24 November 2008

REVIEW: Karmakanic - Who's the Boss in the Factory

There seems to be a cottage industry of Flower Kings related bands.

This can be seen as both right and wrong. For example, is Kaipa a Flower Kings related band, or is it the other way around, especially as Kaipa predates the Flower Kings by several decades? Is The Tangent a Flower Kings related band, or a Parallel or 90 Degrees related band? Transatlantic? And so on…it just keeps going.

The lines remain somewhat blurred with Karmakanic. Bassist Jonas Reingold’s band, Karmakanic explores a jazzier side of progressive rock. Reingold’s a hell of a bassist, and in a genre filled with a plethroa of great names, that’s saying a lot. He has chops to spare, but he can play with remarkable subtlety and grace. Fretted or fretless, it really doesn’t matter…put a bass in his hands and magic will shortly follow. Karmakanic’s latest release is Who’s The Boss in the Factory, a 5 track (with the closing track indexed with two track numbers) showcase for his excellent playing and solid compositional skills. Joining him on this release are Zoltan Csörsz on drums, Lalle Larsson on keys, Krister Jonsson on guitars, and Göran Edman on vocals. Also guesting are a few familiar names…Andy Tillison of The Tangent (here we go again), Tomas Bodin (the Flower Kings, natch) and Theo Travis (Gong/Tangent/et.al.).

Where Reingold’s playing on Flower Kings releases may lean ever so slightly toward the jazzier side of things, his work with Karmakanic seems a bit more punchy and powerful. This isn’t a complaint about his presence in TFK at all…but as Karmakanic is his project, it’s only understandable that he’d be a bit more to the fore. Having said this, the album opens with a song that honestly could have possibly been lifted from nearly any Flower King’s release, the 19-plus minute epic “Send a Message From the Heart.” Filled with positive lyrical messages and some wonderfully deft instrumental interplay, it’s an audacious choice as opener. For anyone thinking that Karmakanic is just another TFK-related band, “Send a Message From the Heart” will do little to disavow them of that notion…unless they take the time to listen deeper into the song. There are some great jazzy interludes and instrumental excursions…great keyboard playing, light and airy bass/percussion playing at an almost telepathic level, and so on. In general the arrangement, while perhaps more complex at one level, is also far more stripped back…less orchestrated, less symphonic.

Things change up on “Let In Hollywood.” A series of chopped acoustic guitar chords lead into some cool singing from Göran Edman and a nice groove from Csörsz. This is a powerful, bass-driven song, with cynical lyrics deriding the pre-packaged entertainment that so many people swallow whole. I love the lyrical bit that goes “I can’t hear a single, this song is 7/8”…I can catch myself singing this from time to time, so the hook did its job. The synth work is excellent, and as for Reingold’s playing…it’s almost as if he were channeling the spirit of John Entwhistle through Chris Squire’s fingers…and saying that is almost a swipe at Reingold, for his instrumental voice is entirely his own. I just can’t think of any better way to describe the power he pushes through his instrument on this track.

The title track is the second ‘true’ epic on the album, at 13:04. The opening is quiet and piano based, with a touch of acoustic guitar to sweeten the mix. Vocally darker as well, the introductory moments are far more sombre and almost malevolent than anything else on the album. The track builds gently, evolving into a slightly more orchestrated take on the Karmakanic sound, with string stabs and moments that verge on progressive metal.

I also want to make note of the 2-part album closer, “Eternally.” Written in memory of Reingold’s parents, both of whom passed way late in 2007. The opening movement is a gentle piano piece that may sound out of place on an album such as this, but which is played with such delicacy and beauty that it simply must be heard. I hesitate to use the word gorgeous, but…the piece is gorgeous. No doubt about it. The second part drips with raw emotion, with grand string arrangements and passionate, from the depths of the soul singing. Reingold plays a fretless on this track, judging by the sound, and his playing is subdued, restrained, yet the intensity of emotion of his playing can be heard and felt in every quavering note. It may sound odd, but for such a sad song, the piece is uplifting and affirming at the same time…it never falls into a pit of despair and wallowing pity.

I greatly enjoyed Who’s the Boss in the Factory, and can’t say enough good things about it. The album has it all…impressive playing, great vocals, and writing and arranging that keeps songs fresh and interesting throughout. Don’t look at this as another Flower Kings related band and album…Karmakanic deserves far better than that.

Send a Message from the Heart (19:29)
Let in Hollywood (4:53)

Who's the Boss in the Factory (13:04)

Two Blocks From the Edge (9:51)

Eternally Pt. 1 (1:51)

Eternally Pt. 2 (6:22)

Jonas Reingold on bass

Zoltan Csörsz on drums

Lalle Larsson on keys

Krister Jonsson on guitars

Göran Edman on vocals


Anonymous said...

Anyone know how I could get this CD? I've met Jonas before! He's pretty cool!

Bill K. said...

I am partial to Laser's Edge:


Anonymous said...

I got it from ProgWalker, aka Greg at a comparable price; and , it's great, I highly recommend it!