Alternative & Indie
East City Records
Without a word of warning, this unusual quartet from Australia released a full debut album in July of this year. Now residing in England, Alex Knight on drums and Rob Walters on bass form the Kins’ solid rhythm section, while Thomas Savage and Queline Smith share guitar and vocals; the latter also provides the eerie keyboard you will hear creeping in.
Although they subscribe to the standard four-piece set up, Kins push the boundaries of alternative guitar-pop about as far as they can be pushed. Savage delivers high pitched, croony vocals over chaotic, climactic guitar riffs and a dynamic bass, while Knight seems to be tuned into both the bassist and the vocalist, adding a power and drive to the vocals that makes the band stand out.
It has to be said that Savage’s vocals can be hit-and-miss. On some tracks his style lends itself very well to the ambient yet cataclysmic feel of the band, but on others it jars with the style and, occasionally fitting in a little too neatly with traditional indie-rock vocal style, seems to work against the experimentalism which defines the band.
On the other hand, all four work well together to build up exciting waves of sound in refreshing ways; scratchy, psychedelic guitars and deliberate feedback contrast with delicate touches or sometimes just with silence. Their song arrangement is great, as the music flows up, down and around in unexpected waves that can turn one song into a whole new almost unrecognisable animal within seconds, as in ‘Post Tropical Storm’.
‘Demand the Deal’ is a good example of intertwined vocals and drums, and of Queline’s haunting keyboard work. Like most of the songs on the album, it moves from a simple, abstract foundation to a roaring crescendo. ‘Aimless’ showcases Knight’s talent on the drums as he works subtle magic behind far-off sounding horns and ‘Break Ties’ will give you some idea of the band’s fondness for abrupt, unexpected rhythm breaks that jerk you back to earth just as you were beginning to nod your head.
While Kins’ music is very well put-together, and their sound very fresh, the album isn’t exactly easy-listening or especially accessible. Just listening to it the whole way through takes a huge amount of concentration, and while many of the tracks are excellent, there are a few which lack a certain cohesion. Perhaps it’s that Kins try to jam too much into a song, or perhaps some of the elements don’t quite fit together; in any case, parts of the album seem not to achieve that unity which makes some of their tracks stunning.