Karate play music poised somewhere between jazz, prog, emo and lo-fi rock, with more than a hint of blues phrasings — and still everyone loves them. An unlikely but beautiful band, Karate are the musos that the indie crowd loves, the jazz kids that every slo-core fan admires. It’s enough to freak anyone out, but the moment they pick up their instruments and start playing, it all falls into place. Somehow, Karate not only bridges the unbridgeable gaps between genres and styles, but also makes the whole question of camps and cliques seem limiting and redundant.
You could potentially call it prog-infused post-hardcore, somewhat similar in tone to every one from Dismemberment Plan to Codeine, from Jim O’Rourke to Steely Dan. But more than anything else, Karate continues to explore and map out the unknown landscapes carved out on their previous albums. Theirs is a literate style, equal parts crafted and improvised, moving between carefully construed parts and loose, free-floating segments — from “Original Spies” to “South.” Their sheer technical brilliance is always at the service of the songs and never overshadows the beautiful melodies and the thrilling movements of the music. Main man Geoff Farina’s lyrics continue to stun the listener, always highly personal and vivid storytelling, image-laden and moving.
It’s tempting to overanalyze it in an attempt to understand it, this kind of weird, idiosyncratic hybrid that is Karate. But for know it’s enough to listen. Songs like “First Release” and “Airport,” “In Hundreds” and “Corduroy” are all simply stunning, beautiful songs, rich and layered but with heart and attitude. And perhaps that’s all there is to it. No limits, just pure, curious, wide-open music.
Southern Records: http://www.southern.com