The image behind the Kamikazee Vigilante is of a crash test pilot, hurtling towards an uncertain end with a blindfold and a smoke. There's a sense of inevitability, doing what you have to do, together with a sense of ominous futility; the sudden, abrupt end. And throughout there is a sensation of nail-gripping, of holding on for dear life and enjoying the sensation as a 10000 horsepower engine rages beneath you.
Kamikazee Vigilante are an instrumental trio who play jazz-inflected, jam-band and post-rock influenced instrumental rock. In case you didn't notice, that's nearly every instrumental music genre of the last 100 years. Kamikazee Vigilante aren't limiting themselves or the scope of their vision. Names don't matter much, only serving the hurtling propulsive rocket ship of instrumental grooves.
Jazz-influenced rock can be a bit shrill at times, a bit hyperfrenetic - an acquired taste, that will always mainly appeal of '70s rockers with butterfly collars and curled hair, but this is not the case with Kamikazee Vigilante. KKV (as it's abreviated), draws from all over, and owes as much to Zeni Gava as they do to Camel or Steely Dan. Crashtest Pilots picks up speed as it goes along. "Porter" opens the album with smoothness and mystery, and satiny guitars spiral around one another with disembodied melodies, over a light skittering beat. The smoothness is interrupted from time to time, as the band drops into a tense and dissonant subsection - throwing some grit in the sunscreen, and preventing this from being mere ear candy. It seems KKV have something to say, without words.
"Tucay" could be the blissout midsection of a jam-band or instrumental post-rock buildup, sounding heroic and distantly emotional. It's the sound of walking away from your home, and staring as the sun darts out from behind silver clouds. Shadows and light; adventure and longing - a wide, complex array of emotions.
So often instrumental bands feel the need to throw some vocals on top of their ambitious musicality, all for the attempt of having more commercial appeal. This can be a mistake, as many excellent musicians are covered over by sub-par vocals, which also serve to give the songs a concrete story or meaning.
With Crashtest Pilots, you're free to draw your own conclusions, and make up your own stories, and there's nothing to disguise the technical virtuosity of the performances, which really shine. The guitar playing is clean and precise, straying far from the traditional open chords of blues-based rock. Kamikazee Vigilante have a wide harmonic vocabulary, which allows them to summon all manner of subtle emotions. The drumming is the ace in the hole, however. A good rhythm section is what separates a merely good band from the truly great. The drums dance around the downbeats like unidentified lights in the sky, like will o' the wisps - they're everywhere, all at once, light and deft, with the promise of heaviness.
The whole shebang adds up to a whirlwind of sounds, which can be as airy as a breeze, or as scourging as a sandstorm, depending on what time of day it is, what part of the song you're hearing, and what mood you're in. Kamikazee Vigilante have only been a band since the beginning of this year, and Crashtest Pilots is a document of this early incarnation. Seems like they are on a mission, and have something unique and distinctive to say. Listen up!
So strap in and enjoy the ride! Fans of Phish, Lotus, Red Sparrowes, or Buckethead should check this out, or just fans of interesting instrumental music or stellar musicianship.
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