Bad Elephant Music yet again has a wonderful band on their bands. I was completely in the dark about what to expect from We Are Kin, but what I’ve found is something unlike anything else released this year. Their new album “…and I know…” is an exquisite piece of genre-bending artistry, relying more on pure talent and actual progression than on technical fireworks. It is classy without being pastoral, edgy without being pretentious, and diverse without getting lost in itself.
Hailing from the UK, the band fuses several genres together into one seamless flow of music. Perhaps first and foremost, they love powerful vocal hooks and catchy choruses. Next, much of the music here is electronic in nature, showcasing an amber hue and evoking smoldering embers in my mind. Into this, they also inject hard rock, post-rock, post-metal, and jazz. While this may seem like a difficult thing to achieve, I’m here to tell you that they don’t just achieve it, they actually own it. On other progressive albums, you sometimes hear a sax solo referred to as “jazz influence” or an electronic intro as some sort of new and adventurous use of “electronic vibes”. With We Are Kin, these various genres are really and truly part of the music in every way, not used as gimmicks to sell records.
The band consists of Emma Brewin-Caddy on vocals, Lee Braddock on bass, Dan Zambas on guitars and keys, and Gary Boast on drums and sound production. There are some guest musicians, too, that provide some of the guitars and the flute on specific tracks. All of these musicians manage to shine individually, but also as a group. Lee’s bass is distinctively jazzy in tempo, and Gary’s drumming often has a world music or even, I daresay, a 90’s feel to it, meaning that the rhythm section here is outstanding and out of the box. Dan’s keys are particularly uplifting with their hazy, ethereal presence, and his guitars, too, are more for accent and feeling than for driving the music.
Probably the most noticeable part of the band, Emma’s vocals are simply stunning. She sings in a style similar to that of Oceans of Slumber vocalist Cammie Gilbert, which would also be placing her into the jazzy, bluesy style of Amy Winehouse. Emma regularly nails some difficult notes and sharp hooks, and there is ever a sense of class and refinement in her style. She is capable of both quiet, personal moments and also huge, elongated notes.
Like I said, though, the album is electronic in a major way. “…and I know…” is an album of sadness, almost in a triumphant way. Yes, it is about love and the inevitable, and the music definitely reflects this. The album is structured around three very different, very connected tracks: “…that one day…”, “…we’ll have to say…”, and “…goodbye”. The rest of the songs are like the ellipses in those titles. Running through these three tracks (and the rest of the album, too) is a very sparse, glowing electronic style of melody that burns and shifts pleasantly. The band is also great at transitioning straight from electronic feeds into hard rock or the like. They make their crazy mixture seem natural.
“…that one day…” is a deep, brooding electronic song that transitions into ethereal vocal notes and then again into hard rock guitars. A later song, “Reaper”, is similar to this, only it contains more of a carefree atmosphere. Tracks “No Evil” and “Exhale” are vocally dominated by a strong performance by Emma and very catchy lyrics. “Radio” is like those two tracks, as well, but contains more of an interplay between Emma and some very dry electronic meanderings. As you can see, there is great variety here, but there is still more, as “…we’ll have to say…” is a flute-led instrumental track that breaks down barriers. You don’t often hear flute and electronic flows together, but this song is truly stunning and climactic emotionally. The final track, “…goodbye”, is dark, grieving electronic track that transitions into male vocals by Dan that feel so confused and questioning, and then the track gives the spotlight back to Emma with a mournful, yet triumphant soliloquy of sorts that builds into a grand keyboard-soaked climax to end the album.
The flow and structure of this album are very real and very tight, though it may take a few spins to recognize it. The album visits emotional highs and lows, attachments and losses, questions and determinations. Personal in nature, this is not an album “just for the music”, as I hear so often from prog fans. No, this is emotion and expression on a grander scale than a casual listening will allow. It is the complete package.
We Are Kin has produced a thoughtful, varied album that focuses primarily on melody, regardless of what instrument or genre they may use. In many ways, this album is a true musical feat, providing better flow and connection between seemingly opposite genres than most other progressive bands have achieved. But I don’t think the band really cares about all that. They are too busy feeling the music and emotion to notice.
Find We Are Kin online at: