Now, out of the misty regions of MIRROR we march to an angry stomp called DOG TAG. The frustration is palpable and comes from knowing that the "powers that be" use their constituents for their own ends and will devise any excuse to be able to do so. The bridge nails the complicity of the media by running clips of the incessant, hawkish and overblown headlines of the last decade. This cut brought back bad memories for this reviewer for sure, forcing us to keep in mind we can't let things continue as they were. AOK deftly go for the protest sound of Steppenwolf/MC-5 feel for this one, which makes perfect sense considering the subject matter.
REMEMBER ME brings a yearning airy feel to the CD. The Rush and late period Crimson influences are palpable. The tastefully placed, progressive time signatures are draped by some of Jay's most soaring vocals, depicting a life tethered by obligation and of dreams of freedom from the drudgery placed on one within this reality. The interlude at the center of this piece, as also witnessed on MIRROR, reveals the depths of the subject's psyche and then unfolds into one of Sparnroft's most searing solos, reminiscent of RTF's Al De Meola.
So the big question, where does this all lead us?
The final solution -- on this CD anyway -- is RAGE OF ANGELS, a wildly vivid picture within that title, and it is indeed a vengeful number. Punching in with heavy chords then simmering down to a sarcastic acoustic feel to compliment an accomplished two-part vocal harmony for the verses. The angry lyrics remind one of Dio or Coverdale in their prime but much more intimate and in your ear. The Eastern inspired solo could have stood to be longer or at least run out to the end of the CD, tasty stuff indeed, that left me wanting more.
AOK is credited as the writers for all the songs. Such camaraderie is always welcomed in this age of "I - ME - MINE". I'd say the boys have a good solid CD here, one that should be given a chance at any open-minded radio station. There are actually nine songs on the disc but the last three are edited for radio-play versions of tracks 1, 3, and 6 (so wink-wink, nudge-nudge to you DJ's out there).
Verdict? There are many that will find SHOCKRA to be just what they were looking for. Like a prism, the writing and arrangements offer intriguing facets to draw you in even as you mull over their meanings. One being that I am still left to ponder that cityscape theme, on the jewel case, connoting either a message of doom or a brighter day. Time for another listen . . .
Robert Hoole 2-3-2012
First up is ALL THIS AND A KISS. Sparnroft's glasslike guitar tone starts the ball rolling as the harmonized commercial "ooo" of Jay's first utterance transports us into a sensual world of possibilities. Jay reminds me here of Peter Murphy after Bauhaus, punctuated with bits of Iggy-like tones. There is a Roxy Music-like heart to this one but U2 can also be heard, especially in the solo.
FASCISM FOR THE HOME is a quick departure from the easy feel of the opener. Funky and strident, the groove enters aggressively and never lets up. Jay's voice is stripped of all artifice and gets right to the point. What is that point? The hidden effect of brutality and a draconian upbringing on the next generation. Before the languid buzzsaw of a guitar solo, we hear sounds of that hidden world the abused child experiences -- a nice touch. I hear Bill Nelson's unsung RED NOISE LP in the blood of this one.
On MIRROR, the group conjures an aural reflection of the title during the intro to this thoughtful groove. The lyrics begin as searching and internal, exhibiting a vulnerability that seems to strip the subject to his core before unfolding into a lusty carnality. One can imagine a knight of Arthur's court on a quest both of mind and matter. The Crimsonesque bass solo beautifully adds to the intended dreamscape here. Sparnroft's solo reminds one of a snake charmer's musical coax. One gets the feeling that the unexpected surprises in this number make MIRROR more a "prism", than a mere reflecting glass, exhibiting the myriad corners of AOK's abilities and influences.
SHOCKRA by Agents Of Karma
I'm privileged to have met Jay Cavanaugh, — AOK's bassist/vocalist/impresario — through today's virtual version of a town center: FaceBook. Jay's passion, drive and influences at times run parallel to mine and they drew me to his spot on the cyber sphere. He was good enough to entrust me with supplying a write-up on SHOCKRA , his group's latest release. I spent a week getting to know them as a unit, through this CD, and the following review is the outcome. Here's hoping the picture I paint piques your interest.
Here we go...
Engaging cover art is where we begin. In the very center a roiling Taiji symbol -- one side quantum and the other side cosmos -- blazes off the cover on a field that could be Washington Heights' version of the wall from Abbey Road.
Still in its plastic wrapping, the back of the jewel case shows an overcast downtown Manhattan beyond the rain soaked promenade over the BQE so many of us NY'ers know so well. Off comes the wrapping . . . now let's go inside. Scanning left to right we see the same broken wall with a blue-sky version of NYC and the new waterfront park in the foreground. Here it kind of hit me, should we see this as a positive progression or should we read the message from the inside-out? From the "nice day" city to the rainy downtown of the back cover? This is just one of the many questions found on this CD, left answerable by your own personal proclivities. Perhaps the songs will give us a clue.
