A Night For Baku – Djam Karet
Cuneiform Records 169
There are two ways to deal with Djam Karet’s latest release, A Night for
Baku. One is to view the nine tracks as just that. The other way is to
apply one’s self to what the band is attempting to do: conveying the arc of
a story through nearly an hour’s worth of instrumentals. I must say, I gave
it numerous opportunities and more than a few hours of my life to decide
whether the impact works or not.
And the best answer I can give, under both scenarios (individual songs vs.
concept album) is that the rollercoaster ride of sound is exactly that.
The opening track, "Dream Portal," gives the impression of the beginning of
the musical journey, but it doesn’t seem to really go anywhere. It doesn’t
help that the track uses the studio trickery of recording voices and playing
the track backwards in order to create the impression of the listener
entering some otherworldly outpost. The effect is also used on other
Where is this territory that Djam Karet visit? It’s a place within the dream
world that’s inhabited by the Baku or spirits that aid someone who is having
nightmares. The Baku force the sleeper into combat which, if successful,
will "devour" this bad experience.
What makes this such a tangle of musical ambition is a storyline that mimics
what could be the first in a series of sci-fi books, but must work its
"literary" magic through notes only, no vocals to aid the listener. Besides
the haunting, psychedelic computer graphics in the booklet, there is an
explanation of the storyline. So, the song titles "Chimera Moon" and "Scary
Circus" may seem appropriate but "The Falafel King" and "The Red Thread"?
And I never got an impression about whether the dreamer succeeded with the
Baku or not.
As for the songs themselves, "Hungry Ghost" bursts forth in a manner akin to
Porcupine Tree. "Chimera Moon" becomes a slow-moving hypnotic force, while
"Heads of Ni-Oh" sounds as if it’s a Genesis (with guitarist Steve Hackett)
outtake. The best tracks are its concise numbers — "Scary Circus" goes from
its fear-of-clowns eeriness to an infusion of arena rock, while "The Falafel
King" displays a determined melting of east and west that’s been heard
countless times with stronger groove by Ozric Tentacles. (A brief aside: why
aren’t the Ozrics crossing the great big sea and being featured at Bonnaroo?
It would be the perfect place for the band’s psychedelic worldbeat dub
groove and production special effects. Just wondering…)
So, the songs work at some level, but not completely. Which brings me back
to the concept. Just because the instrumentals begin to make sense after
multiple listenings in their non-verbal dramatic manner doesn’t mean that
I’ve become a convert to the group’s progressive rock stylings. I’ll give
credit to Djam Karet for ambition, but I’m not going much farther than that
in my enthusiasm for A Night for Baku. Good luck if you take your own