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The best kept secret in music


"KETMAN 5-5-04"

"How do you classify a distorted, jangly, melodic trio who also deliver a successful version of Iron Maiden's 'Transylvania?' You don't, you just go to Ketman's debut at TT the bear's this wednesday and get blown away". - the Weekly Dig

"Ridiculously good by association"

The nifty self-released 3-inch CD that Ketman just recently tucked into envelopes is titled Esperanto; and much like that wily little language, the music of Ketman is something one must elect to learn. Not that they're esoteric; some bands just need their listeners to, well, listen a bit more closely. take the minutemen, whom I was reminded of jarringly over and over again when I watched Ketman bulldoze innocents on the first night of their residency at the Abbey - which is weird because they don't even really sound like the minutemen.
We're always talking about musical influences, but you can really only go so far with that. Not to sound Gay but what about spiritual influences? A band that provides another band's sunshine, but doesn't serve as their flashlight. Forget about the sound for a moment and worry about the fury and you'll have an idea of Ketman's relationship to the minutemen. It's not like they're re-writing "Working Men Are Pissed" - they aren't- but watching the trio perform, you can easily observe a kinship at work. You can hear their parts chasing each other around the songs, and, well, for some reason, you can kind of smell everyone around you. (Like I said, it was at the Abbey.)
If the actual musical-influence bits are important to you, it's easy as a quick intro: Eric Penna "fueled up (his) jetpack and flew here from Baltimore for school with a bowl and a robe" a few years ago; his guitar-murderizing and hard howls evoke mid-Atlantic wacko faves like Monorchid or Kerosene 454. Bassist and yowler Joe Marrett "chased a girl up here from Louisville who got sick of my bullshit," and brings a bit of that Kentuckian grit-math and gutter groove, a la Bastro or (yes!) Crain. And Drummer Mora Precarious, whose "Pell Grant helped (her) escape from Topsham, Maine." doesn't really sound like anyone else from Maine- unless there's some other insanely fucking good drummer who can go from Ringo to Bonham to dude from Lightening Bolt like it ain't no thing. Odds are pretty low that person exists. She's really good.
"I like to think about the old school of songwriting," Penna tells me. "People like Cole Porter, who could say so much in a two-and-a-half-minute piece of music." The band does the lots-in-two-minutes thing too, but I don't think-and I'll check on this- that Cole Porter ever wrote any ditties about someone "digging up his grave with her own bare hands to put his shattered skull's remains inside her handbag." Penna's lyrics are a mixture of dense wordplay, obliquely flung politics, fractured historic vignettes and, sometimes, just really hard breathing. He can howl a line like "He does not reply and the hue of religion consumes," and follow it up with a "Yow!" and it's perfectly fins. They’re clever and slightly sneaky, smuggling meanings in via harmless-seeming arrangements- it's not a massive surprise to hear that Penna pulled the band name from a chapter of the late, great Polish poet Czeslow Milosz.
Meanwhile, he's simple all over the guitar- Joey Santiago typing out jilty figures one second, Lee Ranaldo flogging the strings with a slide the next- and, well, sure, there are some scraps of D. boon here and there, but they're torn to bits and thrown into the air before anyone can read them. So, like the minutemen thing, the Porter comparison ends up being merely associative- but it's a nice fit, as Penna notes: "Sometimes (his) songs could be extremely complex, but not in a showy way; everything was essential to the piece."
So it is on Esperanto, and so it was onstage at the Abbey, where they busted out most of the EP's jams, some screaming in under two minutes, some sprawling over six and-wouldn't you know it- a three-minute set of covers of the entirety of the Minutemen's Joy 7-inch. Whereas covers are often like candy thrown to bored children, in this case, they were a nice bonus to a set that was psycho-good. "Moomat Ahiko" opens wobbly and slow like a June of 44 track, only to leap up to a blissful drone that falls between Burma and Th'Faith Healers and gets scribbled over by Penna's unhinged guitars. "Wormstomp," with its Eastern-sounding riffage and haphazard locomotion, reminds you that you and Ketman are in Boston, among a rich crop of like-mindedly aggressive weirdos like ho-Ag and Neptune (Ooh, can someone book that show, please?) Meanwhile, "A Live Gallop" doesn't really warrant comparisons to anything; the way it casually moves between threatening to flatten you and threatening to collapse, all within a few minutes makes it feels sort of like the band's theme.
"You wouldn't even realize (his music) was complex until you examined it very closely," says Penna of Porter, though he could as easily be talking shop about his own band-they rule so simply you kind of wonder how they're doing it.
- The Weekly Dig

"Dobrze review"

Quirky indie pop-rock that isn’t afraid to stray far into the territory of avant garde with their guitars held high above their heads. It’s as if they’re ready to strike a discordant note at any time, Mission to Burma be damned to hell. Also they’re a bit frantic on the percussion side, with the drummer preferring crank to more clean street speed. But this isn’t your Pabst Blue Ribbon swilling rock-n-roll—this is indie rock that’s set out on a journey of self discovery amid a notion that each song should be an adventure and offer challenging courses in intelligent and mathematically precise hard rock. Crafty!

