If you’ve ever packed for a weekend camping trip, you’ll know it can be quite daunting. Not only in choosing the essentials but then trying to stuff it all into a small overnight pack. Kiev performs this task with sounds rather than material possessions on their debut full length Falling Bough Wisdom Teeth but nonetheless with a skill that would signify a seasoned group of weekend warriors.
The band formed under the umbrella that television lamentably refers to as “The OC” but possess a style far removed from the glamorized mirage that surrounds the city. The biggest compliment I can pay Kiev is in a simple byline: RIYL – ???.
While comparisons can be drawn to Radiohead, TV on the Radio, Pink Floyd, or even Fela Kuti, no straight lines can be drawn to any band or even genre. If the belief is held that there is nothing new under the sun, Robert Brinkerhoff (vocals, guitar), Brandon Corn (percussion), Derek Poulsen (bass), Andy Stavas (keyboards, saxophone) and Alex Wright (keyboards, guitar) prove that it’s entirely possible to revitalize what is already there.
Now comes the tough part: describing the album. It is a dizzying cacophony of sounds, emotions and ideas that never stay in the same place for very long. With that said, at no point do I feel lost or overwhelmed on the hour-long journey. ‘Pulsing: Cough Focus’ gently guides the listener into the album and, along with the complementary ‘Pulsing’ tracks, helps to tie the album together sonically and thematically.
For those who’ve followed the band’s previous work, you will find some recognizable links. Kiev mirrors the more playful tone of the Ain’t No Scary EP on ‘Drag Bones’ and relive the moodier moments of second EP with the reprise of ‘Be Gone Dull Cage.’ With their first extended batch though, there is an expanse of range that displays a deliberate abandon in new territory. ‘Falling Bough’ finds Derek’s bass crawling next to a sauntering drum beat that continually builds and fades while playing tug of war with the keys as they scamper through track. A masterful exhibition of musicianship colors the entire album with shining examples such as ‘Tube Orms’ & ‘Ariah Being;’ the latter revealing their secret weapon: Andy’s saxophone.
Lyrically, the album’s themes, dealt out more in questions than answers, grapple with the difficulties of trying to stay present in a chaotic world & the aches that stem from maturescence. Robert pines on this issue in ‘Animals in Garden’ when he sings “You hear all the sound bouncing around here? It keeps us all forever tied, recycling rolls.” The discomfort of maturing is a recurring theme that is mirrored in the repeated question “can you help us build a house?” in both ‘Ariah Being’ and ‘Be Gone Dull Cage.’ It is plainly sung about in ‘Pulsing: Wisdom Teeth’ where the line “the teeth move to make room for the growing wisdom piece” is gently crooned. The motifs stretch through to even encompass the artwork; a painting (Falling Bough) by Walton Ford which shows a chaotic flock of pigeons enveloping a collapsing tree limb.
Rarely do art & technicality find such a harmonious balance as they do here.
It takes quite an extraordinary talent to construct such a stunning piece of art (and it truly is that) from such disparate pieces but Kiev achieve it in spades much less on their debut full length. Stirring vocals float atop a mountain of layered instrumentation juxtaposed by jazz, pop, and electronic flourishes which keep the album moving seamlessly from pulse to pulse. Simply stated: Falling Bough Wisdom Teeth is the complete package.