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Kiln - Sunbox

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Artist: Kiln

Album: Sunbox

Label: Ghostly International

Review date: Aug. 2, 2004

While the dictionary definition for "kiln" reads "a furnace or oven for burning, baking, or drying something," this Michigan-based trio’s sound isn't that fiery. Kevin Hayes, Kirk Marrison, and Clark Rehberg III opt for subtlety through surreptitous use of melody and dynamics, taking the next step and processing their traditional sounds (drums, percussion, guitars, keyboards) on a computer to accentuate texture.

Sunbox, a half-hour mini-album of five tracks, offers a succinct introduction to the group's atmospheric style that's not quite post-rock but not quite ambient, either. Its bucolic qualities suggest folktronica minus the acoustic guitars. The opener "Royal Peppermint Forest" is as sweet as its title suggests, with its sing-song, nursery rhyme theme and soft bossa nova rhythm heard through a gauzy film of clicks and whirrs. The fuzzy blur not only gives the child-like theme a rougher edge but imbues it with a nostalgic aura, as if it were a melody heard decades ago, now filtered through the distorting blur of remembrance.

"Ghost" pursues a similar strategy, as its panning percussion patterns are likewise accompanied by a translucent hiss that shadows its soft tones, crackles, and surges. There’s a modicum of melody in the track, however, making it more of a quietly propulsive and textured mood piece. The same can be said of "Season," whose minimal wisps of melody make it the most skeletal of the five pieces.

"Lux (RPF Rebuild)" suggests that it’s a version of the opener, but its vestige of melody is less overt. Again a nostalgic quality emerges, especially when most of the instruments drop out, allowing sounds of distant windswept waves to be heard. "Hong" is the longest track, the most epic in feel and closest to post-rock, if only for the stronger presence of guitar and drums. Kiln avoid the dynamic crescendos of Godspeed You! Black Emperor; although "Hong" begins ploddingly with heavy pounding drums, there are quieter moments of supple detail.

One might be tempted to align Kiln with Boards of Canada, especially on "Lux (RPF Rebuild)" and its ascending melodic cell. Kiln does distinguish itself, however, by striking an impressive balance between the seeming looseness of live playing and the deliberate and perhaps obsessive sound-sculpting made available by digital assembly methods.

By Ron Schepper

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