Published on 11th April 2015
We Are Kin – Pandora
This is a mature and well realised album.
Pandora is awash with melodic and varied compositions that are multi-layered and complex, plus there is an underlying narrative describing a potential future. You can get lost in it all.
Not really having much info on this Manchester based band I rather cheekily emailed Alex Dunedin hoping to get a little insight. Alex provided lyrics and the spoken word performance on the track The Speech. I asked him to supply a few lines about his involvement. Alex replied that very morning and was very forthcoming, his replies opening my eyes/ears to things about which I was hitherto oblivious.
I’d asked a very small question but had totally underestimated the depth of the concepts behind the material. Such was the impact of what Alex said in his response that I all but tore my review up and started again. So I listened to the album again with fresh ears. Here’s some of what Alex had to say:-
“It was their depth of concept which initially attracted me, and the time they had put into developing the ideas. To be met with musicians who gave clear instruction and cared about the quality of production so much made it easy to get involved… I had to ask what happens when an AI is integrated with a human nervous system… new possibilities arise and capabilities are extended. What happens to my consciousness was the scary bit. Having the sole power to do is a source of horror… What am I to feel? When we kill what we love in trying to create the perfect world for it, the horror of confronting this is enough to take your own life – is it the only resolve?”
The album paints a picture of a World where greed and the pursuit of wealth has led to the emergence of Artificial Intelligence. Not the sort of The Matrix or Terminator but one that has more sinister and unethical results, with the blending of Mankind and technology. Does a desired outcome ever excuse any wrongs committed to attain it? A perfect World? By whose definition?
Musically, what can you expect?
Vocal performances are the hardest thing in the World. You have nothing to hide behind. The vocals on the entire album fit perfectly. Dan Zambas’ vocals are effective in the same way that Roger Waters’ are effective. They have their own identity and there’s that kind of crack in Dan’s voice that conveys conviction in the lyrical content. Did I just drop a Pink Floyd comparison bomb? I did, but this is no Pink Floyd wannabe band.
I used to be a bit suspicious of spoken word passages in music. The spoken passages jump out on this album and Alex Dunedin delivers his over the somewhat ambient and melancholic piano of The Speech. His words cascade out of the speakers, sounding at once authoritative yet edgy.
On the other tracks we’re treated to the hugely effective voices of Lauren Smith and Hannah Cotterill. These are accomplished singing performances and they complement the music perfectly.
We Are Kin show no signs of wanting to rush their songs. The arrangements and performances are well considered and at no point was I aware of any intrusive ego-massaging solos. The instruments are played well, and I sensed that there’s an holistic approach to the album where the voices, instruments and samples are just there to bring us the songs. The music is the driver. In places We Are Kin seamlessly blend the songs with soundscapes that allow the listener’s imagination to paint a picture, setting the scene for the track that follows.
This is not music that has been written using a formulaic and predictable “prog” blueprint. For me that will always keep me listening over the re-hashing of wellknown classic prog tracks.
So would I buy this album? Without question.
Oh, as a footnote; Breathe Out, the last track, is surprising. Stick with it, is all I can say.
As a second footnote; I can’t review this band and fail to mention the label they’re on. Bad Elephant describe themselves thusly:-
“Bad Elephant Music is an independent record label promoting fair deals for artists and fans alike. Independent sounds for independent souls”.
Which is nice and all that, but what this doesn’t tell you is that the label seems to be very discerning in terms of the acts it signs. I’d go as far as to say that the BEM logo, so far, is like a Hallmark on a piece of precious metal. So when I heard the first tracks to be released back in January I bought the EP, Home Sweet Home. This had the first track from the forthcoming album, Pandora, and the eighth track, Faith. I wasn’t disappointed and it did bode well for the album.
01. Home Sweet Home (3:28)
02. Let Me In (6:06)
03. Soul (4:54)
04. The Speech (3:17)
05. The Hard Decision (7:15)
06. Without Them (4:39)
07. Tides Of Midnight (4:54)
08. Faith (2:43)
09. The Algorhythm (7:06)
10. Weight Of The World (6:43)
11. The End (5:41)
12. The Door (7:44)
13. Breathe Out (8:22)
Dan Zambas – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals, Bass (track 9)
Gary Boast – Drums, Backing Vocals
Dave Hopkinson – Bass
Adam McCann – Guitar (tracks 2, 6, 7 & 9)
Lauren Smith – Vocals (tracks 7 & 12)
Hannah Cotterill – Vocals (tracks 1, 3 & 5)
Alex Dunedin – Spoken Word (track 4)
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Music by: Dan Zambas & Gary Boast
Lyrics by: Dan Zambas except tracks 4, 7, 9, 10 & 12, by Alex Dunedin