CD Review

Kismet - "Wake Up Gods"

By Marcus Pan

Wake Up GodsTone Casualties has been a guiding force in the more experimental darkwave music to arrive over the past few years. Many of their bands are small, barely known and ride the outer fringes of electronica, ambience and experimental. I was introduced to my first Tone Casualties band in the form of Kismet - a rather enlightening quartet imbued with original arrangements, interesting yet-still-ambient strings and spoken word lyrics. Originally an outlet of the Macedonian-area cult favorite Mizar, Kismet have been recording their brand of strummed surrealism since 1994 when they released their debut EP, Dormant Dire. Wake Up Gods, the one I will be reviewing today, was released in October of 1998. The band is currently based in Australia.

Kismet combine newer EBM/techno elements with older and more traditional Balkan sounds. They use a wide variety of instruments as well to achieve their goals; vocals, tambura, zurla, guitars and programming by Gorazd Chapovski; bass, tambura and kaval by Ilija Stojanovski; drums and tapan by Stefan Popovic; vocals and spoken word by Steven Teref. The Balkan flavor that Kismet use is refreshing and unique. Leave it to Tone Casualties to take a chance on something so obscure - bravo TC!

There are eleven tracks on Wake Up Gods. Lyrics here are spread out - the concentration is more on the arrangement and movement of the musical score moreso than what's said or sung during the instrumentation. It starts out with the nominal track Wake Up Gods which begins with a techno rhythm that is joined by a lonely cymbal and slow-blowing zurla. Vocals arrive a bit later with a Gregorian chant make-up and then further instruments are added creating a rising and growing effect that is encompassing due to its wonderful arrangement. One of the better tracks on the CD. The next track is Assassination, a techno-edged EBM industrial track that would be welcome on many a dance floor. Still they slide their Gregorian-like vocalizations throughout the track creating a great song - even if the rhythm is more unchanging than it could be. A few more thrown in break-beats would have been welcome, though.

KismetSubmarine on track 4 really sounds just as it is named. Knocking beats reminiscent of steel mechanics - hyrdraulic-like keyboards and underwater grooves. The vocals, however - we must speak of the vocals. Gorazd applies effects to his singing here and creates a bubbly effect. It sounds a bit too silly - cartoonish. Track 10, Voden 2048, is riveting. The tambura here is high-pitched and strumming, providing an almost gypsy-like style to the otherwise electronic-ambient song. Vocals are spoken word, and not in English as far as I can tell. This, however, provides even more mysticism to Voden 2048. The tambura really is wonderful here. If you liked this one, you can take a look at the final track of Wake Up Gods. While Voden 2048 highlighted the soundings of the unknown tambura, the zurla is the highlight of Legion. It is a very floaty song in the beginning - but a fairly complicated rhythm comes in a bit later. Vocals are Gregorian-like but a bit more lyrical than chanted this time. It's a good piece and closes the CD very well when you consider that the breathy sighs of the zurla opened up Wake Up Gods on the opening track. It gives it a "coming full circle" appeal and makes the CD seem to have more of a "closure" than other releases, like it cleaned up after itself and left your mind open and unsullied for whatever sounds you care to fill it with next.

I wasn't familiar with what could be called a "Balkan" cultural music style until running into Kismet's Wake Up Gods. Their work is technically superior to many other experimental bands out today and they masterfully combine old traditions and new technologies into a solid album that will whip you from electro-body shaking to ethereal-ambient cool downs. Their use of unusual instruments gives them a larger arsenal of sonic weaponry than most - there are no formulas in Kismet's music. Highly original, wonderfully unique and well-crafted.

Contact Information:
Post: Falcata-Galicia Recordings, Rudolph Carrera, PO Box 134, Rialto, CA, 92377
Phone: (909) 823-4191
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