current Space Mirrors lineup. Earth Gods Dance is an outtake version of the title track from last year’s The Other Gods album. Sands Of Dune is very different, being a 13 minute deep space synth instrumental soundscapes and effects journey that harks back to Alisa’s pre-Space Mirrors Neutron Star days.

Having followed Space Mirrors since the beginning, the demo tracks were of particular interest to me, getting to hear rarities from the days when the project was primarily a collaboration between Alisa and Australian musician Michael Blackman (who released several very good albums as Alien Dream). The 2002 tracks are the earliest, being eerily haunting cosmic explorations that preceded the first album, The Darker Side Of Art. Crossroads, also from 2002, and Underworld is Cold, from 2003, though still electronic and keyboard driven start to incorporate Rock elements. These early tracks also display the cinematic flair that would characterize Alisa’s later theme oriented albums, like the current Lovecraft inspired Cosmic Horror trilogy, and Alisa’s “book soundtrack” Psi Corps side project. Shadow Race from 2004 is an early example of Alisa’s leap into the Metal world. Shadowride, also from 2004, is similar but straddles the Metal/Space Rock axis in the way that makes Space Mirrors so compelling among contemporary space rockers. As I listen to these tracks I marvel at how far the project has developed over the years.

The Golden Path is for seasoned Space Mirrors fans who will appreciate the holdover until Cosmic Horror III is ready, and by purchasing it will help Alisa raise funds for Cosmic Horror III, which is one of her stated motivations for this release.

To stream and download The Golden Path and other Space Mirrors albums, visit the Space Mirrors Bandcamp site at:
Visit the Space Mirrors web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Chester Hawkins – “Semisolids” (Intangible Arts 2014, IA016, CD)

Washington, DC based musician Chester Hawkins first came to my attention through his recordings as Blue Sausage Infant, a project he decided to retire after 28 years and now continues to record under his own name. While Blue Sausage Infant was Hawkins’ own project, from one album to the next it could include a variety of guests. Semisolids is (I believe) Hawkins’ first post-BSI release, and all tracks were improvised live with no assistance from collaborators.

The set opens with Iodine. A low end rumbling drone lays the foundation, over which multiple layers of electronics are added, including throbbing waves, playful flittering sounds, intense rising and falling streams, laser beam effects that slide along like alien caterpillars, and strange anguished cries. It’s not so much an excursion than a Kosmiche adventure into sound development and bringing sounds together in interesting ways. The Brood is similar, though does develop into more of a cosmic journey, and I like how Hawkwins strikes a balance between cold minimalism and peaceful meditative drift.

We’ve also got some rhythm oriented tracks. On Nematode, Hawkins lays down a rhythmic pulse that conjures up images of a strange off-kilter dance for robots. Parallel rhythms are added for an electronic “band” effect, and is soon led by a cold but pleasant “almost” melody, surrounded by an atmospheric spaceship landing vibe, which all struck me as something like Kraftwerk meets The Residents. Plasmid is similar but a bit more overtly melodic, though in a still playfully robotic syncopated fashion, and I like how the basic melody is surrounded by a frenetic parade of meteor shower effects, soaring, and often screaming synth lines, and rumbling noise drones. The rhythms continue on Isle Of Dogs, an eerily spaced out groove tune.

The promo sheet compares Malattia del Sonno to Italian horror, and indeed this darkly thematic piece sounds like The Excorist and Suspiria themes glommed together and shot into space. Though not Italian horror, Slender Loris has a darkly foreboding and deep space thematic feel, and the general vibe of a horror/sci-fi blend that would make primo soundtrack material. I like the proggy keys and surging electronic effects at the end. Proximity Fuze sounds like a roundup of everything we’ve heard on the album so far. It’s simultaneously atmospheric, thematic and rhythmic. It’s energetic yet floating. It’s a canvas of sound that zips along down a rickety yet linear path. The volume and intensity level continually build, until reaching a feverish pace of winding anguished space waves and a steadily syncopated dervish-like pattern. Lots happening here; one of my favorite tracks of the set. Finally, From Away includes some of the harshest noise of the set, but like much of the album is balanced by contrasting soundscapes and effects. Another darkly thematic piece, parts of which sound like being in a forest on some distant planet, populated by alien wildlife.

