Sunday, August 30, 2009

Science For the Living - Kyte

Science for the Living

Kids/Erased Tapes Records.

SCQ Rating: 42%

Kyte’s sound is of the all-encompassing variety, borrowing M83’s lush electro and Sigur Ros’ orchestral prog-rock, then filtering these influences into a sentimentality only New Age can cross. And because I first heard last year’s self-titled release blasting through a record store’s well-equipped speakers, I fell victim to the English band’s shamelessly technical charms. Beneath those layers one could locate a given song’s structure, however contemplative and repetitive, and those compositional bones truly separated the best from Kyte’s rest. Every Kyte song sounds gorgeous – that’s part of the problem – but on songs like ‘Planet’ and ‘Secular Ventures’, the band seemed capable of breaking out from their delicate clicks and whirls and truly rocking. That occasional anticipation and subsequent satisfaction is lacking on Science For the Living, their quickly served sophomore effort.

Picking up where they left off, this follow-up dives headfirst into reverberating keys and abundant beds of positive energy (yes… New Age lingo belongs here), except this time around the songwriting is virtually abandoned. One of the more notable tracks, ‘The Lost Blood’, is distinguished first and foremost because they haven’t written it before, and finds the band taking a synthed-out choir chorus and pounding it with electro languor. What makes it further noteworthy is that Kyte’s songwriting is less shrouded in effects; a bold decision that brings about depressing realities. Indeed, ‘The Lost Blood’ acts like a cohesive blueprint of how Kyte writes songs:
Step 1 (approx. 10 minutes) – Write a song. Make sure the chorus is a few simple words that rhyme effortlessly, ensure all verses be sung to the pace and key of its lead melody. All songs should end the way they begin, forget dynamics.
Step 2 (approx. 6 weeks) – Mix the song. Throw everything at it that’ll stick (strings, keys, xylophone, oboe, woodwinds, purposeful Sigur Ros kick-drum, laptop beats, tape-loops, etc.). Exploit the shit out of those instruments. Bigger is always better.
And then repeat. When Kyte aren’t being as forthcoming with their song-structures, we receive the seemingly endless faux-epicness of ‘Creating Our Reality’, which as a microcosm of Science For the Living proves just how far beautiful sounds can take you. Not far enough.

While this follow-up doesn’t suggest much of an evolution, it does hint at a subtle switch of direction as Science For the Living moves further from guitar bombast, closer to atmospheric balladry. ‘Strangest Words and Pictures’ and ‘No One is Angry Just Afraid’ are two of the more apparent Ben Gibbard impressions I’ve heard by a signed artist, and while they’re admittedly among the better songs here, they don’t have a lot of competition. Where Kyte flirted with cutesiness in the past, they’ve committed to it now, issuing a collection that best belongs next to Dan Gibson’s Solitudes series. Now there’s some competition.

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