This Is the Kit (essentially an alias of Kate Stables and her ever evolving and revolving group of musicians) have come full circle for her fourth full-length outing. Stables chose to return to Bristol for the recording of Moonshine Freeze, and enlisted the production talents of John Parish (PJ Harvey), who also worked on her debut, Krulle Bol, in 2008. It's been over ten years since Sunday Best Recordings included "Two Wooden Spoons" on its Folk Off compilation, and a couple of years after her breakthrough record, Bashed Out, was released. Time, place, and personnel are not factors that seem to impress themselves too heavily on Stables' music. From her debut through to the career high that Bashed Out proved to be, she has maintained an appealing commitment to her very specific take on alternative folk, unfazed by trends or fashions. Happily, and somewhat unsurprisingly, her latest finds Stables in resolutely familiar form.
Opener "Bullet Proof" is a perfect case in point, with its customary minimalisms and rippling melodies. Lyrically, Stables dives into fallibility ("Bullet holes are rushing in/No use bailing/Bullet proof/They never loved you/You let too many bullets through") and even addresses herself at one point ("There are things to learn here Kate/To forgive and to accept/Things that haven't happened yet"). The rises and falls are musically subtle, but the effect is far from it. She has a quiet power and singularity that make lines like "People want blood, and blood is what they've got" from "Easy on the Thieves" all the more pointed. Vocally, she is as dexterous as ever, adjusting her tone to the character of the track. "All Written Out in Numbers" is afforded a breezy, unconcerned air, which is particularly effective when she sings lines like "Probability-wise/One of us has to die." Equally, "Two Pence Piece" not only benefits from a lovely low end and moody rhythms, but also from her most sultry vocal to date. She does play with more sassy tempos alongside the gentler numbers, as on the lively "Hotter Colder," which features guitars and drums tumbling over each other as well as a jazzy sax break, although the more folky character to her music remains prevalent. "Moonshine Freeze" was inspired by a clapping song taught to her and her daughter by a friend. It's the kind of unselfconscious approach that Stables has found great success with despite sometimes seeming mildly ingenuous, particularly in the world of alt-rock. And the same can be said of the delightfully playful folk romp that is "By Demon Eye." While the record may fall slightly short of Bashed Out's high benchmark and its plethora of exceptional melodies, Moonshine Freeze remains a fine addition to This Is the Kit's already excellent back catalog.