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Djam Karet - A Sky Full of Stars for a Roof CD (album) cover


Djam Karet

Eclectic Prog

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4 stars You may notice the universal and the particular:

It's a thing of beauty in this the nineteenth full-length album, from DJAM KARET, the "Greatest Undiscovered American Band".

In this, the 35?year anniversary of the band.

In this, the multi-layered, complex, lovely- dare I say it, spiritual? examination/meditation upon the quotidian-to-the- eternal which humans sometimes laughably believe we can actually grasp.

Forgive me if I get too personal:

Because of the particular arc of my life and my musical journey, because of my own soul-sickness, because for a time I almost lost the music that teaches me more than anything else can, I was one of those who did not encounter DJAM KARET before this.

Nor did I for many years have, or take time to carefully listen to music- maybe an album in the background, or a sequence of songs on the 8-track, or cassette, or radio?those antique modes of listening you may or may not have encountered.

But it's one reason I review albums:

?since I am then honor-bound to carefully listen! to carefully experience, to give voice to what I'm hearing?since for me music IS particular and universal at the same time.

And in this case, "A Sky Full Of Stars For A Roof" touched many levels of response for me.

I pay homage to this creative collective, having some experience over the years with the fellowship of working within a band-setting. Having some experience with writing and collaborating- the energy, the joy, the grating frustrations, the demands of rehearsals and gigs, setting up and tearing down, living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sharing a room with other fellows in a small house, driving the endless miles and staying in the one-star motels?

I can't help but respect what original members guitarists Gayle Ellett and Mike Henderson, bassist Henry J. Osborne, and drummer Chuck Oken, Jr. have weathered, survived, encountered, and created over the years.

There is no shortage of ideas and musical richness:

I listen and I take notes. Again and again as I listened to "A Sky Full Of Stars For A Roof" I found myself using terms like " twinkling", or "shimmering", or "meditative", or "exquisite" or even, "a bed of whir".

The musical richness is for me due to the way the modern instrumentation is intermingled with the ancient and world instrumentation, like the cumbus or surmandel or bouzouki.

What does it say about a band, and about its members, who refuse to stay located in one place, who reach for broader brushes, who envision and hear strains and melodies and textures from many traditions and from around the globe?

Lots of Google searches (musical instruments from around the world):

Each of the exotic (to me) instruments has a history, a tradition, has a resonance in the cultures and times from which they emerged.

The twinkling, the shimmering, even the chittering of sounds, whether from field recordings or use of the Andean charango, or the synthesizer, the mbira or the mellotron, bring me into the presence of this richness, and somehow- perhaps because a friend recently posted on the absolutely dire conditions in which we presently find our planet due to the persistent recklessness of human consumption of resources- I found myself entranced, and yet wrapped in tragedy.

What we can today celebrate and in which we can rejoice- the diversity, the fecundity, the beauty, the mystery- perhaps all too soon, may be gone forever.

Not that the vastness of that "Roof of Stars" may even notice.

But I wanted to grasp as fully as I could within my own loves and limitations, what I am hearing.

What I am hearing:

The heartbeats of nimble imaginations meditating on rich, gentle, universal musicks.

One may refer to Pink Floyd here- with just that sweeping, guitar-led, synthesizer-laden passage, or to King Crimson there, or Happy the Man, or world music- and yet to be unable to fully communicate what a magical tapestry has been woven for us.

One might label this "psychedelic", or "progressive rock", or "Canterbury"?

There may be crickets chirping at moments, or dreamy awe produced by ripples of synthesizers, or an intuitive exuberance of drums and bass providing an underpinning to the music.

There might be a briefly edgy passage- especially in the album opener- which then moves in an entirely different direction.

The music evolves organically, develops, grows, then subsides.

It left me with a lump in my throat, an aura of joy and sadness and celebration and tragedy.

Like excellent music will do.

My hat is off to you, DJAM KARET:

I'm beyond glad I found you or you found me.

