Karate emerged from an Allston, Massachusetts, basement a couple years after the final ripple of feedback from Galaxie 500 disintegrated into dust and the slowcore style they pioneered began to germinate across the U.S. Karate extended the lifeforce of the understated, methodically unhurried style. Led by Geoff Farina, a perfectionist singer-guitarist who graduated from Berklee College of Music transcribing Coltrane, Karate picked up on the hypnotic signal perfected by their predecessors from across the dirty waters of the Charles River and molded it into a circuitous, perplexing sound. Their lo-fi 1993 demo bristled with posthardcore aggression, and the residue from Farina’s youth inhaling Revolution Summer LPs was stuck to his pin-prick guitar riffs yearning for a denouement. Every other emerging punk band of the moment made their designs for greatness by rigidly adhering to Fugazi’s blueprints, but Karate loosely applied posthardcore to their style rather than stick to anyone else’s vision. Their 1995 debut 7", “Death Kit” b/w “Nerve”, occupied the uncharted Bermuda Triangle where the tumultuous waters of slowcore, jazz, and posthardcore meet. Gavin McCarthy’s sparse, workmanlike drumming shot beams of light through the foggy terrain as Karate made their intrepid steps towards recorded legitimacy. The title track pushed the volume to a level any teen who’d stained their fingers with a copy of Maximumrocknroll would approve, though Karate would frequently pull the rug out from anyone with eyes on the pit—and the band pulled it off with slippery progressive flair. The furtively clever interplay between bassist Eamonn Vitt and Farina animated both sides of the 7", transforming inviting melodies into parlor games whose resolutions worked as inexplicably as magic. On “Nerve,” Farina’s puckish guitar coaxed forth bristling bouts of frenzied punk aggression the band would subvert before the melodies could ever reach an obvious climax. In less than ten minutes, Karate showed they’d never be satisfied settling for a single genre or sonic trope as a totem.
- Karate Death Kit
- Karate Nerve