San Kazakgascar - Idle Ships (Lather, 2009)

http://www.latherrecords.com/sankaz/oud_player.jpg

Idle Ships is the second LP from San Kazakgascar. Single artist? Full band sneakily going with a full name moniker? Try a full band named after a country. A country they made up themselves. Chew on that for a while, Steely Dan.

This being my first trip to the land of San Kazakgascar I was only prepared for it's mix of Eurasian and Western colonialism, but didn't notice the main exports were wheat textiles and face melting. It became apparent soon enough when the deep, cleanly recorded (this is kind of novel for me) strings of indeterminate origin cut into echoed vocals and drop into a dark jam, the meandering solo clarinet speaking to the eastern vibes they are putting forth via classic rock instrumentation.

I felt the jamming on this was definitely the best part, though I don't know how much was composed and how much was real jamming. Yes, it will remind you of incense and turkish bazaars and all that other crap that has nothing to do with the actual playing. I just wanted you to know that these guys are'nt just world music philanderers, but simply eastern influenced musicians with some heavy chops.

Simple repitive riffing can set up the soloing woodwind instruments and let the rythm section really get loose and expand one second right before you are hit with a very tight raga pinned down with some groovy-ass drum and bass. The strings also do a lot of interweaving lines while exotic percussion instruments belt out over slowly growing opium den vocal hums.

The album does feature a lot more singing then I am used to, though it seems to center mostly around dark passages, journeys, corridors going nowhere. However, the jams remain the essence. For example, some noise guitar inspired ramblings were pushing along really heavily over rollercoaster rythm. Sometimes I felt like I was being pushed down into a rut and another into irreverent bliss, but they never segued painfully and really capture the moment of suspense between the two. When the lead singer asks, "Where did my feet go?" you're busy wondering the same thing. Just another example of how the vocal leads are just another intrsument in the line-up.

I particularly enjoyed the second half of the album. The guitars zone out and harmonize with the vocal accompaniments, there is a strong pulse of reindeer bell percussion and burned out blues progressions and the melodies get edgier and more abstract. The whole thing wraps up with an uptempo scorcher in just under 40 minutes.

Cool conception and flawless execution. Be sure to check out this eastern influenced group of jammers.

Slain By General Plantar Wart

Band Website

Lather Records

-Hermione Marquis

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