My head is still reeling after my first Djam Karet experience! After having heard such great things about them, it’s great to finally listen to their new record, the aptly titled, The Trip. Though I’m generally not a fan of ambient music, The Trip kept me riveted and on the edge of my seat for its entire 47 minute duration, evoking images of the days when bands played in the dark to whirling kaleidoscopes of psychedelic lights and smoke machines.
Formed in 1984 at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, by guitarists Gayle Ellett and Mike Henderson, bassist Henry J. Osborne (a position now held by Aaron Kenyon), and drummer Chuck Oken, Jr., Djam Karet built their early live reputation by performing an improvised mixture of heavy guitar-driven rock and Indonesian drone music on the LA area college circuit. The band name (pronounced ‘jam Kah-ret’) is an Indonesian word that loosely translates into ‘elastic time’ and since their debut, No Commercial Potential – named after Frank Zappa’s early motto – they have built up a catalog of 15 instrumental albums, plus numerous compilations and EPs.
The Trip, their first studio album in eight years, offers a single, 47 minute track, that is smothered in calming atmosphere and texture. Truly masters of subtlety and nuance, Djam Karet are not really a band that plays chords and drumbeats, but are rather consummate manipulators of sound, creating soundscapes that warp time and space, not unlike Rubycon era Tangerine Dream. However, it is not completely ambient – at times the band shifts into a more chordal rock mode, complete with passionate, screaming guitar jams firmly supported by organs and rolling drums, not unlike Live in Pompeii era Pink Floyd.
I can truly say with utter honesty that The Trip is simply one of the most unique albums I’ve ever heard and is a sprawling and atmospheric journey that transcends countless moods and locations, even bringing me to few places I’ve never been before – making for an excellent slice of progressive music. Be prepared, however, to give this recording your full attention. This is music best listened to in the dark, in the middle of the night, with the lights off, and (as the band urges) in a set of high quality headphones – but be prepared to be drawn into an all-encompassing journey that will drift you off into a meditative, musical state. In the end, it will reward you with a clear, refreshed mind and an aural experience like none other. Recommended to fans of Tangerine Dream and perhaps Porcupine Tree’s Voyage 34.
You can buy your very own copy of this record here: