by Steve Kilbey


★★★★ (4 stars)

While seemingly the whole world is heralding The Church's return to form with After Everything Now This (hey, some of us maintain they never lost it!), singer Steve Kilbey has quietly also gone about the business of releasing his first solo album in over a decade. Recorded in America while Kilbey spent a year stuck living in Delaware (his wife's hometown), Dabble picks up where records such as Remindlessness and the EP Narcosis dropped off. It's unmistakably the work of the Church man, but Kilbey has always managed to sustain a continuity to his solo material (which at one point was quite prolific) that runs parallel to his obviously overt influence over the band that made him famous. Alone, he's even wordier than usual (when he chooses to use words at all) and prefers to give his voice the accompaniment of electronic sounds rather than chiming guitars. While his earliest solo efforts were free-wheeling, arthouse affairs, Dabble is full of conventional structure, while still not quite suitable - or aiming - for widespread public consumption. Rough-edged and ready, indulgent and explorative, this is music with a greater purpose than simply shifting units. Beautiful, meditative stuff.

Steve Kilbey is best known as the man behind The Church, but he has certainly made a mark for himself as one of Australia's best songwriters through his solo work. Dabble is Steve Kilbey's first new material since the release of 'Remindlessness' back in 1990. It features 14 new tracks recorded in the US, and is lyrically evocative and haunting. Dabble contains Steve Kilbey's most direct and accessible song writing, full of imagery both mundane and fantastic. Continuing in the theme of past works, Dabble explores the elastic nature of experience, venturing to a realm where the boundaries of understanding stretch and blur. Undeniably his best album yet!

Is it a coincidence the release of "Dabble" a short time before "After Everything Now This"? Both have a very interesting and ethereal sea imagery floating in the air, both are very intricate and poignant, but Dabble is darker, more difficult to swallow and more experimental. It interleaves conventional (but not commercial) tracks with very complex ones, instrumental passages included. As with many Church and Kilbey albums, it works perfectly as a unit which should be listened to as a whole.

The production is top notch. At this point Steve is a master of crafting songs in every detail and he even plays most of the instruments except drumming and some strings (mandolin, dobro...).

Again, as it often happens with The Church factory releases, it's not what you expect from the guys, but being ready to be taken by surprise with new unexpected twists.

Dabble is part of the trinity of Steve Kilbey's exemplary post 2000 CDs. The album ebbs and flows and Steve plays an array of instruments. Three extremely memorable and truly vintage songs are "Blessed One" the mesmerizing "Keeper" and the evocative "Time To Say Goodbye". I love all of Steve's solo CDs but the dynamic trio are "Acoustic and Intimate", "Dabble" and "Isidore" (with some help from some friends).