On Invocation, KIT goes organic and faces the darkness and the light
MUSIC Imagine being an artist-musician type and juggling all your favorite things just to stay afloat. Considering the Guardian's demographic, it's probably not too hard to imagine. This could be you. I'm not saying I feel sorry for you; it actually sounds fun if you can make it work. But at the same time, it's got to be a constant hustle. That's exactly how it goes for KIT, a band that — with members based out of Los Angeles and Oakland — has the California coast on lockdown.
KIT's new album Invocation is out on Upset the Rhythm. Admittedly, sometimes I judge albums by their covers, and on this one, the colorful heap of junk, outdated toys, and discarded household items by Jessalyn Aaland could certainly read as foreshadowing to the dissonance of the sounds inside. Guitarist George Chen's clashing and self-described "burly" sound is apparent throughout the collection, a follow-up to 2007's Broken Voyage (also on Upset the Rhythm). In its entirety, the record clocks in at about 30 minutes.
Producer Phil Elverum, fresh from working with Mirah, gave the album a more "linear and organic" approach, according to Chen, helping them shift away from the digital tinkering and overdubs of their first effort. "I really liked how he did heavy guitar rock on [Mount Eerie's] Black Wooden Ceiling and got it into my head that he would be an interesting choice to work with," says Chen.
The band agreed on its new Pacific Northwest producer, known for his unorthodox recordings with Mount Eerie and the Microphones. Previously KIT had employed its drummer, Vice Cooler, as producer, while bringing in an engineer or two. This time around, the band goes analog. Bassist Steve Touchton says the album was recorded in less than one week.
Comparisons between KIT and bands such as Erase Errata and Deerhoof (who they shared a split 7-inch single with) do make sense. The chanting repetition of the word destiny on "Golden" is pretty infectious. Overall, that track stands out as a winner. "Sharks" is for extended listening and will make you stagger with its penetrating, drone-like, single-note guitar lick. The mood to hear the cacophony near the end may not always strike you, but the song conveys a sense of urgency.
"Cloud Chaser" is about creating your own sunshine on a cloudy day. I'm not joking. Kristy Gesch, KIT's vocalist, sings about seeing someone, who I can only imagine is her boo, during a dreary day, and how when they're happy, she's happy. The song's chief strength is its haiku-like simplicity — the lyric is four lines long.
At times, the album's drenched-in-sunshine sound is juxtaposed with darker lyrical content. "Broke Heart" sounds more like the death of a loved one than the kind of heartbreak you experience from a breakup. Gesch wails about a nightmare that is both unfortunate and permanent. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Invocation finds KIT in a more reflective and inward state. I can't confirm what exactly went down in the band's personal lives.
I have a feeling KIT is one of those bands that sounds even better live. I don't mean this in an insulting way and am not saying they don't translate well to record. Given the sheer energy of its sound and knowing the types of places it plays, KIT's all-inclusive philosophy is a stance that says nay to the ageist outlook that only 21-and-ups should enjoy this kind of music.
"It does turn out that all-ages shows by their nature are more fun than bar shows," says Chen. "The younger kids are more amped on hearing music and not just having it as a soundtrack to drinking."
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