TheDukeSpirit KIN

The Duke Spirit – Kin [Red Essential]

It’s been five long years since The Duke Spirit‘s previous album, the underwhelming Bruiser and eleven years since their debut Cuts Across The Land, but for fourth album Kin they have returned to Cuts… producer and Cocteau Twins man Simon Raymonde.  In fact, he plays piano on recent single ‘Wounded Wing’, forming the backbone of the song and, along with the distinctive backing vocals of Mark Lanegan, providing an early standout track.  Kin opens with the breezy experimentation of opener and another single ‘Blue and Yellow Light’, characterised by airy synths perhaps inspired by singer Liela Moss and guitarist Toby Butler’s electro rock side project Roman Remains.  But it’s with ‘Wounded Wing’ that it feels like the band have arrived at the elegant, restrained ballad that they’ve been aiming for for a while now.  Moss’ mannered, almost Nico-ish pronunciation combined with Lanegan’s deeper than the Atlantic baritone lend a certain gravitas to the pull-back-and-reveal poetic imagery of the lyric “You move like a bird/With a wounded wing and wounded nerves.”

It’s followed by ‘Hands’, the other pre-album single, which could have been taken straight from Cuts Across The Land.  The snatched chords are reminiscent of that album’s highlight ‘Love Is An Unfamiliar Name’, and it’s not the only time that old favourite is referenced.  ‘Side By Side’ pulls a similar trick of being all propulsive drums, vocal interplay and building to a crescendo, not to mention appearing late in the record to deliver a shot of adrenaline when it’s needed most.  It’s interesting to note that Kin is at its most successful not only when the band reference their past successes, but also when they experiment more.  There’s what sounds like a theramin intro to ‘Pacific’, although the wishy-washy chorus of “Wouldn’t that be extraordinary” lets it down.  This is especially emphasised coming, as it does, immediately following album centrepiece, the six minute long ‘Here Comes The Vapour’.  It’s all slow motion verses, piano lines echoing Moss’ vocal, and dream pop choruses, the elegant production turning her voice into sunlight streaming in through the window on a late summer afternoon.

All of which isn’t to say that Kin isn’t without its faults; there’s too much filler here, too many tracks that are just Duke Spirit by numbers.  If you’ve heard anything they’ve done before then you don’t particularly need the likes of ‘Sonar’ or ‘100 Horses Run’ in your life.  But the fact that the band are still plugging away despite never really getting the attention they deserved and it looked like they were maybe going to get when they toured with the likes of Queens of the Stoneage around excellent second album Neptune is good news.  Don’t let them be one of those bands that you discover at lunch time at a festival on one of the middling stages because the bolder they are, the better.

Kin is out now on Red Essential.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOGcojGjb6I&w=560&h=315]

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