San Kazakgascar- Greetings from Beautiful San Kazakgascar
(Lather Records )
From Aural Innovations #39 (May 2008)
Hailing from Sacramento, California, or perhaps from the mythical country of San Kazakgascar, come the band of the same name. They play psychedelic rock but with plenty of melodic pop hooks and lots of Middle Eastern/Eastern European (and a dash of Spanish) influences. The ethnic influences can especially be heard in Jed Brewer’s intricate guitar work and Mike Woo’s melodic clarinet (which also lends a slightly jazzy feel to some tracks). Rounding out the quartet is the rhythm section of Greg Hain (bass) and Paul Takushi on percussion.
Their sound is exemplified by the excellent opening cut, Dallas Via Damascus. I enjoyed this track especially because it avoided the often over the top (and sometimes goofy) vocals the band has a penchant for, which for me, detracted from some of the songs, for example Tuk Tuk to Nowhere, which features a call and response between a confused, blind cab driver and his passenger. Other tracks use this particular style of vocals more effectively, however, like Wink Eye, Stink Eye. With it’s heavily reverbed guitar and crazy, psychedelic vocalizations it sounds like it could have been ripped of the soundtrack to some 60’s spy movie, when the secret agents find themselves in a smoky lounge in some exotic eastern nation. Shut! is another track that utilizes the unusual vocals quite effectively. It’s a rocker in which the vocals take a rhythmic role. Not all the songs have an overt goofiness though. El Rio Flaco is a wonderfully moody piece with a brooding psych guitar line and Exhale, Furnace is a great near instrumental (the only words heard in it are “exhale, furnace”) on which all four musicians do some brilliant playing.
All in all, there is some tasty performances on the album, enough to please
any fan of ethnically inclined psychedelic rock, but I have to admit the vocals,
while creative and interesting, put me off a bit sometimes, being just not my
thing perhaps. Still, I can recommend it for the great psychedelic grooves happening
on it. I’d like to hear the band do more instrumentals and maybe some
extended jams, because they definitely have the chops for it.
You can visit the band web site at: http://www.girlhenge.com
YOu can visit the label web site at: http://www.latherrecords.com
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald