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Karakorum - Fables and Fairytales CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.96 | 49 ratings

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5 stars "Karakorum" is a psychedelic/space rock band that was founded in Germany in 2014. The band has released 3 albums since 2015 and has been comprised of 5 core members; Axel Hackner (organ, electric piano, synth and vocals); Max Schorghuber (guitar and vocals); Bernie Huber (guitar, harp, vocals); Jonas Kollenda (bass, double bass, vocals); and Bastian Schuhbeck (drums, marimba, vibraphone, non-tuned percussion, vocals). Their 3rd album, which was released in May of 2019, is comprised of 3 long tracks which have a total duration of 46 minutes and is available on CD, Vinyl and digital download.

The album starts with the shortest track which approaches the 10 minute mark. "Phrygian Youth" begins with a jazzy swagger and settles into a smooth stoner rock vibe with some nice progressive touches. Vocals start after a minute with the entire band singing in a 70's style rock harmony. After a short verse, the music settles in a slightly faster groove while a guitar plays an interlude before returning to the pounding riff and then mellowing out and slowing down for an atmospheric guitar solo. It then speeds up and features the fuzzy organ sound that reminds me of Deep Purple, then a swirling guitar takes over. Before 5 minutes, things slow down, the drums drop out and vocals start again supported only by atmospheric synths, and then suddenly becomes heavier and slow as the stoner style vocals continue. Then a march style rhythm starts up, stops, and then transforms to a space rock groove with a fusion style foundation and lots of wonderful 70's style organ effects. Dissonant chords come in, the music goes into a rough stop/start progressive riff and guitars build up the intensity. This music is excellent with so many changing textures, tempos and meters that the music never stagnates, but provides an ever shifting journey back into the time when this music had a lot of rough edges that made it so raw and excellent.

Next is "Smegmahood", which is presented as a 5 part multi-section track. This entire track lasts for nearly 14 minutes. It starts out similar in style to "Gentle Giant" with the odd harmonies and unique progressive sound. Wow, this is great! As it goes into a dual guitar improvisational section, the piano plays a pattern of heavy chords and the guitars, one appearing in each of your speakers, agitate each other as the piano continues to pound. Then just before 4 minutes, the vocals get really strange and then quickly get replaced by a harmonica. That's right. The tempo increases and a excellent guitar solo takes over. Then things get really progressive, crazy synth and guitar shifts come in, and then you drop into a Zappa-esque jazz style. After 6 minutes, we go back into those odd harmonics again, and then a series of goofy noises like crying babies and bicycle horns and a long "wa-hoooooooooooo", then back to that stumbling progressive sound again. Hilarious vocals come in as the percussion push the tempo along. The band definitely get into avant-garde territory on this one with dissonance, zaniness and other assorted hijinx. After 10 minutes, the band starts singing in a "round" style, and actually start to sound like "Antique Seeking Nuns", what with the kooky lyrics and strange vocal melody lines. At 12 minutes, a slow beat trods along as what sounds like a trombone plays along drunkenly. With all the changes and oddness here, it's too hard to keep up with, and you have to hear it to believe it all.

The last track is "Fairytales" and is 23 minutes long. This starts out mysteriously with wordless vocals singing in a mid-eastern droning style. The music is in no hurry, and meanders along with odd effects and continued vocals until it builds in a crescendo and added layers, then it all falls apart again. The atmospheric sound continues and a slow march rhythm begins to define itself in the percussion as the wordless vocals and instruments try to all come together. Different vocal lines start getting added, and then, finally just before 6 minutes, the instruments all come together to establish a standard rhythmic pattern. Soon, stoner style vocals and harmonies start singing lyrics and everything finally comes together. This really can't be called a jam, but the progressive section bases itself around the mid-eastern scale that continues in a tricky percussive style. At 9 minutes, everything settles into a moderately slow pattern and there is some nice guitar work done here. This music does not allow itself to settle for too long however and soon becomes a lush mix of guitars and synths later joined by a slow jazz fusion. A very nice melodic section starts which includes beautiful vocals that actually becomes the most accessible part of the album. Beautiful organ and bass play together with synth washes and soon additional vocals. This is a surprisingly beautiful section that goes on for about 5 minutes or so, and then an instruemetnal section starts to develop and bring us into the next section which immediately returns to a heavy progressiveness with strong reminders of that 70's progressive fusion that we all know and love. The mid-eastern vibe returns in the organ improvisation that is supported by a start-stop pattern pushed by heavy guitars, then it goes into a great guitar passage that builds in intensity and speed. At 19 minutes, it falls into a percussive solo with various drums, bongos and what have you start swirling together, then suddenly breaks down when vibes are added in. In the last few minutes, everything comes together again with the full band playing and bringing it to a soft closing.

This album is simply amazing. Even though it is considered psychedelic/space rock, it never really settles into your typical jam session as the music is always changing, yet it does it so smoothly. This is not like a bunch of styles and sounds thrown haphazardly together. Yet it takes you so many places, through so many styles and melodic changes, it touches on so many styles, yet it does so in smooth and concise way. The vocals that appear throughout are nice touches, again, not just thrown in there, but clearly part of the music. I absolutely love this album, which I was not expecting. It is very progressive, yet still takes the time to allow you to breath. The inspiration for this band is 70's style progressive music and they pay their respects to their heroes in effective ways. The music is never boring as there is always something happening. The music and vocals travel from your standard rock and jazz fusion to pure avant-prog styles to folk inspired rock without blinking an eye or skipping a beat. This is definitely another album that you have got to hear. I think everyone will find something to love here. This is definitely a highlight album for 2019.

TCat | 5/5 |


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