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This Is The Kit

+ {Whalebone Polly}

The musical project of Kate Stables, who sings her own pretty folk numbers and plays banjo and guitar; she had previously worked in 2005 with ex-MOONFLOWERS multi-instrumentalist Jesse D. Vernon in chamber-pop outfit, MORNING STAR); he augmented her on occasional singing, guitar, etc. Subsequently based in France (via Bristol and birth-place Winchester), Kate also side-lined for WHALEBONE POLLY with solo artist Rachael Dadd and Virpi Kettu; their collaborative album, RECORDED WITH THE OPEN WINDOW, was released (only in Japan).
A series of limited-edition singles, preceded debut album proper, KRULLE BOL (2008) {*7}, a record produced by JOHN PARISH (one-time collaborator of PJ HARVEY) and basically the debut re-fashioned for British ears. With banjo in hand, singer Kate impresses courtesy of delicate but delicate cues such as `Our Socks Forever More’ (a re-titling of `One Of These Socks’), `Creeping Up Our Shins’, `Birchwood Beaker’ and the classy `Two Wooden Spoons’, certainly lo-fi neo-folk at its most magical. Rising above the proverbial uptempo moon, Kate extends her range with JONI MITCHELL/JANIS IAN-like numbers, `With Her Wheels Again’, `Tangled Walker’ and `Moths’. The intimate combination of banjo and vox are in the ascendency many times over, the title track is another rootsy cracker that leaves the listener in anticipation of what was next on the horizon.
The answer was the delicate WRIGGLE OUT THE RESTLESS (2010) {*7}, a record that featured guests Jim Barr (of PORTISHEAD) on bass, Rozi Plain (on guitar, banjo and clarinet) and Francois Marry (also of the Fence Collective) on organ, trumpet and piano. By all accounts it had all the hallmarks of another great set, best examples from `Waterproof’, `See Here’, `Sometimes The Sea’ and `Trick You’.
Picking up a fanbase as support to fellow folk acts SHARON VAN ETTEN and IRON & WINE (among a few others), Kate and Jesse were ready to finally expand their musical CV by way of 2015’s BASHED OUT {*7}. Quiet being the new loud, THIS IS THE KIT worked with Aaron Dessner of The NATIONAL (whom they’d previously supported) and his independent operation Brassland Records. Bolder, broader and, for the most part, leaving out Kate’s cutesy-pie idiosyncrasies, Aaron roped in synth man Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) to stretch the mood on `Silver John’, while she elasticated her octave range on `Magic Spell’, `Misunderstanding’ and `Spores All Settling’. Almost COODER-esque and cinematic, her observation on God’s creatures (sheep “munching on green hills” as “lucky/happy little fatties” on `Nits’) or her ecologically-friendly ode to eating greens (`Vitamins’), the set had precious moments rooted in the simple life.
For singer/banjoist Kate and THIS IS THE KIT’s fourth album, MOONSHINE FREEZE (2017) {*8}, Rough Trade Records took over the reins. The record was augmented by producer JOHN PARISH and backing group, stalwart Jesse D. Vernon (multi), Rozi Plain (bass), Neil Smith (guitar) and Jamie Whitby-Coles (drums) – note that The NATIONAL’s Aaron Dessner made a cameo – and the set most certainly made an impact with the alt-folk contingent, as it dented the Top 50. The beautiful and bittersweet `Bullet Proof’ was a perfect example of Kate’s determined demograph (ditto `Easy On The Thieves’), whilst follow-on pieces `Hotter Colder’ and the title track ramped up the fuzzy folk-rock mantra. Of the other ethereal tracks, there was a flicker of light jazz and/or breezy Laurel Canyon cool for `Two Pence Piece’, `Riddled With Ticks’, `Show Me So’ and `Empty No Teeth’.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Apr2015-Jul2017

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