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Kinski - Down Below It's Chaos

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Artist: Kinski

Album: Down Below It's Chaos

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Aug. 23, 2007

Over their three Sub Pop albums, Kinski have had a constantly evolving relationship with the notion of “rocking out.” While they’ve always been known for being obsessed with loudness, melody, and the search for some mythically perfect guitar tone, the way these ideas have been expressed on record hasn’t always led them to songs that “rock.” Airs Above Your Station is a study of texture an ambience with the exception of “Semaphore,” which hides ambience behind an incredible delay pedal melody and layers of unison guitar chugging. Within the other songs are the occasional elements of rock songs, but they never fully congeal. On Alpine Static, almost all the songs follow in the footsteps of “Semaphore,” balancing melodic changes with single-minded repetition and a heavy rocking thump, marking the arrival of the band’s mature form. But even then questions and problems still arise; songs’ structures are a bit ragged, randomly jumping from ambience to overdrive with little connective tissue. So in a way it is the inverse of Airs Above Your Station, rock songs that aspire to be ambient washes.

Down Below It’s Chaos doesn’t waste any time, saying emphatically from the very first attack in “Crybaby Blowout” that this record is going to pummel your skull in. However, it’s more than just an unending stream of distorted guitars and hard rock riffs, it’s more than just a consolidation of Kinski’s sound. The biggest change is the addition of J Mascis or Thurston Moore style vocals by guitarist Chris Martin on three of the tracks, “Passwords and Alcohol,” “Dayroom at Narita Int’l” and “Punching Goodbye Out Front.” Vocals are typically a problem for instrumental bands, forcing them to make their song structures more concrete, less complex, or generally less effective (case in point, Hella’s There’s No 666 in Outer Space or the last two Parts & Labor albums). But Kinski avoids this problem by limiting the number of songs with words and by using them to play around with form. “Passwords and Alcohol” is a fairly standard Kinski song with Martin’s voice taking over the melody from one of the guitars about halfway through. “Dayroom at Narita Int’l” sees the band repeating a single riff for almost the entire song, alternating between vocal melodies and guitar melodies before changing gears to a different chord progression and fading out. And “Punching Goodbye Out Front” takes form farthest from the Kinski norm with its Black Sabbath guitar lines coupled with a garage/psych melody complete with heavy reverb on the vocals and a prominent organ part. In some ways it sounds a bit like something from the last Comets on Fire record, while also being as close as Kinski has ever gotten to a conventional pop song. I can’t say I’d want to hear a full Kinski record with vocals, but within the context of the instrumentals, they work remarkably well.

The inclusion of the organ, though, brings us back to the issue of rock vs. ambience. Kinski seems to have finally found a way to integrate its two halves, balancing the two elements in a logical way. Case in point “Plan, Steal, Drive”: It begins with an organ drone and sparse guitar notes that gradually evolve into Terry Riley-esque layers which become more and more distorted before arriving at a full-on, heavy Kinski melody, complete with organs and driving drums. Each element of the song makes sense. Nothing feels forced. And that is what makes Down Below It’s Chaos Kinski’s most complete effort. They’ve discovered that it’s not enough to merely riff, pound, and shimmer.

By Dan Ruccia

Other Reviews of Kinski


Airs Above Your Station

Don't Climb On and Take The Holy Water

Alpine Static

Cosy Moments

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View all articles by Dan Ruccia

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