by Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy
REVIEWS and COMMENTS
Writing about music is a bit like being a food critic — how do you describe something the reader isn't usually directly experiencing for themselves...how to convey tastes, flavours and sensations simply using a combination of specific words when you can't taste those words, or hear them? And there's the rub. Which brings us to "Jupiter 13", the recent collaboration between Australian artists Steve Kilbey of The Church and Martin Kennedy of All India Radio...this album really has to be heard to be believed. So in keeping with the food theme, it's best summarised as a sumptuous banquet indeed with a dash of Radiohead, a hint of Steven Wilson, sprinkle in some of that Bowie fairy dust, and a generous serving of Pink Floyd resulting in a gorgeous sonic stew. The Kilbey-Kennedy duo has been creating psychedelic, ambient, electronica pop for over a decade, and as magnificent as their 2017 offering "Glow And Fade" was, "Jupiter 13" is their best work yet. Over the course of almost an hour, Kilbey-Kennedy take the listener on an interplanetary odyssey. It's big, grand, cinematic space opera, and you're quickly drawn into a psychedelic dreamscape of airlocks, zero gravity and sepia-toned childhood holiday memories. If you're not familiar with Messrs Kilbey or Kennedy, just think Pink Floyd with some contemporary flourishes and you'll be pretty close. After repeated listens, this one is already a leading contender for Marking Time's album of the year. Highly recommended.
Just last year we had Chryse Planitia and SONGS FROM ANOTHER LIFE: music of antiquity, both sublime. We had Eleven Women, a shaft of light from the darkest skies we are all under right now, almost funded by those who love it. We have been spoiled of late.
It's March already so Steve has a new album out. This time with Martin again. Another absolutely wonderful album. Jupiter 13.
Prologue: We are tripping Space 1999, Android with Klaus Kinski, The Illustrated Man with Rod Steiger. Love the imagery of the spoken words. Repetition, like little vocal sequences.
ADSR: The confidence of songs available allows a slow mind drift entry. Totally sublime. Amazing choice, really changes the reality in preparation. Shades of a heavily orchestrated My Little Problem aimed at their little problem. "Your life is a piece of music You don't know how to conduct yourself anymore". Most bands would love to have a closer like this. Yet here it bursts in with such light.
Rendezvous: The vocal interplay here between Steve and Leona Gray is so locked in. Huge anthem driving track, Huge depth of guitar tones. Feels like the track Amboss by Ash Ra Tempel with futuristic bass and drums under it. Just huge angel choir tones of saturated notes.
Jupiter 13: The story continues. Someone is disappearing. Star Child-like? Falls into id voices and tumbling, pastoral piano made alien by the words. The moment at 5:15 is the most beautiful sunrise sound chord change I've ever heard. Just searingly beautiful. The whole passion of the playing really brings the human aspect back, just in time for the sequencers. Another song for King Knife? I love the dynamics of this album. It sounds vast as space. If Floyd had released this after Wish You Were Here this would have been in every kids record collection that had Dark Side of the Moon there.
Circus: Jack Frost intro feel, into chiming crashing pulse with Steve howling to the (Jovian) moons. A classic.
We Are Missing: Wall of sound intro subsiding into classic Kilbeyland, but with shimmering shards hanging over his head sawing. This is an absolutely beautiful experience. Abandonment of being abandoned. Heinrich Schliemann leading a team into an alien archaeology site.
Insane: Real Estate (Manuel Göttsching really) guitar tone hangs so fabulously throughout. An oh my Lord to Myrrh and a dead man's hand. Like finding little fractal shards of things from before throughout this album I get half formed memories of older songs. Like you are in the head of the experiencer. This has such a string chorus/verse thing happening. I'd love just to hear this on the radio. It drowns out beautifully.
Halfway: Steve is drilling deeply into wherever he was when he recorded Unearthed. Half a life ago and between the line of the horizon and the sky. This is totally classic Kilbey in a beautiful Kennedy landscape. The whole concept is beautiful.
No Attachment: Somehow reminds me of Kate Bush. I can hear her voice in there, That fretless bass. Innocence expanding into a wider universe. Profound lyrics. Emotional. Is this the rebirth? The guitar by Gareth Koch is as melodic and almost spiritual. Like the snow is melting.
