by tom johnson
As you may or may not know, I recently took a month off from music blogging, having been pretty relentlessly running this site for more than five years. I wasn’t really sure why I felt the need to take a break; I was somewhat disillusioned with the processes behind running a site like this, but I also still really fucking enjoyed it most of the time. The discovery, the joy of sharing, the burning bliss of finally feeling like writing is a thing I can do and sometimes do well and the suspended elation of being in the flow with a piece – I still loved all of this, probably more than ever before. And yet, I did need a break. And I took a break. And it was certainly needed. Reflection is important, of course. It can be vital to distance yourself from any task, allowing you to gain some kind of space, enabling you to breathe and ponder and find out where you are and what it all might mean.
Within the first week of my time off I was sent the new record from Beach Moon/Peach Moon and it would become my soundtrack to the entirety of my month. A masterful meeting of tone and texture, the record feels something like encountering American Footballin the blissful height of Summer rather than in an enclosed end-of-era unraveling. I’ll talk more about what makes it so very special a little later on, but the reason for its attachment to myself was opening track ‘Philosophy at 23 or 24’. Musically it’s an instant hit; that disparate drum beat which welcomes and the way it rolls in to the lilt of guitar. It makes for a wonderfully tender entry, a meticulous eye-for-detail which never lets up until the end of the record. It’s the lyrics that really grab too. Bare-boned and immediate, the repeated refrain of “the glass is always full, the glass is always full…of something” felt like the perfect summation of my own thoughts. I know this thing is great, that the glass ain’t empty yet, but I’m not sure how to remember that it’s great, or how to remember that it’s great even when it doesn’t feel like it is. In short; it became my new anthem. The glass is full! It really is! I just have no idea what it’s full of…
What’s instantly obvious from the early moments of this record is Robert Prisco’s appreciation of mood rather than form. The songs and the album as a whole feels like an unwinding; a complex but distinctly understated championing of the quieted voice, a coming-of-age drama mumbled only to those with the patience to sit and listen. There are moments of enforcement, despite the overall timidity, however. ‘Firefly Stars’ is a magnificent stand-out, six-minutes of careful alt-pop which grows in to a mountain of textural guitar layers that could melt even the most hardened of faces. Following track ‘What Color’ also throws mighty spikes of squalling noise in to otherwise downtrodden landscapes; hearty blasts of temerity that remind you of your place and time, drawing you right in to the heart of the moment.
What’s most satisfying, however, is that Kite Without A String is far more appealing and revealing when taken as a whole. Yes, there are stand-out moments, tracks that raise their head above the surface, but it feels far more worthy as an entire piece. Like a full year viewed in hindsight, you can see the slow dissolving of days and the fast passing of the seasons, you can pinpoint where moods rise and fall and you can see that what we’re left with isn’t anything like a conclusion but more the simple realisation that everything carries on regardless. Quite a feat for a seven-track debut album.
“Don’t forget the air, it is all around you,” sings Robert Prisco on the record’s opening track and, if you listen closely enough, you might well hear these wonderfully deft songs hanging somewhere in the ether too; vitally important, quietly magical, even when you forget they’re even here at all.