Click to hear: “Finally”
Not to get all Guttman about it, but I’ve gotta heap some praise on one of The Bollard‘s own features: The Online Underground, the new monthly music column by David Pence. Pence has been discovering some real gems on the Web posted by local musicians and bands few people have heard or even heard of. One of them is Graeme K., whom I first heard when Pence wrote about his song “And Rattle!!!” in the August edition of OU.
I too was impressed by the ingenuity of Mr. K.’s mechanistic music, its off-kilter mixture of madness and melody. When his new album arrived, I was eager to find out what other lovely monsters he’d been building in the lab. I was not disappointed to meet them.
Hidden Beast is a short series of highly sophisticated, mostly melancholy pop songs. As my wife, an instant fan, remarked, K. has an obvious “affection for sound,” a love of tones and timbres both old and modern. And as demonstrated on “Rattle,” he has a knack for slicing and looping and layering these sounds to create crazy, catchy compositions. There’s a lot happening on this track, more than can be absorbed in one listen. For example, I heard it almost a dozen times before my ear picked up on the guitar Pence mentioned.
The other six numbers on Beast are equally ingenious, embellished with all sorts of aural delights. “Aw. Turkish. Baby.” (K.’s got a thing for punctuation) is a grand and gorgeous song driven by a pounding barrelhouse piano figure and accented with blasts of horn, a looped exclamation (“aw yeah!”) and a bizarre snippet of dialogue at the end.
“Finally” bounces along on an ethereal xylophone run, a funky drum shuffle, and some tasty bass contributed by Barry Burst of Citadelle. Beneath all this one can hear a shaker and a click track not unlike the sound of a shotgun being repeatedly cocked and fired. When K. cuts in a sampled voice saying, “touch the moon spirit of lyrics,” one can’t help but marvel and wonder: Who is this guy?
Graeme K. (b. Graeme Kennedy) is a Mainer who recently returned from six years in New York City, where he recorded three albums and “over 100 hours of music,” according to his bio. Further investigation (i.e., a chat with Bollard art director Sean Wilkinson) reveals that K. worked a stint as a receptionist at a local marketing and graphic design company, is “a really cool guy,” and plays drums in a side project put together by Josh Loring of Cult Maze.
Following “Finally,” Beast offers “Badfoot Circus,” a two-minute hallucination that sounds like Eggbot on a balloon of nitrous oxide. This is followed by “Praying” and “Hide and Seek,” two electro-pop concoctions awash in longing and regret.
The former begins with an extended intro borrowed from Gilberto and Getz’s “Girl from Ipanema.” The latter is a slow, piano-based piece about a love lost to the progress of time and adulthood. “Do you remember when we used to play hide and seek with the lights off? / When we ran home in the rain?,” K. sings. “When we flew around the world and you held my hand as we took off? / Now everything has changed.”
Beast ends with a swirling and disorienting sound collage titled “Scared to Life,” which contains a sampled rant against war and the associated subversion of Constitutional rights. It’s a tragic sign of the times that K. felt compelled to include a piece like this on an album otherwise wholly concerned with matters of the heart. Tragic, that is, but entirely justified.
Aside from Burst’s bass on two songs and the aforementioned samples, K. performed/created all the music on Hidden Beast. The instrumentation and arrangements are astounding. My only complaint is that K. tends to bury his vocals in the mix – the sign of a singer still not comfortable with his voice. A guy this talented need not be so shy.
So thanks, Graeme, for this wonderful album. And thanks again, David, for hipping us all to it. Who knows what other musical monsters are hiding among us here in the Forest City…
— Chris Busby
Hidden Beast is available at Bull Moose Music. For more on Graeme K., visit myspace.com/graemekmusic.