Under the CD itself is an image of the group: Paddymike (drums) and Conrad Sparnroft (guitars, bvox) look on as Jay Cavanaugh (bass, vocals) walks off the page toward us, an attache case in hand, draped in tidy tuxedo and bow tie, his determination and windswept long grey hair dramatically revealing his forward motion. Now, the stage set, I pop the disc into my Mac and roll it. The crisp, carefully produced, songs on Shockra show that AOK know what they want, and what they want to say, which must have left them ample room to focus on getting the sound right, and arrangements where they want them to be, as the disc belies an uncluttered, direct to the listener, view of Agents Of Karma's mission and how they want us to hear it.
I never thought I'd see the day when New York City didn't have a single mega record store, but that day arrived a while back and I've heard little noise about it. Last year as I walked past the now boarded up Sony Record store on 14th and Broadway I thought, "Man this is a Ghost Town"! Strange I thought to myself, once upon a time I used to cut out of High School in the 70's and sneak up to Manhattan just to hit the cut out shops and spend my paper route money on music. It was a f****** adventure! So "W.T.F. Happened" ???? Where's the adventure in downloading a shitty Digital file with shitty compressed sound? The short answer is: There is no adventure, buying music is now no different then buying toilet paper or anything else! It's no wonder musicians can't make a buck. Not much more need be said, it's a brave new world for musicians, it can only go up, morph, disappear or become little more than a hobby where a select few get to hog most of the attention while the vast majority languish in a glutted internet purgatory awaiting their chance to get into heaven. Peace, Jayster! :(
Happy 2011 from Agents of Karma!
Just a quickie update: We are closing in on remixing the 6 songs recorded last year at Dreamland studios. The goal is to have them finished before two thirds of the band heads down to St. Bart's in the Caribbean to do a musical residency.
After that we're are back at it preparing for an Agents of Karma return trip to Norway with stops in Sweden. Since AOK is a cottage industry it takes time to bring all the necessary elements together. We can always use help as in street team support which anyone can join via our site at Reverbnation. (There's also a mailing list there to) http://www.reverbnation.com/agentsofkarma
We've posted some of the latest remixes on the site, look for "Mirror", "All this in a Kiss" + "Dog Tag" Please feel free to leave comments as we may post them in our press section. After all the best music critics are not professionals getting paid by the word, just good solid friends and music lovers!
We do have some upcoming gigs in January #1 at Wicked Willys on Bleecker St in Manhattan on Wednesday January 19th. We will be gigging with our friends "Joyous Noise" who we really enjoy working with.
And # 2 at Alor Cafe on Staten Island NY. The Alor gig will be unplugged and start at midnight Saturday January 22nd.
Agents of Karma on WikiLeaks: It's about dam time someone got us the truth, ya think?
Agents of Karma on if the Tax cuts for the Rich expire: Oh the horror, guess lord + lady so and so can't afford that extra Mink Coat, Mercedes and or Summer Cottage in the Caribbean after all!
Agents of Karma on the Grammy's: Yawn, wake us up when it's over :)
Peace out all you brave new music lovers, renegades and wayward souls!
What's Karma got to do with it? Everything and nothing. We've been fortunate this past year. In spite of many obstacles Agents of Karma managed to record six new tracks (still being mixed) do some fun gigs and get our butts across the atlantic to Norway for a few shows.
So, we are extremely grateful to all the people who have been helping us spread the Karma near and far! Without a network of music lovers there would be no Agents of Karma. We will continue to perfect our craft and present tighter live shows in 2011 and with the help of some extra good Karma go back to Europe this coming April for more gigs.
Look for us to have a finished product aka CD in 2011, some merchandise (still deciding on what that will be) a tour video and perhaps if we can get some help on board some charity work through our music. After all what good is it to have a gift like the ability to make music if you are not going to use it as a force for good in the world?
So once again, Happy Thanksgiving from A.O.K.! :)
Agents of Karma is pleased to announce a collaboration between the band and Georgia Hilton of Hilton Media Management. http://hiltonmm.com/ We're creating a slick video of our recent Norway Tour. We expect to have this video up for posting sometime in the next several weeks.
The band is headed back to the studio this weekend to remix Dog Tag with Mario Salvati. We are looking forward to finalizing the mixes for our tracking sessions at Dreamland Studios earlier this year.
Stayed tuned for updates and new merchandise as we revamp our promotional tools in the last quarter of 2010. Peace Out n good Karma from Agents of Karma. Jayster, Conrad + Paddymike!
While we were walking near the beautiful Lake Mjosa in Hamar Norway with our new friends Lars and Tove I got to talking with Lars about the Norwegian health care system. "If I was to have an accident while I'm here and I break my arm would they take me in the Hamar hospital and would I have to pay for the care I receive?" Lars laughed a bit, he has a wonderful deep belly laugh that brought many smiles to our faces, "of course they would take care of you and no it wouldn't cost you a dime" he said. "We have national health care and it's pretty good" he continued. I wondered how it would go for a Norwegian traveling in the States?
He did say that some severe cases of advanced diseases will probably not get the extreme attempts of treatment that I might get in the USA, (if I can afford it) those who can afford it sometimes leave Norway for such treatments but all basic health care needs are taken care of by the national system. I thought that that was a breath of fresh air almost as fresh as the Norwegian air itself.