Quick Trips: Kohoutek – Curious Aroma


(MIE, 2015)

Let me jump right in. Easily the most significant entry point for this crazy record is the band’s name itself, which they stole from a comet that passed near Earth in 1973. The comet stole its name from the Czech astronomer who first observed it, Luboš Kohoutek, and along with it his soul. Nah, I’m just kidding, good old Luboš is still alive! And the comet didn’t do anything untoward to anybody, so blaming it or attributing events to it is a fool’s errand. Just don’t tell that to David Berg, who founded the Children of God and took the comet’s passing as a sign of coming Armageddon. Also don’t tell that to the Sun Ra Arkestra because – well, because they’re probably riding that thing somewhere out in the solar system right now.

Got all that? Cosmic. Far out. Look, I’m all about that skeez, and I’m also all about Curious Aroma, a behemoth of a release by Philly/DC experimental psych noodlers Kohoutek (and the circle of explanation is complete). Bringing an exciting live improv experience to a studio isn’t an easy task, but it turns out that when the mics are on and the engineer hits “record,” these cats can still bring it, even without the energy flow of a live audience. The jam, split over two sides as “Part I” and “Part II,” is both experimental and uninhibited, and shows two separate sides of Kohoutek’s personality.

“Part I” is the more experimental of the two, where guitars plink, pluck, and burble away, creating a wash of texture over eighteen minutes. If we’re giving it some olfactory characteristics, then it truly embodies the “curious” of the title Curious Aroma, in that it could accompany well some kitchen action in which one happens on a pot upon a stove, boiling away, filled with competing scents and flavors. To beat it over the head, you’re not sure how the result is going to taste, it’s just … curious. (Oh god.) Its eventual pleasantness is unquestioned, however – it seems as if euphony lurks beneath the surface, or whatever the synonym for “euphony” would be if it was regarding smell instead of hearing. This is the worst metaphor ever.

Hey, then, “Part II” is like an interstellar blastoff, the entire band rocking like solar hurricanes that are surely visible from the tail of Kohoutek (the comet) as it hurtles through space. “Part II” is hanging out with the Arkestra. “Part II” is twenty-four minutes of sheer rock power, and as the clear new ambassador to intelligent extraterrestrial life, it will bring an era of galactic peace and prosperity like nothing ever before it. We bang our heads in thankfulness and welcome our new rock overlords. Or, to bring it back down to earth, to the kitchen, in fact (here we go again), it’s like eating what you smelled as it cooked and realizing that it’s your new favorite. You fly the double devil horns in ecstatic triumph as you wolf it down, because it’s curious no more. It’s familiar. Dare I say it’s become a comfort food.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my mixed-metaphor word stew, and that it’s done Kohoutek a solid. The point is, these two sides are so different, it’s almost impossible to believe they were made by the same band. But that’s the great news – it shows the lengths to which Kohoutek are willing and able to go to mine their prodigious talent and innovation. Now that’s a recipe for success! I’ll leave now.

Listen to some old Kohoutek tunes while you read this:

RIYL: Sunburned Hand of the Man, Sun Ra Arkestra, Acid Mothers Temple, Vas Deferens Organization, Bitches Brew


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