The members of Kinski continue to move away from their early sound of ambient Eno interpreted through guitars and toward aligning more with the current psych-rock revival. No surprise, then, that the band employed Randall Dunn to produce and record Down Below It’s Chaos, as he’s done for albums by Boris and Earth. The result is heavy with patience-testing riffage but light on the type of sprawling experimentation Kinski used to do so well.
Opener “Crybaby Blowout” picks up directly where 2005’s Alpine Static left off, with meaty riffs eventually settling into a mid-tempo, fuzzed-up charger. Many of the songs on Down are structured the same way: what could be an interesting initial direction gets subverted into satisfactory, if not inventive, near-metal. “Boy, Was I Mad!” suffers worst from this fate. For a too-short two minutes, the tune is the type of beautiful, subtle sound pattern Kinski used to stretch indefinitely. What’s worse is that the band’s transitions within songs have become stale too; whereas early Kinski like “Staring” shocked with its enormous dynamic leap, on Down the transitions are obvious and clunky.
But a lot of this griping is just an old fan missing the vintage material. It’s not like what Kinski does new on Down it does badly. “Dayroom at Narita Int’l” and “Punching Goodbye Out Front” find Kinski coming the closest to a straight-ahead rock song, especially with main man Chris Martin fully embracing vocals, which he’d previously said he wanted Kinski to completely do away with. And “Silent Biker Type” leaves things off on an interesting note. After guitar chords that sound more like they’re coming from a synthesizer knock each other around for a while, the song drops into a low-end heavy dirge that really does sound like a biker riding off into the desert distance, especially when an organ line right of a Doors song rises up out of the muck.