Kinski Spiral – Hymns and Fragments

Kinski Spiral
Hymns and Fragments

As a shrewd music observer, I have trained myself to automatically assume that anything that doesn’t look professionally put together should be immediately discarded. Now, before you accuse me of elitism or close-mindedness, realize that this callus has formed over years of disappointments. Local bands hand you a CD-R, and it sucks. Someone tells you how great a local opening act will be, and they suck. You hear of this great show in a kid’s basement, and the band sucks. I would never discourage local music, or music in general, but the critical, snobby side of me has a hard time accepting a band that releases its own album or releases it on an extremely small, local label.
So when Kinski Spiral showed up on my desk, I wasn’t too excited. The packaging (despite the admittedly cool cover shot) looks awfully amateur, and the fact that the disc was actually a CD-R with “Kinski Spiral” written in marker did nothing do dissuade my pessimism. Kinski Spiral, however, have somehow managed to exceed all my expectations about them.
The brainchild of chief songwriters Bob Ethington and Ray Carmen, Kinski Spiral play a pastoral psych-folk-pop hybrid that is not only pretty good, but also surprisingly unique. Songs like “Beyond the Clouds,” “Can’t Wait ‘Till Summer,” and “Leaving Well Enough Alone” are low-key acoustic gems. The inclusion of a Erin Carracher, who sings vocals on two of the aforementioned songs, and some interesting country flourishes make the songs rather interesting. “Me and My Big Mouth” is a sugar-pop indulgence, and “Obsession” recalls The Jesus and Mary Chain, incorporating a big, extravagant acoustic sound with distorted electrics and plenty of reverb.
The nonsense lyrics of “Robert Fludd” drag the song down until it morphs into an expansive, psychedelic jam. The best song on the album, oddly enough, is the new-wave keyboard swoon of “Every Day and Every Night.” Sounding not unlike a Police song, Ethington crafts an absolutely killer melody that is every bit as captivating as most of the pop music released in the 80s.
This is an awfully impressive offering. With little apparent help, Carmen and Ethington have crafted an album’s worth of loose, acoustic pop songs. This is an enviable feat, to be sure, but the fact that the band genre hops so easily is also impressive. With a better studio and some more press, this band just might have the songwriting chops to go somewhere.