Holiday: The sunrise of toddlerhood. Fractured memories of childhood, memories that merged with each other. Time with people who unreservedly love you. Must have been a holiday. This must touch anyone who ever had a childhood holiday. I can fit mine in. "Summer seaside town in motion, Holiday girl down by the ocean". I also feel a bit of the feeling I get listening to Shell from the This Asphalt Eden single, fragile and innocent with a naiveness unparalleled. My "holiday" was in Towyn in Wales, with my wife, Denise. 1979.
Aetolia: Drifting chords and air infused pads surround guitar. Incantations. Confused and sounds like Klaus Schulze fighting Tangerine Synth lines snake around. Love the furrowed guitar lines. The Chaos track.Love it. Almost circular drumming.
Liquorice Comfits: Tim Blake filter modulation sweeps, like an updated old memory of a 50's movie. The day The earth Stood Still style warning. The planet is dying, Something That Means Something. A box of souvenirs from a life. Everything left behind. Dusted by time and returned to its natural state. Lots of career long memories, almost remembered. Disappeared, disappeared.
Epilogue: A Quinn Martin production. What is anyone searching for in life? Any life? This one, the last one, or the next.
I fucking love every minute of this album. It's like the best distilled fantasy, quasi-religious, lost and profound in space prog rock, kratrock, bliss out stoner album I've heard in decades. This could be a movie.
Thanks to you both, Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy. Look forward to years of enjoyment from this.
This album strives for a wholesome unity of all that seems contradictory. Is there a better way in which to imagine the comfort of unity than in music, I wonder? Kilbey and Kennedy have tried to repair the brokenness of a world lying bare in shatters. They want to retrieve and reconstruct in music what was lost, through the perfect mingling of voices and instruments in a mix of imagination and rationality transferred to a place beyond the reality we know. Jupiter 13 feels like the providential combination of Kubrick's rational tale of manmade instruments, evolving into sci-fi technology, eventually taking over command, and Bowie's account of his sensitive hero Major Tom lost in space. And ultimately an ode to the tremendous powers and broad, expansive nature of music itself.
Cuando todo se acaba, la conclusión con Jupiter 13 es que debe entenderse como un álbum conceptual, de catarsis emocionales y reflexiones sobre nuestra realidad a partir del polvo de las estrellas; el futuro de nuestra existencia no solo en nuestro mundo sino también en el universo, en un contexto mucho más amplio e infinito. Steve Kilbey y Martin Kennedy son dos maestros de la composición lírica-instrumental y su música para esta ocasión ha sonado más vanguardista y progresiva que nunca. Apuntan a la estratósfera y estimulan la imaginación hacia lo abstracto de la narcosis. Hay episodios que parecen ser gestados a partir de pinceladas de Salvador Dalí que se convierten bajo algún hechizo quimérico en ondas sonoras visualizadas como espirales que se deforman en el aire. Esto es surrealismo musical en su más fina expresión.
Google Translation of Entire Review:
Steve Kilbey is an extraordinary musician; a versatile and huge artist. He is 67 years old and cannot stop creating, producing, imagining. His last works with The Church have taken him to his most cinematic phase as a composer, within a watery psychedelia that as a worldview has given him new confines to explore.
His most recent work with this legendary band, Man Woman Life Death Infinity, seemed to open up a new path for him that pointed to the cosmos, and he had to finish walking it. For that he joined forces again with his colleague—also Australian—Martin Kennedy (All India Radio), signing a new chapter of Kilbey Kennedy, one of his already innumerable alternative projects.
Thus arises the fantastic Jupiter 13, conceived from a distance (thanks coronavirus). Martin recorded most of the music to his arrangement in Tasmania and then presented the instrumental template to Steve, who imagined the lyrics and began recording his voice in Sydney. The result today is a fascinating production that proposes a weightless exodus towards the stars through 13 refined tracks: 11 of them are "conventional" songs (to call them that) and two more are narrations by Kilbey himself: Prologue and Epilogue, to open and close the LP respectively.
When we get down to business, "ADSR" sounds like a light ballad, as light and silky as the voices that intertwine to distend all the senses through the ear. From here the environment is distorted in aquatic colors in an unreal environment that will gradually expand. So despite the fresh acoustic strings heralding the beginning of "Rendezvous," levitation cannot be postponed, and it could soon turn into flight. Again the crossing of male voices (Kilbey) and female (Leona Gray) is on point, and the electric guitars behind reach a dreamy register.
