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Astro Can Caravan - Questral Places  CD (album) cover


Astro Can Caravan


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.00 | 5 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The unspoken stereotype of Scandinavian music is that Swedes are typically melancholy but Finns are clinically insane, and the existence of a band like Astro Can Caravan does nothing to disprove the latter.

In truth it's probably unfair to even call this a band at all. Consider them instead a loose collective of some two-dozen musicians, give or take a trumpet player (and without a vocalist in sight), playing the sort of brain-twisted Big Band Jazz never imagined by Duke Ellington or Count Basie. The experience is not unlike spinning a disc of vintage vinyl on your grandfather's old Vitrola and hearing distorted electric guitars, grungy organ runs, and primitive monophonic synthesizers in between the clarinets and saxophones. No crisp digital sheen here: the barely controlled anarchy was captured in glorious analog audio vérité.

A more obvious comparison would be to the kindred local spirits of the heavy-metal klezmer combo Alamaailman Vasarat, but with an even more unique musical perspective, spanning the decades from pre-war Palm Court swing to free-form hippie psychedelia to post-modern 21st century (schizoid) improvisation. The impression left by their debut album is that the ensemble entered the recording studio with a couple of finished compositions, and then filled the remainder of the CD on the spur of the moment. There's a nice balance of tightly arranged pieces (the tango-like "Helios Universal"; the Tropicana bounce of "Baia") with completely unstructured mayhem (the divided "Astral Movement" trilogy).

Sometimes they struggle to find a groove; often they don't even bother. Kudos to the group for throwing caution and convention to the wind when necessary. Sometimes the loudest music can be the most hypnotic, and even with their woodwinds and accordions the ACC orchestra achieves almost Post Rock noise levels on occasion. Trust me on this: Twenty-two musicians at full throttle can make one heck of a racket, especially when extended to sometimes transcendental lengths of unscripted cacophony.

Their collective enthusiasm, even when dialed back to the near ambient chill-out levels heard during the 10-plus minute album closer "Nile", can be dangerously contagious. It's hard not to be swept up in the joyful madness of this music, or to resist demanding entry into the same asylum.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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