The first time I heard Erie, Pennsylvania band Kitchen Sink was a couple of months ago when the song Kitchen Suite came on the radio. Right away, I was captivated. When the opportunity to review their debut album, Clandestiny, arose, I jumped at the chance. Part of the magic, I believe, is that this is a band comprised largely of cousins. Groups with a familial relationship just seem to have that certain indefinable something that lifts the performance. Kitchen Sink are a fine example.
Cousins Donovan and Phoenix Myers, Joe and Genna Preston, and Jake Waldon started writing a series of joke songs that ended up as a YouTube EP. However, the desire to get more serious about their music found them reaching back to their shared love of old-school purveyors of prog like Genesis, as well as newer bands like Bubblemath. Vocalists Genna and Jake lost interest as the band became more committed, leaving Joe (acoustic guitar, trombone), Donovan (electric guitar, bass) and Phoenix (drums, keyboards) to concentrate on writing while searching for a new vocalist. With all the music written and recorded, Anthony Nunez was finally recruited to lend his pipes to three of the newly written tracks.
Kitchen Suite opens the album with a blast of aggression and complexity that within seconds reveals the band’s secret weapon. Joe Preston wields his trombone as a lead instrument, and it works spectacularly! This is no gimmick; the trombone fits as comfortably as any synth or lead guitar might. Vocalist Anthony Nunez is a delight. Refreshingly, his voice is no Jon Anderson or James LaBrie clone. Rather, it has a depth and richness that beautifully complements the music. It’s hard to believe that the songs were not written with his voice in mind. The music of this multi-part suite, especially in the string synth arrangement, has a retro vibe. The vocals and composition, though, are firmly rooted in the present. The trombone weaves itself into the fabric of the tune, never seeming forced or gratuitous; it blends perfectly, accentuating both the low and mid-range in particular. The acoustic guitar section at around eight-and-a-half minutes has a distinct Pink Floyd Dogs vibe to its rhythm, but once the trombone begins to solo over it, any notion of fealty to the band’s prog forebears is dispelled. The piano part that follows is simple and entrancing, setting up a wonderful electric guitar solo. After the final vocal section, a short instrumental led by crunchy rhythm guitars ends the proceedings. The band describe the song on their Bandcamp page as the tale of a magical fungus with life-giving properties that all know of but only one seeks out, a metaphor for the discovery of prog and its rewards for those who take the time to listen and understand.
A lilting piano intro opens Outside. In a nod to its stylistic influences, this could have easily been lifted from any early Renaissance album. Writer Phoenix Myers claims the exquisite combination of major 9 chords was inspired by Bubblemath’s Everything. The trombone doubling the vocals proves that the use of the horn is no one trick pony. Nunez’s voice is smooth as glass and warm as a bear hug, commanding but never intrusive. Donovan Myers’ electric guitar is at once classic in its tone and modern in its approach to melody. The interplay between the guitar, synth and horn leads is sublime.
La Bestia starts with a lighter, jazzier feel which quickly turns Zappa-esque before settling into a solid four/four groove. Jake Walden provides his only vocal appearance on this song. The difference between his voice and Nunez’s is almost startling, but it’s the addition of Genna Preston’s voice that upends things. She adds a colour and brightness you didn’t know the vocals even needed, especially when she and Jake sing a brief contrasting melody. Nothing about this music is show-offish, here or on any of the other songs. Instead, each instrument plays to the essence of the song, lifting each part equally. There is true compositional smarts and instrumental virtuosity on display, something you would expect from a much more mature outfit.
The first of two instrumental pieces, Clown Analysis is a study in shifting moods and time signatures. In fact, in order for the melody to work, composer Donovan Myers created a cycle of odd time signatures that had the same length as four bars of 4/4. Clever lad! There is much to absorb here: distorted organ sounds inspired by Van der Graaf Generator, trombones straight out of some mad circus, multiple guitar styles, and powerful drumming. My one complaint is that as with much of modern recording, the bass is more sensed than heard. The brevity of the piece leaves you wanting more, another sign of intelligent composition.
The tale of a young girl awaiting her father’s return from sea, Once Upon A Time is Genna Preston’s solo vocal turn. Beginning with a seemingly simple piano motif joined by the guitar and a marvellously off-kilter drum pattern, when the trombone solos over a synth riff, the song takes on a classical music bearing. When the music shifts again to allow the electric guitar to take the lead, the trombone totally changes its timbre to match the darkened mood. When the vocals return, it is with Genna harmonising her own voice magnificently. The song is so lovingly crafted, and the attention to detail is obvious at every turn.
The second instrumental, a short piece titled Jacob’s Lullaby, sounds like something Tony Banks forgot to include on A Curious Feeling. Moody yet with a sense of lightness breaking through, the song depicts the soul’s final journey to heaven up Jacob’s Ladder. It’s a great interlude before the final epic, Clandestiny. This song is about how people hate music they don’t take the time to understand, so the narrator keeps the love for his work hidden. Nunez begins the song with uncomplicated piano accompaniment. There is a slow build to the two-minute mark when the guitar prods the song to take shape, duelling with the trombone for ascendancy. The drums are up front in the mix and deserve to be. Six minutes in, the song morphs again, trombone and voice juxtaposing nicely as the trombone adjusts to suit the melancholy shift in tone. You can tell these guys are out to seal the deal. All hands on deck as each instrument takes the opportunity to shine both individually and collectively. The music becomes increasingly frantic, shifting time signatures. Processed vocals add to the menace. Another shift and the song brightens at the thirteen-minute mark. All the changes flow so naturally from one section to the next that you almost wonder how they got there from here. The majestic vocal denouement caps the song triumphantly, leaving the listener breathless and awestruck.
Kitchen Sink’s Clandestiny is one of the most promising debut’s I’ve listened to in years. The skill and maturity of this band belies their youth. If they keep on this trajectory, they will surely be a force to be reckoned with. The future of progressive rock is in good hands. Take a listen to Clandestiny and I am sure you’ll agree.
01. Kitchen Suite (13:49)
02. Outside (6:16)
03. La Bestia (9:07)
04. Clown Analysis (3:39)
05. Once Upon A Time (8:37)
06. Jacob’s Lullaby (2:42)
07. Clandestiny (16:46)
Total Time – 60:56
Donovan Myers – Electric Guitar, Bass
Phoenix Myers – Drums, Keyboards
Anthony Nunez – Vocals (tracks 1,2 & 7)
Genna Preston – Lead Vocals (tracks 3 & 5), Additional Keyboards (3)
Joe Preston – Acoustic Guitar, Trombone
Jake Waldon – Vocals (track 3)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 17th February 2023
Kitchen Sink – Bandcamp