Wednesday, February 22, 2012

REVIEW// Kapowski: Boy Detective

    We first caught wind of Kapowski back in November, when the Perez Brothers sent over their spectacular video for the track 'Section 8'. The first number to drop from the Oakland quartet's debut album 'Boy Detective', those four minutes retained a romantic individuality that refused to leave my head, off-kilter drums and an enticing keyboard melody harking back to a long-forgotten era. And yet I remained, eerily focused on the future in a manner quite unnerving. Staring out into an impenetrable fog only to make out grinding, hulking shapes ignorant of everything bar a goal I failed to acknowledge. Kapowski's utilisation of piano and drums and organ and bass makes for a varied listen, the absence of any guitar an intriguing exemption. Taking note of the band's influences, their vintage inspiration is both admirable and undeniable, reaching back into the early 90s to pull George Gershwin from his piano and set him alongside composer Harold Arlen and The Kink's Ray Davies!

The lead singer and lyricist Jesse Rimler's vocals are similarly fascinating, recalling artists like Conor Oberst and The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne. It's quirks and lilts carry with ease the bands unique perception and smile-inducing indie-pop ambition, aching with an innate emotional anguish. While Rimler often sounds fun and carefree, as though at any moment some surprise might be sprung upon him, subdued tears seem to well up often too. That incredible contrast between happiness and despairing sentimentality is the equilibrium in which Kapowski exist. Its a place all their own, and one 'Boy Detective' lets you explore!

Preceded by 'Look Alive's beautifully warped piano warble, 'Section Eight's magnificently antiquarian percussion and spaced-out keyboard melody stun. Layered over vocals that become progressively entwined within the sound, breaks of cinematic suspense keep you forever on the edge of your seat. Musical theatre makes its influence known on the track 'Picture of Health', slow and yearning and backed by a humble big-band. A brilliant finish feels both personal and epic, the vocalise reverberated and truly, unbelievably wondrous! 'Late Last Night's darker, hypnotic theatricality emerges from its melodic beat. High notes and fluctuating horns and deep harmonies contrast perfectly. Come the midpoint however and the video stalls. The tape crackles before lurching back into life for another eccentric round. 'Errata's evening musings shiver behind a frosty window, street-lights an amiable warmth as they glow. A blues hum and slow jazz groove prevail, tender and poignant and a comfortable lead into 'Boy Detective's concluding numbers.

The drums and whistles of 'The Underling' float over keyboard phrases as classic as any we're heard so far. Backing singers hum to certain moments of the perfectly constructed track, a distorted scale bringing reality crashing around our ears. The lyrics take the form they've always taken, focused on story-telling and all the better for it! The jaunty 'Shut-In On the Go' continues with the style, faster percussion and avant-garde organ sections an unusual amalgamation. A slow mid-track interlude refracts the vocals, now bubbling below a layer of silky vibration. And so we come, sadly, to the final song. 'Reel to Reel' opens with a fantastical sonic swirling, a lone piano plucked out from its imagination. Moving and benevolent, its lyrics ponder the humorous but watch with sad eyes. A stunning trumpet concludes the song and indeed draws the entire album to its last blameless breath. 'Boy Detective' is superb, orchestral instrumentals humbled by Jesse Rimler's voice and the band's collective ability to transcend seemingly time itself. It goes without saying that you should stream 'Picture of Health' and buy the full record from Kapowski's Bandcamp here!