Steve Kilbey

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Earthed Review

by Ned Raggett

Earthed originally appeared with a lengthy poetry booklet, making it a literally weighty experience. This turned out to be a representative move in more ways than one, though, in that the music was entirely instrumental; presumably Kilbey's intent was for people to read along while listening. But regardless of the contents surrounding the album itself, Earthed is an enjoyable listen, low-key and often quite rewarding. If the full-band touch of the Church in wordless mode is missing (certainly the unremarkable drum programming more often hurts rather than helps), those who appreciate Kilbey's way with obliquely haunting melodies will find much to love. Given the often-noticed connection between Kilbey's singing and that of inspiration David Bowie, it's not too much a stretch to say that Earthed functions in much the same way as the Thin White Duke's own instrumentals did during his late-'70s Berlin days. Songs like "The White Plague," with a chillingly attractive keyboard sparkle backed by harsher bass tones, and the murky voice/synth loop collage opening of "Cornucopia" indeed sound like direct descendants of songs like "All Saints" and "Neukoln," though they're not obvious clones. Over half the album consists of short fragments, many barely topping two minutes in length, and mostly done with piano or keyboards. They suggest rather than fully set a mood for the most part, but even as miniature soundtracks -- without movies -- the film noir creep of "City of Women" and the dank, almost industrial clatter of "...The Reality Generators Malfunctioned" are successes. Kilbey's guitar playing is fair enough, if not as remarkable as that of bandmates Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes, but still does the business on songs like "A Loveletter From Sydney" and the slow opening surge of "The Dawn Poems."

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