Kaboom Karavan: Hokus Fokus

Miasmah typically goes off the beaten track in its releases, and it's a tradition more than a little bit perpetuated by Hokus Fokus, the second release on the label from Kaboom Karavan, the Belgian collective led by Bram Bosteels (a regular Kreng collaborator who's credited with composing all ten of the album tracks). Surreal and foggy in the extreme, Kaboom Karavan's macabre material creeps into position on a fragile wave of string plucks, flute tones, and decrepit electronic atmospheres. It's unusual for an artist to so wilfully issue music of such seemingly diseased character, yet that's generally what's on offer here.

At first, Kaboom Karavan's sound stands defiantly alone like some enigmatic, blistered mutant—until, that is, the third piece, “Omsk,” arrives to suggest one very clear analogue: Tom Waits. Specifically, the track includes a gravelly voice alongside its ramshackle sounds that can't help but call to mind Waits' own croak. But even when the vocal element vanishes from the music, Kaboom Karavan's sound still retain some subtle tie to the decayed instrumental soundworld associated with Waits. “Barbaroi,” on the other hand, oozes a diseased noir-jazz character that makes it seem like one of David Lynch's nightmares rendered into aural form. Perhaps the liveliest cut of the lot is “The A Theme,” whose jazz-tinged woodwinds actually work up to a surprising jaunt when they're not howling in pain.

Like some disturbing dream, the ghoulish music woozily wells up from murky depths, with strings groaning, disembodied voices wailing, and percussive instruments tapping out cryptic tattoos. Throughout the recording, kazoos, woodwinds, and muted horns struggle to extricate themselves from Hokus Fokus's musical swamp in tunes that often lurch and crawl, their rhythms as broken as their melodies.

November 2013