“Kama-Loka” is a term, literally translated as “desire-world”, describing a number of the Buddhist planes of existence, specifically those which are governed by the senses. It’s a semi-material, mostly unseen place which permeates and encompasses the earth. The musical material permeating and encompassing “Kama Loka”, the self-titled EP by the group of the same name, does much to capture the meaning of the term. The five songs present here—three with vocal accompaniment, two of a longer instrumental form—possess qualities paradoxical, a trade-off (and sometimes co-existence) in mood and execution between content that is equally otherworldly but grounded in the Old World versus that which is distinctly more modern and progressive.
The roster itself, a nine-man collective of Danish and Swedish musicians spanning those nations’ Folk and Progressive genres, proves just as diverse as the scope of the EP’s roughly thirty minutes of content: Each performer shares in vocal duties throughout and offers further nuance and sensory-immersive textures to the compositions via a variety of traditional and electronic instruments, be they fiddle, flute, hurdy gurdy, guitar, Hammond organ, or Tanpura-Tabla machine.
“Skovsoen”, the opening track named for a Danish village, is a wormhole to another time. A slow tribal tom-tom beat; deliberately grating gypsy-esque fiddle lines; flute accompaniment; reedy, near-chanting vocal delivery from frontman Morten Aron—all seek to and succeed in transporting us aurally to a little hamlet somewhere in Olde-thyme Europe. Save for the subtle pseudo-psychedelic effects present in the guitar melodies (fuzz, wah, and reverb can all be heard), one might think themselves at an inn, sitting by the fire on bench or by wench with grog or brown ale in work-calloused hand, listening enraptured to a band of minstrels plying their trade for coin, bed, sustenance, and safe passage through the—Oh. Sorry. I digress…. Good stuff. It works, and it sounds great.
With the next track, “Ojesten”, Kama Loka lay down a song which seems the strongest representation—at least on this EP—of these musicians’ intention and the resulting folk-funk-jam band fun that follows. Perhaps a preemptive sign to listeners of the disc’s mostly lyric-free remainder, “Ojesten” is an offering one-part vocal and two-parts instrumental. A couple verses and subtle background vocal work are mildly present. Here instead the organ takes center stage in all its dramatic, eerie glory. Sparse drumming and airy guitar and violin work—loosely harmonized—add to this a moody stew of lilting sadness, a finger-picked-and-stick-clicked melancholy reminiscent of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” on several fronts that is perfectly complimented and resolved by the song’s latter portion, a long and fuzzy guitar outro full of fat and satisfying walking bass lines and adorned with snazzy drum backing in the vein of Ginger Baker or the late Mitch Mitchell. Despite being horribly worn, “Groovy” might for this track be the cliché descriptive word that broke the camel’s back: a song by itself worth the cost of the disc—and the not-so-writerly price of mixing metaphors.
Tracks three and four, named “Trold I Bakke” and “Ganglat Till Floalt”, respectively, are pieces of music that belong together, seeming siblings side by side as though Jethro Tull and Mahavishnu Orchestra composed the score for the movie “Braveheart”—or a drug-infused short film by John Cassavetes, at the very least. Track four is particularly effective. Here, the aforementioned elements of woodwinds, bass, spaced-out and wah-fed guitars, in-the-pocket drum patterns, and Hammond organ intermingle and trade-off on solos between eclectic violin (violin practically on par with the older material of French jazz pioneer Jean-Luc Ponty) and a happy dose of pulsing rock cowbell. “I got a fever…” Nevermind.
The closer, “Nar Lingonen Mognar”—Say that three times fast—conjured visions of communes and chanting spirit-circles. Toms roll in and keep a rollin’ all song long. Along with a chanted group vocal, tambourine, and repetitive guitar, tabla, and violin phrasings, the atmosphere created had me going back to Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” throughout the track’s five minutes. A Swedish/Danish Fleetwood Mac: hard not to like instinctively or desire another listen, so I did. Just as good the second time. And a third.
This self-titled little bundle of joy was just that for me. Being something of a singer, sure, I would like to have known the lyrics or titles as translated, but the energy of the music’s intention and the true-to-form delivery of all the components therein more than did away with one writer’s first-world inconvenience. Released in 2013, “Kama Loka” by Kama Loka is a sweet little sway-and-strut down a memory lane of ancestral-home psychedelia. Pass me that pipe, Gandalf. Hand over that sharpened, six-stringed axe, Sixties Clapton. Relax, have a listen, and “let the sound take you away”. Hey, folk music and a Steppenwolf reference? Thoroughly cheesy, I admit. But like the music, far out, man…. Far out.