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Published: 2003/03/25
by Jesse Jarnow

Gopal To Starwin: Live in San Francisco 2002 – Kooken and Hoomen

Golly, there’s something so late-‘90s about Kooken and Hoomen — the live
electronic thing, I mean. But, hell, so what? It’s good. Kooken and Hoomen
are a small, young jamband who are breeding hope. The music on their live
EP, Gopal To Starwin, is unpredictable, lush, ever-morphing and
beautiful. When their songs curve from section to section, which they do
with frequency, it never sounds as if the band is following a predictable
musical path — just a cool one.
The music is low key and righteously west coast — mellow, for sure, but
with a surprising amount of oomph given their geographical base.
Maybe it’s unfair to apply those kindsa standards to a band, but it needs to
be anthropomorphized somehow, right? There is a mix of arty/gritty tones
that all seem to be tempered slightly by an allegiance to some standard or
another. For example, "Se Fue La Luz" – repeated from their debut studio
disc, Escuela – is driven by a particularly dirty synth tone never
harsh enough to be called "industrial", but too textural to be called
anything else.
"San Rafael Saab Story" is a real gem of a tune (not to mention a gem of a
title) that begins with a Zappa-style meltdown before recombining into an
over-the-top dub riddim cherryed with a surprisingly crystalline synth
melodica line that sounds like chirping crickets. The bassline is a little
too busy for the groove, I think, but that’s also one of the things that
gives it that character. (And, for that matter, it still gets closer to dub
than most jamband attempts at the problem.)
The band moves back into Zappa territory for "Liza Minelli Puts Catsup On
Her Polenta", which is too guitar centered. Not that it’s bad. It’s just
that while the rest of the disc makes moves towards transcendence through a
creative melding of sound and abstraction, "Liza Minelli" just sounds like a
guitar. And, in this context, after what came before, just sounding like a
guitar is kinda commonplace and uninteresting. But, nonetheless: word up to
Kooken and Hoomen.

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