My rating: 4.5/5 simmering shimmers

Report this review (#2215978)
Posted Sunday, May 26, 2019 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Veteran US band DJAM KARET has been exploring the realm of progressive rock in their particular manner for close to 40 years at this point, with more than two dozen releases to their name all and sundry. "A Sky Full of Stars for a Roof" is their 19th studio album, and was self-released in 2019.

Djam Karet is a band that everyone should lend an ear at some point, if for no other reasons than to hear what consummate professional veterans do when they use their long experience as recording artists to craft a new album. Other than that, those who are fond of dream-laden, calm and serene instrumental progressive rock with world music and ambient elements explored in a subtly cosmic oriented context would be my description of the perfect audience for this album. Or, possibly, those who tend to enjoy a band like Ozric Tentacles in their calmer and more careful moments.

Report this review (#2269053)
Posted Sunday, October 13, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars A Sky Full Of Stars For A Roof

I remember one time, in an email with Gayle that we talked about music or something related to chord and changes. He said it was different for them, since they could start on A and end up on Z.

Not a whole lot needed to be said about their music after that. If you listen to almost anything they do, just when you expect something or other, it is not there, and something else lights up the visions and cinematic sights that the music offers. It will still have, on occasion, a few signs of the hard and heavy rock band, but the nice thing is that they are not "stuck" on the solo or the moment, and it helps propel the music to another visual segment that ... sometimes defies description, and this is the greatest part of the attraction for their music.

Be it, using an incredible load of instruments from everywhere except Mars and Pluto (I think!!!), the collages are incredible and really neat, and show the incredible feast of sumptuous sounds and continuity to make some very different images.

It would be too easy, to say that there are a lot of influences, and the two most obvious are the original guitar romping along and taking the music to a different place, not your usual formatted song that you listen to each and every day ... and then it's ... a sitar like sound instead of the guitar? Some say that a lot here sounds like this or that, but the continuity of it all is nothing but Djam Karet at its best and so far out, that it leaves a lot of music feeling not as strong as it can be or should be. It's hard to come out of listening to Djam Karet and feeling that something is missing. More often than not you wonder what next since you know that the next bit is not the same thing!

Adding to this, are the electronics, both electronic and digital that infuse the complete sound of the band, into a myriad of feelings, probably too difficult to describe ... what was that and wow?

"Beyond the Frontier" starts the album and right off the bat you get a feeling of the early Djam Karet and its start from sounds and strangeness. Immediately you get the feeling that you are about to have a lot of guitar driven material, only for it to develop into something else totally different and it is not the guitar that does the "solo" at the top! Gotta love it when non-conventional methods and sounds are what this is all about, instead of a song format.

There is slight discussion that is likely more confusing to many of us than helpful but we have to take the word for it. Chuck Oken says that this something that comes out of a dual process of things that are mixed live and improvised, and some things work and end up kept.

Chuck states: "In 2017/2018, Gayle reviewed a whole bunch of electronic pieces I had sent him and he lived with them over time and took x amount of them and combined and edited them into 7 tracks. These electronic pieces were composed of everything but the kitchen sink as I use a large array of both analog and digital keyboards and modular with a healthy dose of looping and processing. Those 7 tracks became the 1st layer of this project and are accurately reflected in Beyond The Long Twilight."

"Long Ride to Eden" is one special piece, that at times has me thinking that this is what someone like Tangerine Dream could have done with its loud sequencers and additives over it. But DK is not just about that, and instead set about making it quite an experience in the listening. Take the title away, and you are really hard pressed into thinking what it is that you feel and see. It is a really special trip on its own, and many times, more often than not, I want more and more. It is just that far out.

"West Coast"

Starting with the feeling and idea of shooting stars on a clear night, it starts as a really soft piece of music, I suppose that you could say that melodies drive this piece all the way through it, and it stands out as a part of the "shooting stars" in between it all. A very pretty piece of music, that is soft and gentle, and you kinda want to dance to it, the type of feeling you want to have when you want something far out to last all night. Special, and non-stop!

