Just this past April, Chicago artist NNAMDÏ gave us his incredibly challenging and rewarding sophomore solo album, BRAT. It was a big step forward for him, and it remains one of the best albums of the year. Now he’s come back just a few months later with a much different project, Krazy Karl.

The first thing that you might notice about Krazy Karl is that there are almost no vocals on the entire album. Or maybe I should say that there are almost no lyrics on the album, because NNAMDÏ does provide plenty of moments where manipulated and processed vocals are being used to provide harmony or counter melody while he plays guitar. This is all to say that Krazy Karl is a wild instrumental journey, somewhere in the overlap in the Venn diagram between free jazz, post rock, and prog rock. This album isn’t big on your traditional verse-chorus-verse pop structure. The good news here is that if you’re familiar with NNAMDÏ’s work with acts like Monobody or Nervous Passenger, you know what a great instrumentalist he is, and that’s what gets to shine on Krazy Karl. Outside of a couple of appearances on harp by Yomi and on violin by Mallory Linehan, NNAMDÏ is doing everything else – guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals. While doing everything, he still manages to make it sound like a really tight ensemble playing around with a really loose song structure, which is clearly the opposite of what is actually happening. This is all very carefully planned out. As for the overall sound and structure, it’s an album that is very much a zero-to-sixty listening experience, where you’re often moving from moments of calm meditation to wild burst of really fast guitar and bass lines, but only for a few seconds. It’s the type of album you really need to sit with and give it your full attention, because a lot of the devil is in the details.

Krazy Karl not only comes out right on the tail of BRAT, it zags and head out to left field and sets up camp. It’s an incredibly challenging and experimental album, but for those that are willing to take a risk with their music, it’s also very rewarding.