It’s been a long long time, hasn’t it? A good couple of years, which saw Emma Brewin-Caddy working with Cantor Semper in the hiatus. A close harmony group with musical accompaniment, in my view, and very nice it is too. Daniel Zambas has been accumulating keyboards and taking on work, leading to him now being in residence in La Belle France. Gary Boast has been parenting with child number one, and all the trials and tribulations that come with that. Good luck, there is no escape. And somewhere on that timeline, We Are Kin have put together album three.
We Are Kin are progressive, subtly changing yet moving forward and not leaving the fan base behind. There are no guitars on this album, which is as involved and interesting as before. Emma’s voice is at the core, and it seems stronger, more controlled. The keys paint the background, giving our vocalist a textured surface. Music to hang in the Tate.
There are seven tracks, but no waste. Economical, you might think, but the rich contents, like one of those nouveau dishes, is pretty on the plate, still leaving you hungry for more. Circles is the first song, setting the tone for a collection that appears to be about regret, unrequited love and hope, however, the digestion of the music doesn’t leave you feeling sad. From the electronic spectrum, We Are Kin remind me of so many, Daniel clearly loving his keyboard toys. Circles starts with the welcoming of a machine, but without the sounds of Portishead, The Cinematic Orchestra and a number of others that fall below the surface waters of progressive and exist in the realm of chill.
This moment is late morning in an Airbnb in St. Ives; the sea is calm, the sun shines and everything seems right. Other hearings have been in the car, late-night, and rubber duck time. The album fits every place; the voice soulful, the backing just right.
The Fawn flips back to opening with the once old faithful, now presumably easier played, backward recording. Simple but effective percussion provides the back-beat as the track layers. Just lie back, close your eyes and enjoy as eight minutes seem like only a couple have passed.
Two tracks have passed in a blink of the eye, headphones sought as The Cure, courtesy of this years Glastonbury, vie for airspace – great music, wrong place. Probably an apt time, synchronicity as Leave Me Be is third up; headphones, focusing on the moment, cooking on gas. There is just the right level of sustain on the vocal without it becoming a wailing Whitney. In an all-out wrestle between The Fawn and Leave Me Be, the second half of Leave… wins hands down. I hope that the geographic distances We Are Kin now experience do not have a detrimental effect on the quality of their compositions.
The title track is marvellous, a deceptively simple melody, nothing is broken here, and as suggested by the lyrics it flies. A short track at 4:11, but just right.
I Won’t Go Back is beautiful, although I wonder if the other instruments could have stepped back behind the vocalist here as, at times, they do seem in combat rather than the harmony that is the strength of this album. A personal preference, and when placed in context with sentiment and lyrics, what difference could it have made? It doesn’t detract from my pleasure, I just feel the voice should have been more.
Nothing More, for all the laying of sound and rhythm, the core is that voice, highlighted in the bridge where all that accompanies is a ticking clock and a piano. Listening at 3:30 am, it’s as much heaven as it was at 3:30 pm on a Saturday afternoon. Pair this in a chill-out session with Grice’s One Thousand Birds and heaven will be complete.
Seven tracks and my time of listening will have been far too brief, this is music that needs to be heard as widely as possible. Paper Boat starts in radio playback mode, hints of static piercing the night air, sliding almost imperceptively into full sound on playback. The longest track, it exhibits several changes of direction, and by the proverbial country mile is the most progressive as we listen to experimental layer upon layer.
Daniel et al have not failed on Bruised Sky. It holds true to the path of the band, even when the vistas they create are unexpected. Year-end lists are becoming more and more difficult as so much good music, both in the traditional expectation and, like this, new progressive material comes out. How will I select my albums of the year? I can see that We Are Kin will continue, I look forward to the fourth (with some of the upbeat material that I’ve seen live!), and have no problem in saying that this album is essential to me, and I believe you may love it too. I have offered up favourites, but at different times they all are; lean back, relax, enjoy.
01. Circles (8:14)
02. The Fawn (5:55)
03. Leave Me Be (6:57)
04. Bruised Sky (4:11)
05. I Won’t Go Back (5:22)
06. Nothing More (6:13)
07. Paper Boat (10:33)
Total Time – 47:25
Daniel Zambas – Keyboards
Emma Brewin-Caddy – Voice
Gary Boast – Drums and Sound
Lee Braddock – Bass
Alex Dunedin – Lyrics
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 12th July 2019