This Is The Kit
- Rachel Dadd
There’s no new album to tour, but THIS IS THE KIT are on the road to test out some new material and have some fun with their previous effort. 2017’s Moonshine Freeze saw Kate Stables and friends introduce a fuller sound, while staying true to the psych-folk template of their earlier albums and maintaining Stables’ reputation for writing quietly insistent and engaging songs full of interesting observations and leftfield subject matter.
Support comes from long-time collaborator RACHAEL DADD – with a new album of her own due for release in November – who is joined by drummer Rob Pemberton. The duo enjoy a healthy early crowd and one that is quickly immersed in Dadd’s multi-instrumental virtuosity. Moving from banjo to electric guitar to keyboard she works through traditional folk stylings to jazzier, modal chord progressions. She delivers some delightful discord along the way, a counterpoint to her beautifully melodic vocals, and draws a hugely appreciative reaction.
There’s something disarming about This Is The Kit even as they set up; band members sitting, kneeling on the stage chatting about pedals and connections as though they were back in a West Country practice room, seemingly unaware of the proximity and size of the crowd which has now packed out Phase One to the rafters. It’s all very good natured and that is a feeling that persists throughout, with Stables’ ease and charm winning over the audience from the off – although, in truth, I think this audience were won over long ago, repeated requests for songs from the band’s earlier albums are testament to that.
But we begin with something new. “This is a work in progress,” announces Stables, going solo, her delicate vocal floating over a choppy riff, the audience already in the palm of her hand.
Stables’ lyrics suggest a constant state of searching, of uncertainty, of flux – her meaning sometimes shrouded in mystery, lovely melodies rubbing up against gritty imagery. Barefoot, she occasionally steps into a tambourine and adds shimmering percussion with the tap of a foot. Mostly she sings standing on tiptoe, the tension implied by her stance adding a physical quality to her delivery. Her vocals are accompanied beautifully by bassist Rozi Plain and Dadd, who joins them for several songs, their harmonies adding yet another layer over the hazy groove.
There is a persistent pulse to TITK’s music, a rhythm that sits beneath the shifting waters of Stables’ traditional folk vocal stylings, her banjo picking, her guitar riffing, and guitarist Neil Smith’s blues rock wizardry. The pulse is nailed down courtesy of Plain’s bubbling basslines and Jamie Whitby-Coles’ crisp drumming. Smith plays some beautifully melodic counterpoints to Stables’ rhythms before launching into some wonderful sonic explorations of his own, really hitting the heights on Hotter Colder and Earthquake, amping up the dirty blues riff of the latter and wildly replicating the climactic saxophone squall of the former to great effect.
The set takes in the full range of TITK’s work but Stables goes on to perform a couple more solo “works in progress”, starting one and then deciding it should be in a higher key, but the new work sits right in with the old and it will be a treat to hear them fully realised. Amid great applause she laughingly says, “OK, now let’s play some songs we know how to play,” and the band kick back in for the final few songs of a hugely enjoyable evening, the crowd nodding, dancing, cheering their approval