For the track that gives its name to the LP, the bass line takes a step forward as the protagonist and the percussions become heavier in the accompaniment, but it doesn't take long for the crystalline arpeggios to continue to give us little by little of the earthy. The most emotional part of this chapter is undoubtedly in its chorus, with diverse voices interwoven in various channels, before an introspective piano interlude. Then comes "Circus" in a more rocker way if the expression is worth it, but with an enigmatic keyboard creating an entire ethereal wall in the background, and that set of guitars as robust as they are crystalline that take us by the hand to the point where floating it becomes an ascent towards the firmament. The humidity envelops everything, and "We Are Missing" welcomes us into surreal horizons in which Kilbey sings with high sensitivity.
Once we completely cross the horizon of the known and plan on cosmic terrain with illusory scales, Steve and Martin's mission is to stay there; not risk going further, nor resign ourselves to return. They forge the balance of comfort, the perfect balance. That's why songs like "Insane" and "Halfway" maintain the same level of intensity, the same chimerical mood that keeps us in a trance with our eyes half open. The weather keeps dropping in temperature, you keep feeling lighter, and time becomes relative. By the time "No Attachment" arrives, the mind and spirit should already have reached the mantra through the spirals of its sound waves. Imagine swimming in gentle waves on a floating sea, where soul healing turns into measured joy. And "Holiday" only prolongs this feeling.
Later on, the atmospheric "Aetolia" (named after the mountainous area of Greece) appears, one of the most theatrical compositions on the album. Drum rolls give it a special vigor. The one-way nylon strings seem to create a subtle crescendo, while Kilbey's echoes bring a beautiful melody to life. The instrumental chorus is magical, unreal (imagine that it doesn't even need a voice); It lifts us to a point where the multicolored sky moves and the glittering stars illuminate the corners of darkness that may go unnoticed around us. This is one of the most beautiful sonic manifestations that this pair of gentlemen achieved together, and its four and a half minutes could well have been worth the entire album. I'm not exaggerating.
And before reaching the conclusion of the play, "Liquorice Comfits" seems to wake us up from the dream but keeps us in suggestion, in partial hypnosis. The astronauts must go home, even if we refuse. Little by little the immaterial becomes material. Little by little we reconnect with the mothership while we contemplate the activity of the atoms of the universe ... slowly.
When everything is over, the conclusion with Jupiter 13 is that it must be understood as a concept album, of emotional catharsis and reflections on our reality from the dust of the stars; the future of our existence not only in our world but also in the universe, in a much broader and infinite context. Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy are two masters of lyrical-instrumental composition and their music for this occasion has sounded more avant-garde and progressive than ever. They point to the stratosphere and stimulate the imagination towards the abstract of narcosis. There are episodes that seem to be gestated from Salvador Dalí's brushstrokes that turn under some chimerical spell into sound waves visualized as spirals that deform in the air. This is musical surrealism at its finest.
**** (4 stars out of 5)
The slick and confident presentation of this album reflects its creators' mastery of their craft. The cosmic drift of Jupiter 13 offers a soothing, immersive, dreamy vibe intended to cocoon listeners and transport them far from Earth where they can luxuriate in zero gravity for a while. Kilbey brings the wistful shoegaze of the church to the mix. His earnest vocals suggest Major Tom, seemingly strung out in heavens high. Kilbey also steers this album on a sweet indie pop course and this approach compliments the spellbinding swirl of Kennedy's rich synth textures and melodies.
Jupiter 13 is a statuesque work of art: 12 standard songs and a spooky spoken word prologue and epilogue (reappearing in parts in the title track) that bleed with gorgeous layers of sounds and melody.
There are many corpuscles in the blood running through the veins of this album - the psychedelia of Pink Floyd, the archness and theatricality of David Bowie and a whole generation of shoegaze and dream pop - from (obviously) The Church through to Ride, Cocteau Twins and The Verve. And at the heart, graceful melodies that tighten the throat and flutter the heart.
This is a magnificent album - an enormously successful collaboration between two maestros of composition and exposition. 'Jupiter 13' is packed full of stadium-filling anthems with melody and poise while at the same time creating something alien, unnerving and wonderful in its shimmering sci-fi psychedelia.
9 out of 10