In summary, Semisolids is a banquet of contrasting elements, employed in cooperative and interesting ways. For an extra fun experience, put on the headphones and listen while reading the wild cut-up style text in the digipak.

For more information visit the Chester Hawkins web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Bill Nelson – “Getting The Holy Ghost Across” (Esoteric Recordings/Cocteau Discs 2014, 2-CD, originally released 1986)

Bill Nelson isn’t what I would describe as space rock or psychedelic. But his 1970s band Be Bop Deluxe certainly had sci-fi and futuristic themes. And there’s an ambient/soundscape quality to much of his solo work. I followed him closely from the Be Bop years through the mid-80s and then lost track of him until last year when I learned of a new book biography, which I picked up and enjoyed. Cherry Red’s Esoteric label, in conjunction with Nelson’s own Cocteau Discs. has reissued Nelson’s 1986 Getting The Holy Ghost Across (aka On A Blue Wing), which is probably the first, or one of the first, of his albums released after my attention was diverted in the 1980s.

Nelson is an elegant lyricist, and during the Be Bop Deluxe days was an equality elegant and lyrical guitarist. Nelson intentionally stepped away from the guitar hero role and went on to use the instrument more as a textural tool, like an audio paintbrush. The first hint of things to come was the last Be Bop Deluxe album, 1978’s Drastic Plastic, evidence that Nelson had been influenced by the music flourishing in the initial post-punk explosion. And his next album, Bill Nelson’s Red Noise, is in my opinion long overdue for recognition as the post-punk classic that it is.

After Red Noise, Nelson’s solo output, both albums and EPs, came at a steady clip, featuring a variety of songs, experimental work, and theater production scores. Getting The Holy Ghost Across is very much in line with where Nelson was at in this period, being a set of 80s electro driven pop songs that draw on an intriguing mix of styles. Contemplation is an 8+ minute ambient electro-pop song with lusciously efx’d soundscape guitar licks, quirky, yet body swaying rhythms and seductive melodies, like some kind of New Wave Torch song. Theology blends 80s electro-pop with the robotic quirkiness of Kraftwerk, and then projects it into a cinematic dream world. Wildest Dreams is a space-age swinging song with a Caribbean inspired flair, but also violin, horns, and beautifully disorienting efx. Lost In Your Mystery includes Oriental and jazz elements, all within a spacey dreamy indiosyncratic brand of New Wave romance and quirky but seductive rhythms. We’ve got the spacey electro jazz-pop of Age of Reason and the electro jazz-funk of Because of You. And The Hidden Flame is an electro grooving pop tune with a catchy melody that is far above anything heard in the major hits of the day.

The 11 track bonus CD includes all the songs from Nelson’s Living For The Spangled Moment and Wildest Dreams 12″ EPs. Standouts includes the “wild mix” of Wildest Dreams, which has passionate vocals from Nelson, killer bass, and freaky psychedelic effects at the end. I love the funky electro jazz-pop of Heart and Soul, Living For The Spangled Moment, and Finks and Stooges of the Spirit, the latter of which includes brief rockin’ guitar leads. More beautiful leads can be heard on the electro-pop Word For Word. There are also some interesting instrumentals. Feast of Lanterns is a spacey dual acoustic guitar piece. I like the spacey atmospheric vibe of Night Birds. And Self Impersonation is a cool grooving psychedelic electro-pop instrumental with tasteful guitar leads.

If Nelson missed the early 80s MTV boat, it’s probably because as accessible and catchy as so many of these songs are, there’s still a freaky factor that drives them excitingly off the beaten path. He utilizes elements of electro dream-pop, Kraftwerk quirkiness, romanticism, lounge jazz and ambient/soundscape atmospherics and effects to create his own brand of innovative 80s pop. The bass throughout has a beautiful fretless sound. Combine that with Nelson’s creativity and proficiency with the guitar and an exquisite lyrical flair and you’ve got a set of songs that are musically challenging, yet completely accessible to all.

For more information visit the Bill Nelson web site at:
Visit the Cherry Red web site (distribution for Esoteric) at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz