You Are Everything
by Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy


Full Review

These songs find Kilbey singing much more openly than what I've heard out of him before. There has always been a coolly aloof way he wends his words into what he's doing, but on "You Are Everything" he pulls back the personae and delivers quite a few wrenching performances. The title track is a fine display of it, he's putting it all out there and yet still knocking out couplets which state 'the joke is over/the judge is sober'. And just like that swan who flew into the sun (his appreciation of mythology never lets up), Kilbey and Kennedy deliver an album which really feels handcrafted.

You Are Everything is the third installment in a series of collaborations between Australian musicians Steve Kilbey (of Alternative/Indie Rock band The Church) and Martin Kennedy (of Ambient group All India Radio). As with the two previous albums, 2009's Unseen Music Unheard Words and 2011's White Magic, Kennedy wrote and recorded the atmospheric music and Kilbey added his hypnotic vocals and evocative lyrics (much like Kilbey's collaboration with American musician Jeffrey Cain as part of the duo Isidore). Martin Kennedy: "I think the new album is the best of both of the earlier albums. It's hard to explain, but I think everything that's good about the first two records is on this one. And I'm really happy with the album, and Steve is, too." As they should be. You Are Everything is a lush, captivating album that unfolds with every listen, revealing its intricate, interweaving layers of instruments, vocals and sonic atmospherics. It's this rich soundscape that makes You Are Everything differ from the more minimalistic mix of acoustic and electronic sounds of the first two records.

You Are Everything is off to a great start with the first single, "I Wouldn't Know," a melodic mid-tempo track carried by chiming guitars, ethereal harmonies and subtle touches of synth. According to Kilbey himself, the lyrics deal with The Devil. A complex songwriter whose music and lyrics frequently employ both darkness and light, contrasts and contradictions, Kilbey subsequently addresses God in the next song, "Everyone." He doesn't question God's existence, but he does question why God would expose so many living beings to so much suffering in this world: "Was this all just a game to you? /...Was this all just a phase for you?" and "I know you're everywhere, so why do I feel so alone?" Kilbey then sings the line "Hold on, you're everyone", repeatedly, as if reminding himself to keep the faith, because God exists in every one of us, regardless of nationality and religion.

The epic "Lorelei" announces its arrival on a tidal wave of relentless Shoegaze-esque electric guitars that alternately wind down at the end of the verses and pick up again in the choruses, as Kilbey's wistful vocal and words tell a tale of love, lust, jealousy and rivalry. "Knowing You Are In This World" works on two levels - as both a declaration of love for another human being and for God, taking comfort in the fact that one of them, or both, is always there to give you strength to overcome the hardships of life. This knowledge, or belief, induces some degree of inner tranquility, beautifully conveyed by the peaceful, languid pace and the dreamy, reverb-drenched acoustic guitars, as well as understated strings and violin.

"East Side West Side" is the most overtly electronic track on the album, its polished Synth-Pop tastefully adorned with celestial harmonies. The lyrical message is that we, the human race, start wars, hating and killing each other for no apparent reasons, even though the majority of humanity wants the same thing in life, which is to live in peace and harmony. Most of the songs on You Are Everything address subject matters that are related: love and hate, good versus evil, hope and disillusion, cruelty and compassion. And so does "Brother Moon Sister Sun" - a lovely, introspective ballad about condemnation and forgiveness in which Kilbey sings the poignant lines "Brother moon, sister sun / Darkness and light come from one / No-one can say which is stronger / They both must exist with each other." As good as the first two records were (and they really were very good), You Are Everything is Kilbey/Kennedy's most accomplished album yet. Hopefully, we haven't heard the last of this talented duo's great chemistry.

It's probably best not to get caught up in the contradictions. The often splendidly curmudgeonly Steve Kilbey, once big on downplaying his words as part of what makes The Church great. Martin Kennedy, in his mostly instrumental All India Radio band guise, only occasionally needed words at all.

On their third album together, they're both maybe a little freed of their typecast roles. While passionate and yet detached in his better known combo, Kilbey still has to leave spaces for those guitars to knit and filigree to make it what it is. Here, Kennedy makes warm beds of sounds that drift by, the singer's voice as part of the whole.

They happily reference German-period Bowie as an influence, on songs like East Side West Side that's clear - the words largely recited for their rhythm and sound as much as their content. Contrast that with the human hope of Knowing You Are In This World, where the muffled drums, drawn strings, and echoed other voices make for something of sincere beauty.

For all the flowing grace of that, there's sometimes still some brow-furrowing and tetchiness beneath the smooth surfaces. A Better Day quietly demands "Give me something to feel.../Nothing is pulling me through". Perhaps anything might only work for a time, and then only if you let it.

This is a record of often intricate interlaced layers. Sometimes you can see where they overlap, but often it's just a liquid whole - listen as Brother Moon Sister Sun just ebbs away. It's that kind of detail that makes You Are Everything a small, yet almost perfectly formed, thing.

Wisdom from the Aussie guru

Readers of this blog will already know of my fondness for the musical endeavours of Steve Kilbey. You can go read my posts about The Church and Isidore to find out more. You can't love everything a prolific guy does, or at least you can't love everything he does to the fullest extent, because everyone has their own tastes and personality. Kilbey, however, has produced a pretty darn solid body of work that is consistently thought-provoking, enlightening and tuneful. And his style has continued to develop as well. As I noted in a previous piece, his sonorous baritone has become more measured, and his lyrics often simpler, more direct and personal. Often this lyrical style is much more effective than some of the flights of fancy he indulged in as a younger man.

Martin Kennedy is the man behind instrumental band All India Radio, with whom I have only recently become familiar, but I have been very impressed with what I've heard. All India Radio produced some very pleasing, sensitive soundscapes which I intend to investigate further. He has a gift for a delicate balance of instrumentation and melody, which becomes very clear on this album.

Kilbey and Kennedy have made three albums in their collaboration, Unseen Music Unheard Words, White Magic, and now this, You Are Everything. The first album has been in my collection for a while and I've given it regular play. The second I've only heard recently and it's another solid collection of moody art-pop.

All this is an overlong preamble to a discussion of You Are Everything, the brand spanking new album. I was offered the chance to absorb it in advance and I'm very happy to have had that opportunity. Let me say without qualification that this is one of the finest recordings of Kilbey's long and very fruitful career, and that's saying a lot. The previous two Kilbey/Kennedy albums are very good and worth your attention, but a lightning bolt from Olympus must have struck these two fellas as they wrote and recorded these songs. Interestingly, many of the pieces appear to have been commissioned, but despite that, the sound and vibe are perfectly consistent in this unified piece of work.

So what is it that makes this album so special compared to others? Well, not only have the two found a new and beautiful spin on their sound, and not only are the pieces themselves wonderfully composed little jewels, but Kilbey himself has surpassed all his previous standards as a vocalist and even at times as a lyricist.

While the first two albums featured a mix of acoustic sounds and electronic pop, You Are Everything is a mixture of delicate psychedelia with the sounds of chamber strings and elegant harmonies. There's a deep spirituality to the sounds that can only come from people putting their very souls into the music. Overblown sentiment? Maybe, but really, I do feel that way.

Kilbey himself has never sung so well and so subtly as he does on this album, as though the directness of his lyrics is drawing out more of his personality, and it feels like he is directing his words to each listener personally. His control of the shades of emotion in his singing is masterful.

Lyrically, each song doesn't feature a lot of words, but he makes each word count. Always prone to spiritual pondering, on this recording there is a more personal bent even to those, as though he's musing aloud about the meaning of our lives.

Opener "I Wouldn't Know" is a mid-tempo psych-pop number in which Kilbey addresses the deities about his doubts, sardonic but searching. Sweeping backing vocals and string sounds glide over glistening acoustics.

That's a good tune, but these chaps haven't hit their stride yet. They get right to that on "Everyone", a song that starts as a moody existentialist lament in a duet with an equally expressive female singer (I'll add her name if I find out what it is). "I know you're everywhere, so why do I feel so alone?" he protests, but just as we reach the height of melancholy, Kilbey pulls us back from the brink of despair with an uplifting coda, the repeated words "Hold on, you're everyone" allowing us to remember we are but drops in a shining sea, linked with everything even in our loneliness. It's just beautiful.

"Lorelei" is a thumpier, droning number that sounds like what Coldplay could achieve if they had any depth. Kilbey's vocals are again lovely on this song, revealing that new subtlety I was talking about.

"Knowing You Are in This World" is a stunning acid-folk-style song not dissimilar to that heard on No-Man's Together We're Stranger (read my rave here) - shiny acoustic guitar and delicate electronics accompany another firm demand from Kilbey that we engage the moment and drop our sorrow. "I just want to give what's mine to you, so it all comes through."

"I Find" is lyrically a bit slighter (it's hard to keep those standards up!) but features some great skillful vocal stylings we haven't heard from Kilbey in the past. There are some lovely harmony vocals as well.

I can't describe all the songs without writing a book here, so I'll move on a bit. "All the World" is another psych-folk style acoustic number, dark and melancholy. But the finest track on the album is buried towards the end.

"Brother Moon Sister Sun" I have played numerous times and I still can't get enough. This may be Kilbey's finest moment as a lyricist, at least in his "solo" career. The song is based around chiming acoustics, plinking piano and a stately beat as Kilbey intones his wisdom like a Zoroastrian high priest. "Brother moon sister sun, darkness and light come from one. No one can say which is stronger, they both must exist with each other." Wise, sure, but then he raises the emotional barometer into the tear-jerkingly profound with lines like "May goodness and mercy follow your whole life through" and the devastatingly simple "Love your life, don't be afraid." You make it sound easy, Steve! The message of love in this song moves me greatly.

After an uptempo number, the lads give us the dramatic closer (de rigeur, as you know), "Finale", a sparse piece of flanged guitar and jazzy drums featuring some more moody, dramatic vocals.

You Are Everything represents a new milestone in both of these musicians' careers and is the culmination of a very successful partnership - I hope it won't be their last. They seem to bring out the best in each other, and I am grateful for the pleasure and consolation this album has given me and will continue to.

With the Church on hiatus (maybe), Steve Kilbey's ongoing work with All India Radio composer/leader Martin Kennedy has become his most high profile artistic endeavor. The pair's third album together, You Are Everything blends Kilbey's pop smarts with Kennedy's atmospheric melodicism for a record that stands up to anything either dude has done with their main squeezes.

The most recent Church album Untitled #23 luxuriated in dreamy psychedelia, and Kilbey keeps that vibe going here, with sedately soaring vocal melodies and measured performances that evoke an altered state of mind without overt self-indulgence. Kennedy compliments his partner's work with lush melodies that marry electronic soundscapes to soaring tunefulness. The resulting songs often sing like classic Kilbey - swap out Kennedy's plush synth beds for guitars and the wafting "Brother Moon Sister Sun," the jangly "I Wouldn't Know" and the shimmering "All the World" could be Church songs. The anthemic "Can't Get Free" adds in a dollop of luscious pop/soul groove to the mix, sounding like a previously unimaginable cross between Chromeo and the Alan Parsons Project.

Though proposed as the final installment of a trilogy, You Are Everything is too gorgeous for us to want this partnership to end anytime soon.

★★★★★ (5 stars)

Completing a precariously illustrious trilogy that began in 2009 with Unseen Music Unheard Words and then followed by White Magic in 2011, Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy have just released a sneak peak of the album, You Are Everything. Officially coming out on May 10th, 2013, legendary member of the 80's super group Church, Steve Kilbey, keeps the new wave branch of the post-rock tree alive with his liquid sound. Bridging the past with the present, and holding the future in his heart, this song can't not make me smile.

A music producer, poet, painter, and co-owner of the record label Karmic Hit, Kilbey shows us once again that art will live through him until he dies. All India Radio's Martin Kennedy is an expert at lo-fi and downtempo surrealist vibes. The track is exactly what I wanted, expected, and makes me want to hear more of that beautiful trademark tape sound.

We often lose touch of the fact that Post-rock started from this place, this dial on one's heart compass. The itinerary was obviously detoured, until we forgot where we were going; space. Bands like Joy Division, The Church, and The Cure, built our spaceship and we crashed it into the moon. This is cool and all, but never forget to take a moment each day to pay respect to the giants that engineered us. They are the true sires of the music revolution conspiracy.

If great minds think alike, where did we go wrong? You Are Everything. Without you, there would be nothing. We-Exist.