" A Sky Full of Stars for a Roof" I may be nuts, but if there is something I always look forward to, is the any long piece of music that this band offers so many times. They are always unique and drive your mind to many places and are always very satisfying.

This piece, is the special one, and I will use Chuck Oken's words. " ... The release is a combination of the 2 layers. You could start the 2 CD's (Layer 1 & 2) on 2 separate players and Tracks 1 - 7 should line up to be the release. This was discovered during some very long artistic discussions between Gayle and myself about this project. One thing led to another and then we were doing a mix of the release without the electronics and then we did a mix of the release with just the electronics and by doing that the entire scope and vision of this project appeared. Two layer worlds combine in A Night Full Of Stars For A Roof bringing two very distinct pieces of music together."

I can only say that this piece is already slated for my night under the stars in a special place! It has a slight feeling of the early material that the band did, with the guitar sound in the background, a sort of scream from somewhere in nowhere land. But, in the end, this mix is a really special treat and experience. And you want to sit through it the whole time, and when it ends ... I want more ... not sure about you! From the electric guitar to the acoustic guitar to the electronic feeling in between that hardly feels like it, this is what this band is capable of. A special sound that defies description, because it is not one thing or the other. It is BOTH. And the musicianship is, to my ear, really well thought out and special. It's like there is nothing wrong or out of place. The stars are all there. You hear the birds here and there, and then a frog way out there somewhere, or a loud car/truck drives by, but in the end, it is a non- stop image and trip along the specter of life. Totally special and so well put together, that it is difficult to think of this as "music". For me, it feels like the inner sound of a part of my world that has way too many things in it, but somehow many of them come up and shine now and then. This piece, even without its title, is that for me.

"Dust In the Sun" "On The Third Day Arrived the Crow" "Specter of Twilight" "Night Falls"

Unlike the previous 4 pieces that start the album, these feel a bit more like a small song that was left over from some of the materials and their dual recording techniques as mentioned above. They are very melodic and pretty, and for my tastes not as "trippy", but no less attractive than the other pieces, and the special kudos goes to the last piece in the album, a wonderful close to this incredible experiment and experience that we know as Djam Karet.

A very special feeling.

A very special band.

Gayle Ellett Henry J. Osborne Mike Henderson Chuck Oken Jr

With guests: Shannon Michael Terry Todd Montgomery Mike Murray Micah Nelson Mark Cook

Note: Statements from Chuck Oken, Jr. were taken from their website.

Report this review (#2573468)
Posted Monday, June 21, 2021 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars DJAM KARET have been together since 1984 and released 20 studio albums over their careers. The awkwardly titled "A Sky Full Of Stars For A Roof" is from 2019 and is their 19th studio album. Interesting that their next album from 2022 called "Island In The Red Night Sky" is a companion to this record, sort of a ying/yang thing like back in 1991 with their "Burning The Hard City" and "Suspension & Displacement" releases. This is the mellow one while that 2022 release is dark and electric and way more to my liking just like "Burning The Hard City" blew away "Suspension & Displacement".

The first thing I noticed listening to this album is the abundance of ethnic instruments and looking at the liner notes there are a ton of them and half of them I don't even know what they are. It's not like DJAM KARET haven't used ethnic instruments before, they have often but this comes across as a World Music album. The other thing is it's very acoustic and there's lots of electronics. This is a mellow album and a new direction for this band and not to my tastes unfortunately. I do get how some would be drawn to the warm sounds, and everything this band does they do very well but I just don't like this new direction. Not since the back to back albums of '01/'03 have I given them anything lower than 4 stars.

I am on the hunt for "Island In The Red Night Sky" with that awesome cover art but I have ten other DJAM KARET album to enjoy until then.

Report this review (#2949178)
Posted Sunday, September 3, 2023 | Review Permalink

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