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Herd of Instinct: Conjure

Glenn Astarita By

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Celebrated Southern Californian progressive-rock band Djam Karet has extended the scope of its Firepool Records label by signing Herd of Instinct. With the ensemble's sophomore release for the label, Karet guitarist Gayle Ellett augments the core trio by performing on a vast array of keyboards, and uses the Mellotron as a vehicle to summon a classic '70s prog sound, at times sparking remembrances of vintage King Crimson.

This electrifying unit translucently morphs the days of prog-rock yore with an ultramodern scope. No doubt, the artists tread lots of fertile ground and abide by a polyrhythmic manifesto, shadowed by wide-ranging guitar articulations and keys driven textures. The musicians also render wraith-like atmospherics and bone-crunching riffs, disseminated with brief micro-melodies and a soundscape of opposing cadences and shifting paradigms. The outing is supplemented by guest artists, including bassist Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree fame.

Mike Cook's touch-style, Warr guitar lines are prominent throughout. He either employs streaming, extended notes and legato phrasings or crosscuts through the deep bass parts and variable metrics, but not certain if Cook or guitarist Mike Davidson are responsible for the Robert Fripp-like sustain voicings. Regardless, the King Crimson element veers in and out, yet the band's holistic muse also bridges world music, largely evidenced on "Solitude One, " and features drummer Jason Spradlin's tabla programming that generates a steady Indo-fusion vibe. Here, the band entwines ambient electronica with a pulsating rock groove while implicating a many-sided and borderless environment, surging forth with glittering hues.

"Vargtimmen" kicks off with Cook's slinky electric fretless bass incarnations, followed by a moveable feast of symphonic electronics effects and mystical spoken word. Moreover, Ellett's Mellotron choruses beckon a hint of antiquity within the classic prog vein, equating to an affable vibe that softens the power-packed assault. They finalize the multifarious festivities with the somewhat ominous "The Secret of Fire," rooted on a thriving progression of guitars, synths and keys. Overall, it's a meticulously formulated and superlatively executed engagement that discloses newfound trinkets on subsequent listens. Indeed, a top-shelf product.

Track Listing: Praxis; Dead Leaf Echo; Brutality Of Fact; Alice Krige pt.1; Solitude One; Ravenwood; Mother Night; Vargtimmen; Malise; New Lands; A Sense Of An Ending; The Secret Of Fire

Personnel: Mark Cook: Warr guitar, fretless bass, guitar and programming; Mike Davison: guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar and guitar synth; Gayle Ellett: Moog, Mellotron, Hammond organ, Rhodes and dilruba; Jason Spradlin: drums and programming. Guest musicians - Joel Adair: trumpet (4); Joe Blair: lap steel guitar (4); Colin Edwin: fretless bass (1, 11); Bob Fisher: flute (1, 4); Lisa Lazo: keyboards (5).

Title: Conjure | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Firepool Records


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