Karikatura | Eyes Wide
album review by John Powell
Sextet Karikatura is a New York-based melting pot of sounds, funneled through soulful and punky rock. Sparse in the way The Police are, Eyes Wide focuses on rhythmic pulsing over sound fury. The result is an organic display of funk-ness. Some songs jet through like ska, others bulge with indie street cred, and others have everything from klezmer to samba bleached in. All these influences don’t, however, seem out of place.
Much of the glamour falls on Dima Kay’s guitar work. Loose and interspersed (so no arena rock here), and interlocking with Joe MF Wilson and Ric Becker’s horns, the band develops its unique sound. Ryan Acuaptta’s voice is also a constant. The instrumentation combined with heartfelt vocals is Dispatch-like, so fans of the trio tripping reggae over folk songs will eat up Karikatura.
“Stubborn” is a highlight. The percussion tempers the thick melody, as Ryan states, “You’ve been wrong before/ Could it be this is one more?” Without getting too over thought, he hangs on character portraits, later insinuating, “Hold a mirror up and see/ lines so deep.” Most of the songs, however, tell stories, like the title track, which ponders, “While the window next door fills up with cinderblocks/ Looks down on the trash heaps and empty lots.”
In this sense, much of Eyes Wide resembles calypso music- painting pictures of a city and discussing current events. “Death or a Hurricane”, after glorious intro, adds, “Show a purpose/ after/ we can see the chapter/ follow the details/ down to the letter,” which is close to the kind of detail the lyrics portray album-wide.
No faults to this record, if nothing more than a few too many influences, although this is a contemporary music problem anyway. Sure, genre lines blurring has positive affects, and can open doors to interesting song-play, but too much of this distracts from the album as a whole, forcing each song to feel more like a single, which is good for the listener easily bored- the kind likely to turn their iTunes to shuffle. For those looking for an album, Eyes Wide is held together by the intensity of the political and current events philosophizing.
Again, those that enjoy organic-sounding genre-melts will get a kick out of Karikatura, and it’s more a question of what the future will bring; if they’ll hone in or expand out. My hope is for more like “Ocean Blue”, an honest and irresistible closer worth the price of admission alone.
Bottom line: Calypso in feel, reggae, Eastern European, and Dispatch in sound, this band holds the attention without offering many catchy hooks. Ups and downs cancel out to a solid album.