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(47 min, HCP)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Trip 47:08 LINEUP: Gayle Ellett – keyboards; Greek bouzouki; flute, recordings Chuck Oken Jr – drums; synthesizers, sampling Mike Murray – el. & ac. guitars, e-bow Mike Henderson – el. guitar, e-bow Aaron Kenyon – 5-string bass
Prolusion. Formed in distant 1984, America’s DJAM KARET is a widely known progressive rock band that, I believe, doesn’t need any special introduction. “The Trip” is their 16th outing to date, released this last May after an eight-year hiatus. The band has its section on this website, which is located here.
Analysis. If my memory doesn’t let me down, “The Trip” is the first single-track album since Jethro Tull’s 1973 masterpiece “A Passion Play”, also bearing the same title as its sole piece does. The band focuses much of their delivery on Gayle Ellett’s foundation keyboards (a lot more frequently on synthesizers than on organ or Mellotron), which form the basis of their sound in most cases. After the listening to the composition I have – conditionally – divided it into seven parts, which sound different from each other. To put it in a more precise way, I view the recording as a continuous suite comprised of seven segments, all of which present a variety of musical colors that blend from one to another, though I must note that the first and the seventh/last of them – or the intro and the outro – are the same piece of music, representing a refined symphonic interplay between an acoustic guitar, synthesizer and the Mellotron. The second section is a mix of electronica, ambient and post-industrial elements, all more or less superimposed on one another. It also contains some fluid guitars over a vast background of synthesizer passages. From a very sparse application of the elements at the beginning, the section progresses to assemble them more and more frequently. The musical bits ebb and flow as if caught in the waves of an indecisive tide. Tangerine Dream would probably be the most appropriate reference point regarding this one. Part 3 is probably the most ambient episode on the disc with its tranquil swells and smooth transition into a guitar-based interlude, albeit one of the guitar solos instantly evokes the main bass riff of ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. The fourth movement is the first one to involve all the band members. It sports an early ‘70s Pink Floydian vibe, though there are also definitive similarities to mid-‘90s Porcupine Tree (think the Pink Floyd-inspired “The Sky Moves Sideways” album rather than “Signify”) in this section’s sound and songwriting approach, although Djam Karet is less psych in style than either of the English groups. Then the musicians withdraw the dynamics and let them slip away in oblivion. The least eventful part of the album, Section 5, is yet another very atmospheric affair with an airy guitar hovering over the synth drone, its second half fading away like a spent candle. This one is hard to pinpoint, but, due to the scarcity of sound sources, it can become tedious after a while. The sixth segment is in turn the best workout the band gets on the album, with spirited up-tempo playing and even tempo melodies. Remotely, it is reminiscent of ‘Sheep’ from “Animals”, but is inferior to Pink Floyd’s composition in both diversity and intensity. Like in the case of Segment 4, the music is symphonic Space Rock, of course. Finally, it must be mentioned that, despite the contemporary (or maybe post-modern) approach, the entire recording has a retro quality to it.
Conclusion. Within the ambient-related sections the variations are subtle, at times barely audible. Those unsentimental pieces are almost completely free of prettiness and ornamentation, even to the extent that some of them avoid any kind of cadence, deceptive or otherwise. In contrast, within the space rock-style parts of the album the sound surface is rather dense and layered, frequently presenting new collages of sound and texture (and it’s there where the instruments – a guitar and keyboards in particular – are heard in all their glory). Unfortunately, they cover only one third of the disc. All in all, “The Trip” can be highly recommended only to those who, unlike me, prefer ambient and electronic music to classically progressive one.
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