Releasing a debut as self-titled is an ambitious pursuit for a newly signed musician. Consciously titling a debut with something as personal as their own name brands them, setting an ambitious precedent that can often be exceptionally difficult to surpass — especially if the debut is staggeringly good.
Nor is it often that a fledgling band manages to successfully encapsulate an elaborate array of emotions on their debut, simultaneously yearning and poignant and alienating within a single track. With their self-titled release, four-piece Kinnie the Explorer achieves just that while boldly stepping into the blurry realm of the avant-garde. A fixation with wanderlust sets the frenetic exploratory pace of the album, laden with unexpected complexities and shifting seamlessly between genres. The album fluctuates drastically between cryptic contemplation and simple radiance in matter of moments, managing to hold a consistent thread of gorgeously textured guitarwork and solid basslines throughout.
The Brighton band has managed to find a solid foothold in crafting delicate, Explosions In the Sky-esque arcs — quite the feat for a strikingly young group of musicians. The aptly entitled opener “Scissor Dance” dazzles, washing over in a swelling haze of prog rock and frenetic percussion. Peter Lanceley’s yearning vocals on “Crowds and Power,” reminiscent of the National’s baritone Matt Berninger, dissolve into an abyss of isolation as he echoes, “Raising city lights to shake desires/I tried to read alone all day.” Cathartic standout track “Mardi Gras” displays Kinnie’s multifaceted capabilities to both build intricate melodies and improvise, featuring a five-minute, spaced-out psychedelic jam that ebbs into a hazy ambience at first, artfully finishing with a distant drone and chiming bells.
Inhibiting the album from its full potential are the slightly inconsistent vocals, appropriately swooning in some places but disarmingly out of place in others. “Empyrean” sees Lanceley at his best, with transient croons morphing into a series of haunting mantras. Yet the warbling vocals coating “In Limbo” and “Scissor Dance” come off as more jarring than complementary, disjointed from the collective ambiance. Still, the disconnect between the vocals and the melodies rarely distract entirely from the magnificently layered guitars, embodying the melancholia lurking in Kinnie’s opaque, spooky shadows.
Kinnie The Explorer is certainly a commendable debut, a mature, fluid listen displaying massive potential for the future. Honestly, it’s difficult to not become completely lost in Kinnie’s sonic exploration. At times you’ll swear you can hear the melodies blossoming lungs and breathing, fully taking on a persona. Don’t be too surprised if the songs keep reappearing in your mind’s eye, visceral and real, long after you’ve stopped listening.