Well, this is rather odd; I feel as though I’ve walked through my wardrobe and emerged in some weird medieval fantasy. I mean I obviously know what I like, and as strange as this is, I do like it very much. We all know umpteen bands who worship at the altar of the original progressive rock legends, and some are pretty good. Some less so.
K’mono are superb. There’s no denying their influences; they are myriad and obvious. You’ll spot them easily, yet each is fleeting and simply the palette they draw from to create their own ‘thing’. In a way, Wobbler might be a useful point of reference, but even that could be misleading, as K’mono are quirkier and are carving out a niche of their own. They certainly use similarly dated instrumentation and wear their influences proudly, yet sound like nobody but themselves. Most of the time, that is. On occasion, they can’t help themselves, as evidenced on the ultra whimsical Tell Me the Lore, which is cut from the same cloth as Wondrous Stories. Having said that, it’s not really a criticism, it’s a lovely slice of pixie-prog, and not at all as silly as I’ve just made out!
The band hail from Minnesota, which is quite surprising somehow. They just don’t sound American to me, not one bit! They are a trio, but sound a lot bigger than that. Mind Out of Mind is their second album, but as far as I can make out, it’s a fantasy concept which continues the story which began on the debut, Return to the ‘E’. What the story is all about is a bit of a mystery. It involves a king and a castle, so seems medieval in style, but even having studied the lyrics, I’m not really any the wiser. Does this matter? Not to me; I’m not overly keen on lyrics so plain as to deny the listener any interpretation of their own. Besides, the music has so much interest, I tend to concentrate on that, and the words come second.
The title track opens proceedings and sets the ’70s scene sonically, with driving bass, drums and keys, but straight away there is a quirky edge to things which marks this out as difficult to pin down. The opening sequence gives way to a quiet folky acoustic passage before a very Crimson-esque choppy guitar riff rips through, melting into a brief melodic Hackett-style section. All the while, tension is cleverly being built up, and the jazzy urgency of the ‘I’m going mad’ sequence leads us back to the opening theme. The near ten-minutes of this opening piece seems to be over in half the time, and in no way prepares you for what comes next.
Good Looking is a left field move; a concise pop song. It sounds like a synth pop band from the ’80s, with a laid back vocal delivery, and a really catchy chorus, but it’s still got a quirk factor, and a weird guitar solo which manages to be serious and frivolous at the same time. Nothing else on the album sounds like this, and it makes a nice palette cleanser between the proggier pieces. In the Lost & Found has a cool guitar/electric piano intro, and is veering briefly into Steely Dan jazz territory before the prog weirdness returns. There is some very effective lead and backing vocal interplay as the next chapter of the story unfolds, and some unusual bass and drum rhythms.
A symphonic vocal interval called Time Will Tell precedes the whimsy of Tell Me the Lore, then Millipede Man introduces a funk element, sounding not unlike Gentle Giant in style. K’mono seem to relish the opportunity to layer many different textural elements to their music, yet manage to avoid a cluttered sound. They certainly aren’t short of musical ideas, and after multiple listens to this record, I’m still finding new elements I’d not noticed before. It’s a sure sign of an album with longevity built in. The album is wrapped up with Answers in the Glass, and sums up the band nicely; difficult time signatures, memorable melodies, peculiar lyrics, tasteful synth and guitar embellishments, and an over-arching structure which is strangely satisfying. The standard of musicianship is top notch, and arrangements tight and punchy.
If this record had been released in 1972, it might have been a bit idiosyncratic to sell well, but would definitely by now be regarded as a cult classic. I would recommend giving K’mono a little of you time, because both Mind Out of Mind and the predecessor Return to the ‘E’ are very worthy of your attention. A very interesting band worth keeping an eye on.
01. Mind Out of Mind (9:46)
02. Good Looking (3:57)
03. In the Lost & Found (8:13)
04. Time Will Tell (2:05)
05. Tell Me the Lore (4:43)
06. Millipede Man (4:33)
07. Answers in the Glass (8:13)
Total Time – 41:30
Jeffrey Carlson – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Chad Fjerstad – Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Timothy Java – Drums
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 5th February 2023