THIS IS THE KIT – Off Off On (Rough Trade Records)

Off Off OnThis Is The Kit’ s Off Off On is a dense tapestry of banjo fueled folk music that is enveloped in gossamer jazz tones and conjures the 70’s sound of Vashti Bunyan and Bridget St. John, or to cite the more modern singer, Karine Polwart.

Now, while Kate Stables is the main spark in the band as she writes the songs, the music is listed as “by This Is The Kit”. So, thank you (for want of a better term) fellow Kitters, Neil Smith, Rozi Leyden, Jamie Whitby-Coles, and Jesse D. Vervon for such sympatico creativity, which fleshes out and colours the tunes with quelled rock drama and (with help from The Mighty Horn Section),1 sax and flugelhorn tones that create a beautiful (yet sort of crisp) sunset of a sound.

The first song, “Found Out”, begins with an intricate banjo pulse, that echoes the sound of a nice Bert Jansch tune. Then Kate’s vocals search the universe and bounce in a musical matrix that scores big points in an acoustically melodic pinball machine. The chorus circulates like a whispered Jungian archetype. Let’s just say that Kate writes intriguing lyrics, and this is a clever and catchy tune.

There’s more: “Started Again’ pulses with percussion and guitar, then drifts into dreamy languid melody as the featherbed horns ease into the “rocks and water” mantra of the song. Then the banjo returns with the rushed ‘This Is What You Did’, with inner voiced psych reverb and sax angels floating in the waking waters of the lyric. Odd: the lyrics work like (to get all literal) two participants in classical drama, where the ancient Greek chorus comments on the voiced vices of a main character. And a sax and flugelhorn (with, perhaps, a bassoon thrown in for good measure), playfully haunt the proceedings. That stuff said, well, once again, let’s just say Kate writes intriguing lyrics, and this is a clever and catchy tune.

That said, ‘No Such Thing’ is, again, acoustically driven and brass punctuated, while an electric guitar weaves an odd groove over the acoustic framework, as Kate sings an oddball melody that glances at the weird beauty of a Gentle Giant tune, circa The Power And The Glory. (That’s a very strange but also very huge complement!)

There’s still more: ‘Slider’ stretches out musical time and (slightly) touches introspective jazz. Kate’s vocals are a quiet glen in the midst of warm woodland brass beauty. Then, the big vibe of ‘Coming To You Nowhere’ sounds like a really nice John Martyn tune from his folk jazz (and pretty cool) One World/Glorious Fool period. And ‘Carry Us Please’ is a netted quiet folk drama with horns personified as gentle painters in a lesser known cathedral. In truth, there’s much more than folk in the tune; there’s a bit of jazz, sonic surf, a darted guitar, and, of course, the pathos with Kate’s ephemeral vocals.

The title track ‘Off Off On’, with its always persistent banjo, simply plays a melodic full house that puffs the serenity of “breathing out”, while singing to graveyard spirits – with a lovey fractured guitar solo. This song, just like the rest of the album, is a soft cloud that will someday find big drops of rain in its future. The same thing could probably be said about the music of (the before-mentioned) John Martyn. And there’s a bit more of that observant Greek chorus, that in its always ancient way, forever chants, “Bless the weather”.

Yeah, these songs drip psychological pathos. ‘Shin Bone (listed as Shinbone on their site) Soap’ is quietly profound. My friend, Kilda Defnut, says, “The song touches the deep current that flickers in the halo of any votive candle prayer.” She’s probably right.

Then, ‘Was Magician’ slows the rotation with musical drama. The song discovers lost mystery. Every once in a while, Old Father Time stays the clock and allows a tune to count the beauty of its own cadence.

Finally, ‘Keep Going’ spins with dreamed optimism and simply floats with the message “This love is still ours”, which is a declaration of tough hope smack dab in the face way too many pandemics that bleed evil blood that can never understand the hobo beauty of any Pete Seeger song.

Off Off On is patient like a haiku, yet with so many folk and rock colours, it unfolds with a caustic glance at all the sunken memories that still swirl around any old graveyard that is, even after countless years, still filled with beautiful songs.

And, just so you know, any ancient Greek chorus (or Jungian archetype!) will always act in the very same melodic way.

Bill Golembeski

1 Pete Judge, Taz Mains, Lorenzo Prati, and Sam Hayfield – with addition tenor sax and synth work by Adam Schatz and, of course, singing by Mo

Artists’ website:  https://thisisthekit.co.uk/

‘Was Magician’ – live:


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