You Might Have Missed: black kite
Photo: James Templeton
Sometimes, things come to me out of left field, poorly timed, and in the strangest of ways. Sometimes my head isn’t clear when someone asks me to listen to an album, or I’m deep into something else when asked to go see a band. But, for the first time since I took this job, when I was asked to just listen to an album from a band called Bird; I actually stopped what I was doing and listened. “Just tell me what you think,” the voice on the other end of the line said. In the first thirty seconds of the opening track, I realized very quickly that this was something completely different from anything I’d heard before. Of course, like many bands before them, Bird would eventually change their name to who we now know as black kite, and relabel the release as “Bird.” Because of these simple facts and the complex nature of the album, it might be an album that you missed. If you’ve never heard it before, here’s why you should give it a listen, because the footprint that these three songs make on the music world is immense. In under eighteen minutes, black kite creates their own sound and does so in a very tangible and intense fashion; while sounding like something grander than you’d expect to come out of Houston.
So, aside from the fact that the three song album features the vocals of Vicki Tippit, and the intense drums of LIMB and By The End Of Tonight’s James Templeton; the blend of sounds on this release are almost of another world. Prior to adding third member birdmagic, the two piece dropped this record with little to no promotion. Opening with the catchy yet not poppy song, “Sunday;” the duo mixes multiple vocal tracks with varying forms of electronica and of course James’ live drums. Those various vocal tracks that open the song with this sexy allure are only cut by a grandiose sound of multiple instruments that seem to say, “let’s begin.” The manner in which Tippit hauntingly sings the softly voiced lyrics stick to your inner soul, and stay with you as immediate as you hear them. There’s a darkness to the multiple vocals that intermingle with this in and out oscillation of different electronic sounds coupled with Templeton’s drum work that’s so different from pretty much anything else you’ve ever put in your ears. There’s something alluring to the manner in which Templeton adds his electronics wizardry and unabashed drum skills to each and every beat on the song. All of the dark and sexual nature that you want from a male/female duo seeps out all over the track like a fresh wound that you can’t cauterize. The track continually feels like it will reach a tipping point where everything will top off, but continually sucks you back into the veiled universe it creates in a magical and evasive way.
The same could be said about the second track, “Ghost.” With a very unadorned opening of just piano with hints of varying beats that you can’t put a finger on what they really are; these mysterious vocals cut to the bone with their evocative nature. When the drums hit, they hit with a fearless emotion where they have a sliver of being off time, yet they are so important to the life of the track that they almost seem to find their own rhythm. Secondary beats and even another piano track just add to the decorative sounds that are only made more beautiful by the delicately stunning and inscrutable vocals from Tippit. She quietly brings emotions forth to the listener with ease, and then the song reaches its end before you can bring yourself to shed a tear.
The album closes with the seven and a half minute emotional and shadowy sound of “Into The Depths.” Tippits vocals open thing up solo, fully naked and without pretension before Templeton adds a kick drum and this searing electronic background that adds to the track without deterring from the intensity of the vocals. There’s a duality in beats added that thunder behind the vocal tracks that feel like they’re coming from the part of the ocean where Neptune resides. What feels like a male vocal track makes its way onto the song while Tippit’s backing vocal tracks pepper the song to create a whole new melody. Then, in almost the middle of the mix, Tippit swings a whole new chorus in like she’s dangling a body over a cliff. The fused commingling of electronics and beats find themselves upfront while the vocals cut deep enough to make you physically check to see how bad the wound is. Closing the song out is Tippit’s lone vocals that stay with you like a childhood memory, before the song finds its rightful end.
There aren’t too many times when I hear something that creates such an emotional bridge to my insides, that I can’t find the words to describe it. The fact is that this album sounds fresh, even though it’s two years old, is a testimony of how remarkable it truly is. The production from LIMB linked with the accompaniment of additional musicians Hoja Lopez, Jeromy Barber, and Tim Anderson just add to the level of mystery to how the finished product comes across. In just three tracks, black kite takes you down a dark path without a flashlight, only to bring forth smiles and and emotions you didn’t think existed in music anymore. In some small part of the universe, these two create their own sound that’s immediately recognizable, but doesn’t feel lifted. And that fact alone makes this one of the best and most intriguing cluster of three songs you’ll hear for years to come. You can catch black kite when they perform at this year’s Madness On Main Festival on May 2nd alongside a slew of other amazing Houston artists. Tickets and more information are available here.