Yes. Yes. I know. The second album from Kepler Ten, A New Kind of Sideways, was indeed released in November 2020, on the always excellent White Star Records label. And yes, you are quite right: I did select it my Top 5 albums of 2020. So why has it taken an unseemly and utterly indulgent four months before finally putting fingers to keyboard to share my thoughts?
I guess this is where I come up with a truly revelatory reason which will have you nodding your heads sagely in appreciative agreement. Alas, I have no such flashes of insightful brilliance to offer. The truth is actually quite simple. I fell completely and quite unapologetically in love with it. For once, however, I resisted the reviewer’s urge to put each and every piece of music I come across under an analytical microscope in order to extract the buried inner secrets of its delights. Instead, I kicked back, put my feet up, and simply… enjoyed it. And then enjoyed it some more.
Sometimes, we can be guilty of over analysing things and, in the process, lose the joy of what attracted us to it in the first place. Ever since the album first arrived, it very quickly became something of a soundtrack for the dark, troubling times in which we live and I had absolutely no desire to work out why. It resonates, deeply, powerfully and immediately. It captures a mood which is disturbing and disconcerting yet laced with pulsing vibrancy and joyfully disciplined energy which erupts from moments of pathos, poignance and passion.
This tangible sense of tension underpins the sheer dramatic quality of the recording from start to finish. Clarity announces itself with a definitive, almost orchestral flourish, the opening bars a theatrical statement of intent which morphs into a languid, unhurried passage which quickens the beat to transform and transform yet again. The track betrays a restless and uneasy impulse, carried across the entire album, where agitation wrestles with restraint and moderation in an endless battle of rising dominance and waning resignation.
Yet the drama of the music is precisely what infuses it with vitality and movement. This is music which is always ‘on the way’ to somewhere, travelling with determined purpose and focus. Falling Down is constructed around a fabulous undulating, mesmerising bass line which bestows momentum and carries the song along. More markedly, Weaver has crunching transitions courtesy of sharp instrumental contrasts interwoven with distinctive textures.
These in turn bring an impressive diversity to the songs which make up this release. Icarus Eyes is a ravishing example of the sheer range and variation on display. The track is stunning because of the simplicity of its construction, the stripped back soundstage and minimalist instrumentals stand in sharp relief to what has gone before. Where technical prowess and amplified dexterity mark the build up to the song, the light acoustic foundations and uncomplicated rhythms bring an airy cheer and lightness to the soundscape.
At just over twenty minutes, closing track One and the Same sets a triumphant, even celebratory tone which brings the album to a magnificent close. The dramatic sequence which opened Clarity returns at the half way point to remind us of the journey on which we have been and to point the way to a joyful conclusion. The brilliantly anthemic chorus “We’re just one and the same…” repeats between new guitarist Alistair Bell’s enthralling solos and improvised riffing.
By now your feet are thumping the floor in happy satisfaction as you belt out the chorus with elated abandon. If this were a gig, arms in the air with lighters held aloft would definitely be the order of the day! There’s no doubt about it, this is a spellbinding album. It brilliantly taps into the visceral emotional rawness of our present circumstances with a musical elegance and grandeur that is both compelling and magnificent. I am not in the least sorry it has taken me this long to finally write about it, but I do sincerely regret not bringing it to your attention a lot sooner.
If you haven’t heard it yet, I heartily recommend giving it a spin.
01. Universal (2:53)
02. Clarity (10:09)
03. Falling Down (5:18)
04. Weaver (5:46)
05. These Few Words (8:09)
06. A New Kind of Sideways (4:57)
07. Icarus Eyes (7:07)
08. One and the Same (20:04)
Total Time – 64:23
Alistair Bell – Guitars, Backing Vocals
James Durand – Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Steve Hales – Drums, Piano, Backing Vocals
Record Label: White Star Records
Cover Art: Paul Tippett
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 20th November 2020