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Posted July 29, 2009 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

Kinetic Stereokids

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Although many industry professionals may have a tendency to disagree, there is nothing wrong with the audible expression of youthful exuberance. An immediate assumption would associate this expression with experience, which is a vastly premature notion that is prompted by the same stereotypes that plague mainstream pop artists. Society has grown so accustomed to seeing boy bands and pop idols being coddled by restless music execs, paid-for-hire songwriters, and millionaire choreographers that insist on implementing generic ideas in order to appeal to the general public. Consequently, there is not even a shock factor involved when one of these glittery wunderkinds starts attempting to write songs on their own. Instead, denial is the most prevalent feeling amongst former fans that feel somewhat betrayed by their idol’s decision to actually relay their OWN emotions and talents. Execs tend to avoid this maneuver, predicting a lack of success based primarily on the fact that sex will sell better than “childish” anecdotes and the acquisition of experience. They are right too, but this is not to say that showing one’s child-like enthusiasm for music should be deemed industrially dangerous just because there are no vetted supervisors. My main issue with mainstream pop is this, that one is criticized or immediately disregarded for thinking outside the box and, in doing so, showing their commitment to an art that truly relies on innovation at this point in its history.

As a result of this, it is safe to say that Kinetic Stereokids will never be the darlings of the mainstream pop world. Their music sounds much too improvised, unpredictable, and stylistically fused for that. How dare they attempt such creativity within the realm of pop music! It almost sounds as if the five guys in Kinetic Stereokids are friends in middle school, getting into music performance for the first time simultaneously. Who the hell would give someone with that description a chance? Well, any fan of Beck, the Beastie Boys, or the Avalanches already has, as these are just a few examples of acts that defied the typically corporate format of pop music with groundbreaking stylistic fusions and engrossing thematic concepts that were able to cater to both fans of innovation and popular music. Their names remain trademarks of the ‘90s and ‘00s as this decade comes to a close, allowing neither their enigmatic enthusiasm nor initial lack of experience to prevent them from selling millions of records and, more importantly, attaining respectability in a genre that is overly selective when it comes to something new and different. Kinetic Stereokids look to continue a similar trend in a new era, one rampant with technological differences that could prove to be a benefit or detriment to the creation of music in the coming years.

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Preparing a sophomore album is always a sensitive topic. It is the band’s first exposure to a world of expectations, regardless of whether your album went gold or sold ten copies. Criticism tends to be taken more prominently for the most mature artists, as these eventually come to be perceived as free constructive criticism rather than some blowhard lamenting his biased disdain for a style he personally does not enjoy. That Kinetic Stereokids have released an epic for their second album seems like a gesture of sorts, perhaps to the critics that found their 2007 debut, Basement Kids, too inconsistent for their tastes. Sometimes it was too flip-floppy, while other times it was consistent but too mundane. The impressive qualities certainly outweighed the bad ones, but it struggled like most debuts do in attempting to capture a cohesive feel throughout the album. This often relies on thematic and melodic consistencies, which are two qualities that Kinetic Stereokids’ new album, Kid Moves, accomplishes with relative ease. Its length spans over 70 minutes, but the consistent focus on recapturing youth results in some of the freshest and most inventive material you are bound to hear this year. After all, the enthusiasm of childhood is something that many adults attempt to reclaim. Kinetic Stereokids make this a bit easier.

Kid Moves is not an album that is particularly easy to listen to; most albums that attempt dozens of genres over a 70-minute span are not. But this release is impressive for several reasons, the most blatant being how they are able to seamlessly imitate a multitude of styles while retaining the youthful expression that makes their music so irresistibly fun. The opener, “Free Money”, sounds like one of those summer jams from the ‘90s with its infusion of hip-hop percussion and chirpy vocals corresponding excellently with the near-improvised distortion of several electric guitars. As the band personally clarifies, fusing the sounds of Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys is not the worst idea in the world. “Twisted Thoughts” is not as intricately interwoven but it still packs a similar punch, contrasting an automated robot voice with naturally sweet acoustics and a natural croon that shows Kinetic Stereokids as supremely talented musicians with a great knack for melody. The robot seems to be describing some sort of acid trip too, which makes the serene progressions even more comforting. That it is followed by the psychedelic hip-hop of “Drugs Is a Drag” is no coincidence, as Kid Moves is an album that flows with surprising precision despite its daunting stylistic diversity. “Drugs Is a Drag” later flows into some Avalanches-like mash-up that leaves me thoroughly impressed; the incorporation of guitar solos over the samples of an operatic tenor, hazy percussion, and warbled vocals make this an effort of extreme innovation, just like the album it is included on.

I could go on all day about how more tracks, specifically “Assisted Living” and “Planes with Teeth”, are groundbreaking in several ways, but this is an album designed for listeners willing to enjoy surprises. The eight-minute “Planes with Teeth” incorporates scratched samples with haunting alt-rock theatrics reminiscent of Radiohead and whimpering acoustics that recall either Jeff Buckley or a stripped-down Modest Mouse. You can even find some free-jazz if you listen closely, reminiscent of Talk Talk’s later material. These all gradually grow into one another, eventually resulting in a fusion that should leave any appreciators of various genres with their jaws wide open and their ears begging for more. I rarely come across a band with such a grasp of both natural and electronic concepts. Usually it is difficult to find an artist with esteemed talent for just one, but Kinetic Stereokids have defied expectations and churned out an album that is truly one of 2009’s best because of their ability to cohesively and seamlessly incorporate the best of both worlds. Contrary to their name, Kinetic Stereokids are anything but kids when it comes to their musical ability. They just possess a similar passion and ambition, one that will eventually be fulfilled if they keep releasing epic triumphs like Kid Moves.

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Kinetic Stereokids – Planes with Teeth

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Kinetic Stereokids – Twisted Thoughts

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Kinetic Stereokids – Drugs Is a Drag

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Mike Mineo

 
I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].