-J-Sin -

"Esperanto review"

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Mp3 exclusive: Ketman

Fresh off a triumphant week-and-a-half tour of the West Coast, Allston art-punk power trio KETMAN are at Great Scott tomorrow night (Thursday, June 15) to celebrate the release of their new limited-run Esperanto EP, which they recorded on four-track cassette in their basement. In the DIY spirit of the recording, the album comes on spray-painted mini CDs stuffed in super-nifty homemade packaging. The music itself is a tasty guitar-driven goulash of Jimi-like wah-wah and whammy-bar voodoo, In Utero–inspired guitar noise, atonal shouts, overdriven bass, psychotic percussion outbursts, and -- way back, way back -- a hint of krautrock pulse. The track we’ve been digging most, "Hide Out from the Sun," is an uncharacteristically melodic stomper cut with snatches of swamp-rock sludge. Use it to get your ass off the couch and down to Allston tonight for their gig with Shore Leave, Appomattox (speaking of which: dude, how fucking good are those dudes?!) and Wind Behind the Walll | 1222 Comm Ave, Allston | 617.734.4502. [DETAILS]

- The Boston Phoenix

"mp3 of the week 7-17-07"

About this time last year, we brought you a track from Ketman’s EP Esperanto. They’ve since recorded a full-length (finally), but then they wrote so many new songs that they’ve whipped out a new EP and are releasing it in advance of the album. Who cares if it’s ass-backwards when it rocks like a tropical storm? In this "chapter," guitarist Eric Penna and bassist Joe Marrett (also of Hallelujah the Hills, and Silver Jew David Berman’s brother-in-law) tag-team on a shoutfest that sounds something like a couple of David Yows goading Slayer into a cover of the original MTV theme. And at that, they’re only about half as tufff as their rad girl drummer, Mora Precarious. Our bad for not posting this before their record-release party on Thursday, but we hear it was a ridiculously good time without us. They're now on their way along a cross-country tour, but they'll be back August 6 at the Middle East for an absurdly ridonculous show with They Shoot Horses Don't They? and the almighty Big Bear. You've been warned.

- The Boston Phoenix

"Esperanto Review"

Contrary to popular belief, Ketman is not a band. Rather, they are wizards who wield their instruments like magic wands. The latest result of their magic is a self-produced three-inch disc titled Esperanto, apparently named after the constructed language that William Shatner spoke for an entire movie back in 1965.

Trying to decipher lead singer Eric Penna’s lyrics through the fuzz of the band’s electronic baubles is similar to decoding Shatner’s stilted delivery in Incubus. Thankfully, an enclosed lyric sheet proves the wizards are up to no good, penning songs about torture, slavery, and even Faust. But it’s not all doom and gloom for these musical Merlins, as their sound doesn’t always invoke such dark topics. For example, “Moomat Ahiko,” while starting on a somber note, soon suffuses into a hectic revelry of campy guitar distortion.

Penna’s vocals employ the same spontaneity as his guitar does. First, using a straight-up rebel yell, the singer detonates flares of high-pitched squeals between his chords, making his voice seem susceptible to the electricity running through his instrument. Bassist Joe Marrett keeps the sound closer to a bass-n-drum lineup than to a traditional punk three-piece. Drummer Mora Precarious is anything but her surname, providing a stable backbone for Penna and Marret’s eclectic cacophony.

Ketman’s potion works best on “A Live Gallop,” when halfway through the track the sound grows sparse and listeners are treated to spellbinding peals from a xylophone and other percussive instruments. The track pounds to a breathtaking finish with Precarious’ thundering bass drum and a gypsy band piece.

It never feels like Ketman is trying too hard on this record, or attempting to be what they’re not; instead, the wizards battle through their songs like horsemen in the apocalypse, eager to land several heads on their spikes before the night is over. (Lifted and Gifted Productions)

-Len Sousa

- Northeast Performer



Combining all things exciting about rock music, most notably speed, intricacy, chaos, and a touch of melody, Ketman are certainly among the bands breathing life back into the Boston music scene. After building a name for themselves in Boston with their Esperanto EP, and the just released Golden Fiction EP, Ketman are currently at work spreading their sound to other cities as they wrap up their west coast tour. Read on to learn more about what Eric Penna and Joe Marrett (who trade between bass, guitar, and vocal responsibilities) and Mora Precarious (who utterly annihilates her drum kit) have to say about the band and the excellent music they've created.

idle hands: How and when did you guys start playing?

Joe: I think Eric thought up the band after a head clearing, blood boiling sabbatical in far away lands. The band was brought into our physical world shortly thereafter with the help of two others who have since moved to islands. I got on board a little over two years ago when Eric promised i could/convinced me I had to sing a cover of "ace of spades" and inspired me with a determination that from here on out we will call "laying down the gravel stones."

Eric: Ketman started in December of 2003. It began as a series of demos I did for songs I wrote while traveling throughout eastern europe. I had been passionately studying a lot of eastern european history in school when I came across a chapter called Ketman (a term for one who contributes to a system they ultimately oppose) in Czeslow Milosz's book The Captive Mind. I thought it was a pretty word and a nice simple short band name that didn't have an immediate association. Of the original demos, only 3 songs survived. I met Joe through a mutual friend and I caught his old band Bop The Curtain at a house party in Allston. I knew immediately that we would play together. Mora joined in June 2005 and added immeasurably to the dynamic. Our first EP (Dobrze) came out just after that in October of 2005. In June of 2006 we recorded our 2nd EP (Esperanto) on a cassette 4-track. To support Esperanto we did our first west coast tour.

ih: How do you describe your sound?

Joe: As a kid, I always thought cobra commander had a good voice for singing, loved the anticipation of waiting for a train to crush a penny, and loved kaliedoscopes. My hope is that our sound does not betray the joys of my youth.

Eric: exactly between The Carter Family and Iron Maiden.

Joe: Exactly.

ih: What's the best thing about the Boston music scene?

Eric: The bands. I love being able to go out and see good music. I've never lived in a city with bands as good as Helms, Ho-ag, Big Bear, Amoroso and others. It's been a pleasure playing with so many bands we like.

Joe: My vote goes towards Keys to the Streets of Fear, Drug Rug, Tulsa, and anything that is not shit talking on message boards on a beautiful sunny day. Also, proximity to rivers and harbors aids the flow of ideas in a non-scientific way. Maybe.

ih: What is the Boston music scene missing?

Joe: As of tonight, Polaris Mine. Eric's answer is sharper.

Eric: Support. People don't know how much good music there is in town because WBCN or WFNX won't play local bands when anyone is listening or because the papers won't dive deep into what is really happening culturally in this city. Local arts coverage is very superficial aside from the Weekly Dig and the Phoenix. People have told me that before my time, local music got the local support needed to sustain a good music scene. All of this is also part of corporate ownership in the media. Even though we're fortunate enough to have two independently owned radio stations here in Boston, they still have to compete with Clear Channel stations to keep their heads above water. Unfortunately, culture loses out to commerce every time.

ih: Why should people come to see you live?

Mora: Because you can enjoy a Jack and coke while listening through the fingers in your ears. Why else?

Joe: With only a few exceptions, nothing's ever made me want to do something less than someone telling me to do it more. With that in mind, I hesitate to try to convince anyone of our goodness. Listen to some tunes through technological tentacles. If you dig it, come to a show. You might meet interesting strangers you won't meet at home.

ih: Tell me about your ideal version of a Ketman show?

Joe: We're at the cantina on tatooine. we're playing to intergalactic cutthroats, criminals, and bounty hunters. beautiful alien maidens are dancing. miles davis' ghost shows up to blow trumpet and warren ellis is on violin.

Eric: for me personally, A jam packed house show full of energetic people. The more we get from the people we play for, the better we play. I'm also not terribly fond of the sterility of stages; I feel much more at home on the floor.

Mora: As can been seen in our touring sleeping arrangements.

ih: Ketman just rec - Idle Hands Art


"Golden Fiction"
released July 2007
single: chapter 4 available on the Boston Phoenix website as Mp3 of the week july 2007

EP released July 2006
Noise magazine Chart position #12 compiled from local Boston radio stations
"Hideout from the Sun" single featured as MP3 of the week Boston Phoenix july 2006:

EP released October 2006


Feeling a bit camera shy


Having released their Debut EP DOBRZE, the band played shows, shows and more shows up and down the East Coast. After that, a decision was made to abandon the full capacity of its recording studio with which they made DOBRZE and experiment with the rough and rugged sound of a 4-track cassette recorder. The final product is an EP titled Esperanto. Written and recorded in a span of two months, it is a stripped down, honest representation of the band. A west coast tour followed the EP's release. Fall 2006 was spent preparing 23 songs for demoing in December. From those demos, 15 songs were chosen for a full length album palyed in its entirety every night on a tour of the south in February. Two days after returning, The band began recording its first full legnth with Ethan Dussault at New Alliance studio in Cambridge, MA. During the search for a proper supporting label for the as-yet untitled full length, the band wrote and recorded a new EP titled GOLDEN FICTION which saw a July release. With a newly purchased van and a successful West Coast summer tour supporting the new EP (their 7th tour), plans for an east coast leg and the first European tour are in motion now.

Ketman likes The Minutemen, Joan Jett, Iron Maiden, Cole Porter, Helms, Ho-Ag, Big Bear and many other creative individuals and groups who have inspired them to cram into a jeep with drums tied to the roof and drive around barking at people in different cities while subsisting on canned corn. They've been compared to Mission of Burma, Unwound and the Cramps (one time Vinnie Vegas in san pedro said so) and hope that the people who said this were not lying.