This is the Kit – Moonshine Freeze
Rough Trade – 7 July 2017
Her first full album since 2015’s Bashed Out finds Kate Stables aka This Is The Kit keeping company with producer John Parish while Moonshine Freeze also features extensive contributions from The National’s Aaron Dessner (who helmed the previous album) on guitar and keyboards.
As has come to be expected from Stables, while her work may be rooted in the folk genre, it’s heavily variegated, as exemplified by the opening track Bullet Proof with its polyrhythmic banjo, Jamie Whitby-Coles’ muted drumming and, eventually, languid electric guitar underpinning her dreamy vocals in combination that is at once soothing and nervy.
The bass driven Hotter Colder, (see the new live session below) a number about listening to your conscience with its lines about the clumsy guidance of the “creature in the dark” and “fragile sanity” is a far more jittery affair which closes with a wild, free-blowing sax solo.
Inspired by the children’s clapping song game, the title track, sung in breathy, overlapped vocals, has a hypnotic hissing percussive riff and fluttering synths as she constantly cycles back to the title line, gradually ebbing away on a sustained instrumental break with parping saxes and synthesiser.
In keeping with her magpie tendencies and interest in ethnomusicology, there’s an Oriental koto-like flavour to the guitar patterns on which Easy On The Thieves is built, one of several to feature Emily Stables on backing vocals, a song about examining and personal responsibility, the very English “What a proper pair of Charlies!” a neat counterpoint to the music’s Japanese influences.
All Written Out In Numbers with its puttering drums has a funky jazz-folk feel that put me in mind of Pentangle as she draws on mathematics, faith and astronomy in a contemplation of our place in the vastness of things, vibraphone (played by the multi-talented Jesse D. Vernon) and Dizzy Pearce’s bassoon, introducing notes of chaos towards the end.
The lyrically enigmatic Empty No Teeth is another panrhythmic track, her folksy delivery layered over an ambient mossy soundscape with Kate’s circling banjo line while Riddled With Ticks is more straightforward simple fingerpicked guitar, watery pastoral folk in the Nick Drake tradition.
Slowcore shuffling beats and a narcotic bass line bedrock the hushed oohing delivery of a soulful Two Pence Piece, interspersed with improv jazz flourishes of brass, the minimalist mood washing over into Show Me So with its sparse guitar accompaniment.
There’s a friskiness to the penultimate My Demon Eye with its burbling bass rhythm and a skip along chorus partly sung in, guessingly, Gaelic before ending with Solid Grease, initially teasing an unaccompanied framework with her airy soaring and swooping vocals before being interspersed with bass throbs and keyboard shimmers, closing out with extended jazzy improvised piano frills. It’s an album that takes a few listens to really appreciate, but the more you play it, the more you’ll hear.