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Kinski - Semaphore

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Artist: Kinski

Album: Semaphore

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Nov. 11, 2002

This Flag Signals Good Times

Few tracks tread more heavily than those which fall along the Slint-Mogwai-et al axis. But if the story is true, and the members of Kinski really did meet each other while arguing about the merits of digital versus analog recording, then perhaps it would explain why they were able to rethink and renew the quiet-loud-louder sound so completely. Semaphore, an EP preceding Kinski’s upcoming Sub Pop debut, expands the sound of exploding guitars toward the far reaches of rock, touching on the psych tones of My Bloody Valentine, the minimal crumpling of early Tortoise, and even a cover of a Clean song.

But it’s the production and overall tone of Semaphore that shoves it from the masses towards the few: those for whom the addition of crunchy distortion still sounds sincerely exciting; those for whom vocals mixed below rhythm guitars are fully warranted; those whose bass distortion pedals don’t suck the life out of the bottom end; and those whose (implicit) live excitement actually translates fully to recording. Digital or analog, here it’s the thought that counts, and it pays off big time. The combination of Kinski’s sense for the dramatic and their ability to execute it make the Semaphore EP what it is. And it is good.

This is not to say that Kinsi aren’t purely a tonal band. Melody and rhythm play a big part here as well. “Semaphore,” the first song (and the only one of Semaphore’s four tracks that will appear again on their upcoming full-length, Airs Above Your Station) builds around the digitally delayed minor descent of Chris Martin’s guitar. Accompanied by subtle wails and timid drums, the punctuated guitar begins to gradually destruct itself, giving way for the full-on explosion. While the fully instrumented/distorted parts of Kinski’s songs run the structural psych-rock mill fairly unremarkably (save for the tones themselves), they avoid the only-sometimes-successful trap/tactic of over-repetition. In spite of their psychedelic song lengths, Kinski mix their melodies nicely and rarely try the patience of their listeners. During the few instances in which Kinski slip into drone-on repetition, the melody merely steps aside to spotlight the exposed density of the recording. Even the third track, “The Bunnies are Tough,” an improvised amelodic exercise in sparsity, finds tension and taste in the gentle howl of guitar feedback and the rhythmic gurgle of an untuned bass. It is highly reminiscent of a Sonic Youth SYR “song,” but its brevity as well as its isolation within the album make for a nice variance in mood, rather than a painful exercise in pretension. The whole EP, in fact, is well-restrained and unpretentious, further differentiating Kiski from so many similar contemporaries. Sub Pop have done themselves well to add Kinski to their roster, and if the Semaphore EP is meant to be a teaser for releases to come, then consider me teased.

Kinski will be selling Semaphore on tour, but if you can't make it to a show, you can also get it through the Sub Pop website: Click here and go wild.

By Sam Hunt

Other Reviews of Kinski

Airs Above Your Station

Don't Climb On and Take The Holy Water

Alpine Static

Down Below It's Chaos

Cosy Moments

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View all articles by Sam Hunt

Find out more about Sub Pop

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