The list of tags on the Bandcamp page for Lee Kajko’s The Space Hermit say it best: experimental metal post-rock ambient chillout hip-hop noise. That, and maybe song titles like “Wandering of the Flying Dead Fluffy Elephants” and “Flute of the Aqua Monkey Kid” will tell you a lot of what you need to know. What it doesn’t tell you is how well Kajko pulls off this kitchen-sink mish-mash of influences. Is it for everyone? Oh, hell, no. Sometimes it’s barely for me, although the more I’ve listened, the more I’ve found to enjoy. You may base your decision on the first track, the previously mentioned “Wandering…” It opens with an odd, howling, presumably elephantine noise, which gives way to a few minutes of quite lovely finger-picked guitar and soft ambient yawns. Then, absolutely out of nowhere, it erupts into a slugfest of hard-hitting doom-metal chords launched directly into your face. It seems random, and may be the moment that puts some folks off, but listen—it’s almost the same figure as the finger-picking, just much, much heavier. And all this is packed into four and a half minutes. Then, as diverse as that track may be, Kajko keeps mutating his approach. “The Teleport Man” features a number of well-executed sound manipulations, from cut-and-splice glitch moments to sudden drastic slowings of the sound. It’s never overdone, and plays off the laid-back guitar line that runs through the piece. “A Bridge Into the Unknown” is every good indie post-rock song you’ve ever enjoyed, with some ambient vocal pads thrown over the top. It’s a mite repetitious, but its upbeat energy catches me. “Blind Pilgrimage” is where Kajko really cuts loose. Giving himself 10 minutes to stretch, he comes at us with some dubstep influences firmly linked with the grind and viscera of metal. The guitars here are huge, just huge, and they keep coming in wave after densely distorted post-rock wave. By very stark contrast, the closing track, “ホームレス” (“Homeless,” per Google Translate), is a total ambient piece, 10-plus minutes of whispering, soothing soundscapes in a drawn-out melody.
Not everything on The Space Hermit works, however. The glitch toward the end of “World of Amethyst Panda” gets a little too disjointed and out of sync for my tastes. And Kajko’s decision to wash the entirety of “Trying to Reach You From the Deepness” in relentless distortion renders it almost unlistenable. Granted, it carries over somewhat from the texture of “Blind Pilgrimage,” which comes before it, but it’s simply too much. Overall, though, Kajko takes what could be an identity crisis of an album and laces his styles together neatly enough that it’s a rewarding listen for adventurous ears. When you’re up to it, give it a try.
Available from Bandcamp.