Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kyte - Kyte


White Wabbit Records.

SCQ Rating: 73%

I was strung several thousand feet above the earth, air-tight and strapped into a cabin-pressured capsule. Surrounded by stranger’s shadows and technicolour glares, my airline had advised us all to keep our window shades down so travelers could either sleep or watch the projected movie ahead. I had awoken from a ten minute slumber, somewhat stir-crazy with about twelve remaining hours to occupy myself, when I selected the first track of Kyte’s debut album. Cracking open my window-side shutter, I sent natural rays of light spraying into the dark cabin to see the first watercolour line glowing across the horizon. Nevermind that the first song is called ‘Sunlight’; truthfully, this self-titled release was performed, perhaps manufactured, for these small moments of wide-eyed clarity.

In fact, a spin through Kyte’s eight songs of prog-rock climaxes might find listeners aching for a melody that loves only itself, satisfied by a simple hook, a verse/chorus, some subtlety, maybe. Restrained nuances are in short supply here; a blunt fact that has as many positive implications as the obvious negative ones. Due to this band’s clear devotion to Sigur Ros, most evident in the near rip-off that is ‘They Won’t Sleep’, your first listen to Kyte will be memorable, one of those feel-good experiences where you tease yourself with the possibility that this is your next big band (a feeling enhanced by the band’s anonymity from the current indie-blog scene). Although the album’s warm and dramatic tones are unwavering, several highlights remain clear: ‘Planet’ is ferocious, a seven plus minutes of delayed guitar and echoed vocals that, if only once, punctures Kyte’s pristine sonic bubble, while ‘These Tales of Our Stay’ is a toy-box marathon of swelling strings that magnify the vocalist’s love-strung narrative.

Such a penchant for emotionally pummeling rock does cross into monotony, absolutely. Kyte suffers from maximal production - blown-out arrangements aim for blown-out heartstrings at every turn – which, by the fourth song, casually burns out many listeners who were enthralled after the first. And this is what divides the men from the boys: songwriting. Comparing a newborn band like Kyte to their obvious heroes, Sigur Ros, who are newly graduated veterans at this point in their career, seems like novice-bullying, but the proof is in the pudding: even Takk…, Sigur Ros’s climax-addled child that could’ve suffered a similar plight of overproduction, steered clear because in the end, each of those eleven songs were expertly written (when in doubt, take the acoustic litmus test and ask yourself if the song could translate well in its most understated single-guitar arrangement… Sigur did by releasing an acoustic album of those aforementioned rock climaxes to great success on Hvarf/Heim). Although Kyte is the band’s first album, and a usually impressive one at that (let’s also not forget that Sigur Ros’ first album, Von, was awful), the majority of this maximized material could not woo us without its chimes and trimmings. Thankfully, a needed respite from the bombast and phonebooth-vocals is found in ‘Home’, a relaxed instrumental that is smartly placed at the album’s midpoint.

This is an ambitious debut, one worthy of investigating and soundtracking the next time you find yourself miles above the earth, or the next time your life falls apart. In either case, Kyte works because it’s comfort music; easy on the ears, long-winded and almost always entrancing. Very soft and safe, which depending on your perspective (or current disposition), could be exactly what we’re all looking for sometimes. You could do a lot worse when facing the end of the world.

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