Well Kept Thing

Foxhole

Burnt Toast Vinyl, 2018

http://foxhole.info

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/19/2018

One cannot deny that Well Kept Thing is deeply “technical,” musically. For example, “Gottlieb Deux” is the kind of number that you would find nowhere, but in a record that one thinks of when one hears the term “technical” – made up of stellar musicianship driven by complex rhythm, where the guitars, bass, and drums are like parts of a sophisticated machine, working together with flawless precision.

However, opening track “After The Walk” is soft and comforting, and couldn’t be more different. Driven, not by pounding rhythmic drums, but by a tender piano hook, its music is not about showing off each musician’s talent, but about creating a haunting atmosphere that feels heartfelt. This is a daydreaming psychedelic cut that feels human, especially with its heartwarming sans-lyrics vocals, and is far from the machine-like “Gottlieb Deux.” Yet, both these diametrically opposite tracks are equally good, and are album highlights: This is the story of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Well Kept Thing, a rather cerebral precision math rock record that can also connect with the listener on an emotional level.

On another album highlight “Calm Blood,” the two disparate aspects of the album mingle fluidly, on a song, which on one hand, is led by an intricate mathematical drumming pattern, and on the other, has interwoven guitars and synthesizers that create a dreamy and melodic – almost silky-smooth – musical fabric around the pummeling drums.

As an instrumental album (except for two songs), Well Kept Thing has a cinematic quality in general, where sweeping melodies meet with challenging rhythms. “Gottlieb’s Dragon,” for instance, is a gritty rock number, consisting of a trumpet (yes, this record has lots of this) solo, with an inescapable movie-like dramatic feel, which works marvellously well.

The “film score” element works great on most of this disc, except however for the last two cuts, “Eight Belles At Midnight” and “Pine Resin Transfer Amber Hands,” both of which are slow, and lack the math rock rhythmic component. “Eight Belles At Midnight” is just spacey atmospherics begging to go unnoticed. “Pine Resin Transfer Amber Hands,” consists primarily of a combination of boringly lifeless music and new-agey vocals. But before the last minute or so, it come to life, when the drums along with blaring trumpets kick in, completely changing its dynamics. Unfortunately, this shift in direction comes in too late, as by this time, the listener has probably lost all interest in the song.

By the same token, “Enlist Now” is also a slow cut that’s without the rhythmic backbone. But this acoustic number, with twangy guitars and somber and reflecting trumpet solo, has the cinematic effect of a western, which not only sounds cool, but adds an unexpected twist to the disc, since this is the only song of its kind here.

Well Kept Thing took 12 years in the making. It was recorded in parts virtually, by band members, who had other commitments, like day jobs and families. In the light of this, it is hard to believe how cohesive this disc is, and especially how warm it feels for a collection of improvised instrumental music. Well Kept Thing is not merely a deftly executed “technical” album, but one that has a heart.

Rating: B+

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