Djam Karet - Sonic Celluloid - 2017



“... Numerous Mechanical Circles...”


The new album “Sonic Celluloid” is already the 18th album release of the American instrumental group Djam Karet. The band was formed 33 years ago in 1984. “Sonic Celluloid” includes all four founding members of Djam Karet: Chuck Oken jr., Henry Osborn, Mike Henderson and Gayle Ellett as well as Aaron Kenyon and Mike Murray. All play (to varying degrees) on the new album that includes 10 new tracks that were recorded without any compression or computer manipulation. This was done to maintain a more dynamic sound. All the music is played by hand the old-fashioned way. “Sonic Celluloid” is all about how sound can be like cinema, how music can be like a movie. Progressive Rock lovers will know that feeling: music is often like seeing mini-movies in your mind. “Sonic Celluloid” has that laid back Southern California vibe.


Gayle Ellett - electric & acoustic guitars, Greek bazouki, Moon, Mellotron, Hammond, Rhodes; Chuck Oken jr. - drums, analog & digital keyboard sequencing & soundscapes; Henry Osborn - bass (1,2,3,4,7,10); Mike Henderson - guitar feedback (4,9); Mike Murray - guitar atmospheres (7,9), piano (9); Aaron Kenyon - bass effects (9)


It is time again to review an album of the California-based instrumental group Djam Karet which has often been called America's greatest undiscovered band. So far they have made 18 full-length albums as well 23 minor releases and EP's and compilations. An immense output of quality recordings with writing, arranging and performances of the highest order. The problem in the progressive scene is that a few bands are getting all the attention of the audience. I would love to see that this fact would change and that the audience would become more open minded. An example is the band Marillion with it's loyal fan base. If there is a kind of Marillion connection the fans will be opening their minds to discover new bands and music. For example the wonderful album of Richard Barbieri and Steve Hogarth or the Steve Rothery connection with the Italian band RanestRane. The last example is the new Isildurs Bane album, a cooperation between the band and Marillion vocalist Steve Hogarth. Of the later you can find a review on progVisions.

On “Sonic Celluloid” you can find the following 10 tracks: “Saul Says So”, “Forced Perspective”, “Long Shot”, “No Narration Needed”, “Numerous Mechanical Circles”, “Oceanside Exterior”, “Au Revoir Au Reve”, “Flashback”, “Lower” and “The Denouement Device”.

The album opens with the track “Saul Says So”, a lovely piece of music with a cinematic atmosphere. The piece has a jazzy and electronic feel. You will notice the use of the more traditional keyboard sounds like those of the Mini-Moog, Mellotron, Rhodes and the Hammond that are used on this album. The next piece is called “Forced Perspective”. The relaxed keyboard parts are now combined with jazzy electric guitar parts. The atmosphere of the music is laid back. The piece “Long Shot” has a mysterious electronic feeling and you can find some beautiful melodies in this track. Halfway the track punchy and grooving elements are provided by Hammond organ, fretless bass, drums and electric guitar. “No Narration Needed” opens with trumpet samples and when the guitar is joining the electronic instruments I had the feeling that I was listening to a soundscape of Robert Fripp. You can also find beautiful Mellotron melodies in this intriguing track.

This counts also for the next track “Numerous Mechanical Circles”. Mike Murray used this track as his inspiration for the album cover. It is a lovely electronic soundscape which generates a feeling of floating in deep space. Of course “Oceanside Exterior” is opening with samples of waves crashing on the shore. It is a very relaxed and laid back piece of music. Mostly keyboard oriented with a little guitar part. The beautiful “Au Revoir Au Reve” has that typical French atmosphere and I had to think of the romantic work of Serge Blenner. In Flashback the beautiful Mellotron strings and the other synths are providing a slowly evolving groove and are forming a keyboard layer as a base for the delicate electric guitar solo. And in “Lower” the Rhodes piano is put on top of a soaring guitar soundscape. The album ends with the piece “The Denouement Device” which includes beautiful and delicate keyboard strings and a groovy bass line. The acoustic guitars on top of the Mellotron flutes are sounding lovely. In the end a short electric guitar solo is penetrating the laid back atmosphere.


“Sonic Celluloid” the 18th full-length album of Djam Karet can be described as a collection of keyboard oriented and laid-back tunes with a cinematic atmosphere. I love the choice for the more traditional analog keyboard sounds like MiniMoog, Mellotron, Rhodes piano and Hammond organ. The foundation of the music is synth / keyboard based and on top of these delicious keyboard carpets you can find tasteful guitar and bass parts. Nowhere the music becomes hectic or complicated. With this album Djam Karet has the potential to reach for a bigger audience. The band deserves this. Great album to listen to ... after a hectic workday.

author - date - rating - label

Douwe Fledderus - April 2017 -   - HC Productions