Vocal-less pop music, be it Mogwai’s apocalyptica or Tortoise’s neu-jazz, has been responsible for some of the more exciting music in the last fifteen years. It can certainly be solipsistic, but it is more often revolutionary — stripping pop of its frontman and leaving it free to explore the drama of the popular form. In the process, it has re-imagined the guitar, bled to death by the blues, into something capable of the most blasphemous noise and the tenderest touch.
Kinski, in fact, had just that potential. Airs Above Your Station (2003) managed tunes that squealed in all the right places. The production was bold, the sounds were big, and everyone played the riffs like they’d forget them if they stopped. Unfortunately, Alpine Static doesn’t make good on that promise. Over the course of an hour, the Seattle quartet trades in post-rock’s worn currency with none of its thrills. “Edge Set” pulls out painfully familiar Stooges riffs before disintegrating into five minutes of eye-rolling static, and “All Your Kids Have Turned to Static” waxes melancholy with a bit of piddling flute lolling over amateurish guitar.
But more than the bedroom power chords and the goofy song-titles, Alpine Static suffers most from a complete lack of purpose. When “The Party Which You Know Will Be Heavy” suddenly disappears in the middle of its near-eight-minute length only to resume the chaos a minute later, you’re only left scratching your head. And when “Passed Out on Your Lawn” rapidly implodes into atonal mayhem, you wonder who put on the Acid Mothers Temple record.
Alpine Static collapses when the band members assume you’ll think that shit they came up with in practice last night is a finished record. But without a sense of momentum or ideas that break molds, Kinski rides an agonizingly even keel — a course that can only be justified by a few straining muscles behind a mike. But I imagine that’s the last thing these guys would want to hear.