First published May 5, 2011 and moved forward to highlight their latest album Comets and Monsters. A third album called Hidden Agenda has supposedly been completed by May of 2016, so we'll have to keep our eye on that one.
Astrakan - s/t. 2008 private (CD)
Astrakan - Comets and Monsters. 2012 Jaguar Steps (CD)
Here's one that flew so far under the radar, that it's still near impossible to spot. Credit goes to long time friend Bob Netherton for turning me onto this one.
Astrakan starts afire with 'In & Out', which possesses a distinct Canterbury sound but completely run amok. The shredding wah-wah guitar left me breathless. Too bad there isn't much more of that psychedelic sound present throughout. Have no fear though, the melodic jazz rock that the Canterbury sound is noted for remains intact. The jazz influence becomes more prominent in the middle of the disc. Sax and organ all get plenty of time to shine. I particularly enjoy their extended use of the latter. It's important to note that Astrakan focus more on composition and atmosphere rather than noisy soloing, thus endearing itself to the UTR.
Astrakan says this: "Friends and followers of the band have likened their sound variously to Soft Machine, Zappa, Gong , Dave Douglas as well as to the newer jazz outfits such as Fraud, Led Bib and Get the Blessing." Apparently the band is looking for a bass player as well (now's your chance!).
Highlights: 1. In & Out (4:39); 2. Roundelay (3:50); 5. Andromeda (7:08); 7. Mostar (7:36)
----Comets and Monsters
While the first album stayed completely in the underground, at least Astrakan's latest album Comets and Monsters is slightly more accessible, being readily available from online retailers. Musically the band stray further towards the jazz end of the Canterbury spectrum. Adding female vocalist and keyboardist Celia Lu has defined their new direction. She sings in a higher pitched fashion - perhaps even pseudo operatic at times - similar to Dagmar Krause. But with a Chinese accent. It's a bit bizarre to say the least. I personally wish they'd exploit their rock abilities, but it seems Astrakan are more intent to stay within the jazz idiom. Henry Cow circa In Praise of Learning is a major influence on Comets and Monsters, but without the annoying tuneless improvisations, thus endearing the band more to my tastes.
Last update: August 20, 2016