About a month ago I had the chance to interview Kava Kava, a six piece eclectic band from the UK. From that alone, I knew there was something special here. Their new album is called Forwards, fitting of the direction this band is headed.
This is one of those cross- genre bands that would be hard to place in any one category, but also impossible to dismiss from any either. Bringing vocals, guitars, bass, a horn section and plenty of electronics, this band pushes the pace, controls the tempo and warps your mind all at once.
Over the course of this album I hear elements and influences of bands all over the spectrum, ranging from U2, Pink Floyd, NIN and most of all, The Crystal Method. This is a very good thing. The album keeps me enthralled, but also keeps me guessing, with the variety of sounds and surprises. Every song turns another corner and around the new corner comes a new story and excitement.
With songs featured all over the TV, in such shows as Weeds, Dirt, and John from Cincinnati, it's not difficult to see that this album is chalk full of memorable songs.
Opening with a slow buildup of tension and leading right into the electronica and artsy stuff, “Tic”gets the album going strong right off the bat. Two minutes into the song and I already feel like I've been wished away to another universe. The slow bass progression sets the pace, while the spoken vocals are enchanting, hypnotic and catchy. A sound that I can only assume is some kind of synthesizer sound winds the track down. It fits perfectly with the music as it winds and repeats over and over. I am already completely into this music.
Next comes perhaps the album's most well- known song, “clarity.” It begins and ends with the repeated spoken part, “I want a moment of clarity.” “I want to know where you keep the truth,” leads into a bridge of sorts with sounds and instruments all over the place. I am overwhelmed. This is a song that I could imagine being played in a dance club, with ravers sweating all over themselves, dancing and throbbing to every beat. At the same time, with the catchy vocals ('which kind of keep me hypnotized') and pumping pace, I could see this played at rock clubs also. This is a song that needs to be heard... over and over.
Before I know it I hear guitars coming through my speakers. What happened? The disc moved onto “Everything.” This song freaking rocks. Maintaining the catchy vocals and peripheral sounds, but adding some sweet, groovy guitars, this song is off the hook. I continue to be blown away by this music. The chant of, “everything” permeates over the rocking guitar rhythm. For a moment, I have a flashback to U2's “vertigo.” I just can't help myself, I want “everything.”
“Bank job” has a unique opening, that leads to some sounds so morphed I can't even tell if it's a sound or synth of some sort, or if it's vocals that have been run through a machine. Regardless, it works big time. The mid- song vocal run adds another element to the song. Singer Pat Fulongi brings a poise and confidence to the music that suits the style while adding his own flair. This is good shit.
The title track, “forwards” comes along with a nice, slow opening. I sense a slowdown in the album coming. Maybe a transition that gets the album going in a different direction? A minute later, a heavy bass (Martin Chung) picks up steam and the groove gets going. I am in bliss yet again. I could listen to this song for 28 straight hours on a road trip. It takes me on ups and downs, but with a sense of calm that could help me through anything. Heck, the song itself is kind of like a road trip and Fulongi is my tour guide. Before the song is over I'm being blown away by a winding guitar solo of all things. Matt Bond is on point here, the best guitar work on the album. Fucking sweet.
“Rise above” comes on and we're hearing yet another different sound. A riff driven by Chung's bass is paced to let me catch my breath after blowing my load on the last song. The chorus is a 'chant' of sorts, again, keeping it fresh and not really having two songs on the album that are too much alike. With four songs left, my mind is starting to build in wonder and expectation of how this is all going to finish.
Next comes, “nfa.” It starts with a minute and a half of instrumentation, before Fulongi comes in with the vocals. The pace is calm, the lyrics are insightful, and the groove is steady. There is also an element of building energy. Mid- song there is a shift in tone, going in a softer direction. The lyrics get more thoughtful, the mood changes, and the band shows their versatility. No sooner can I write this than it shifts again, gaining speed and momentum. Fulongi spreads his wings, the rhythym rocks out for a minute... then back to the slower part again. I am blown away. “nfa” has taken me on a ride, separate from the ride the album has me on. Since I am now speechless, I will move on to the next track.
“Don't stop the music” jumps in quickly. Did we just transport back to the 70's? This is not bad, but not at all expected. The funk has put in an appearance on the album! So has disco! Normally I might be appalled by this turn of events, but in this case, it actually works! Very well, in fact. Bear in mind, I'm a rocker, so for me to be approving of this song should tell you something... it's really fucking good.
Next comes a remix of, “Don't stop the music” featuring Andrea Fiorino. This is basically similar to the original, but slightly different, with it's own twist or two. This one seems more suited to be the last song played of the night at a dance club. It's good, but I'm not sure that it needed to be on the album, especially not right after the original.
Ending the album is the 'Jon Kennedy remix' of Tic. Again, this is VERY similar to the original, maybe slightly slower and more moody? In contrast to the previous remix, this one makes a lot of sense to me. “Tic” is definitely one of the best songs on the album and this different interpretation on it works. It's moody sense about it also makes it a suiting finisher to this album.
So, having made it through the entire album, I gotta say that this is really freaking good. The album has balance, every song seems to have a purpose (with the possible exception of the 'Don't stop the music' remix), every song adds something original to the album and shows off the musicianship of the band.
I am truly blown away here. I love my hard rock, but I also love my electronica and art. This album gave me just enough of the guitars and rock to appeal to that side of my brain. More importantly, the artistic side of this album is amazing. The combinations of horns and machines, with perfectly fitting vocals and bass grooves.... yeah, this is good shit.
I think this is a band that needs to be heard more and more. I can't say how impressed I am with this work..
I give this album a 4 gun salute.
Find more on Kava Kava at: http://www.myspace.com/kavakavamusic
and stay tuned for more from them, here as always, in the Continuum.