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Astro Can Caravan - 21st Century Drifting Episode CD (album) cover


Astro Can Caravan

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Second studio album of modern Finnish big band (brass section, accordion, guitar, percussion section, drums, bass - in all 22 musicians!). Band plays brass jazz based music, but by its content it could be placed somewhere on the borderline between jazz and avant prog.

Sound is relaxed, airy and even ascetic in moments - in North European tradition. Not too many emotions are showed, but these strange fusion elements are quite emotional themselves: from African percussion to Balkan rhythm to klezmer to Finnish folk. All this mix is spiced by delicate amount of progressive rock arrangements and scent of psychedelia.

Being heavily brass-filled, from the first listening album's music could sound as modern big band, but open ear listener very soon realize that by it's structure and atmosphere this brew is more similar to NY down town avant (a-la John Zorn), just much more relaxed,more psychedelic, strongly influenced by Finnish folklore and less emotional.

Great combination of Sun Ra/modern jazz/folk, rare example of easy accessible complex music nowadays.

My rating is 3+ .

Report this review (#303739)
Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Astro Can Caravan's myspace page has some of the best psychedelic African rock grooves I've heard since the heyday of Mandrill, that was why I was kind of surprised when I received this CD and found out their music is far more diverse than their web page would lead you to believe. Caravan is an entirely unique brassy semi-big band that mixes the aforementioned Afro-psychedelia with East European, Nordic and avant-garde influences. Though such influences may seem disparate, Caravan mixes them effortlessly into a congruent whole that never sounds like pointless pastiche. It is often hard to tell where the Balkan influences leave off and the African influences take over. Although some similarities to Sun Ra are hard to miss, overall Caravan often has more of a psychedelic rock jam feel than Sun Ra's more jazz centered approach. Some other artists that come to mind while listening to this might include John Lurie's Lounge Lizards, Club Foot Orchestra, Pigbag, ROVA, Peter Applebaum's Hieroglyphics Ensemble, Willam Brueker Kollektief, Don Ellis, John Zorn, Fred Frith and Frank Zappa's early 70s big bands. One of this album's highlights is the unique synthesizer work of multi-keyboardist Otto Eskelinen who manipulates an old school analog that is often a lead instrument in the brass orchestrations.

This is a good album, but I would have liked it better if it had less avant wandering about and more of their trademark focused psychedelic grooves. To their credit, I bet Astro Can Caravan comes across better live than they do on record. I get the feeling that this large ensemble's performances are a naturally theatrical event.

Report this review (#318294)
Posted Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permalink

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