Friday, 25 October 2013

Karl Flies Kites

The Melbourne-via-Perth duo Sodastream holds a special place in my heart. I was introduced to them by my then flatmate Niall (he also incessantly played Tracy Chapman and Bob Marley to the point of aural cringe, followed quickly by red-mist rage, but that's another story...). The album - 2000's Looks Like A Russian. The combination of Karl Smith's plaintive acoustic guitar and deadpan, oft beauteous lyrics with Pete Cohen's double bass and baritone backing vocals formed a beguiling worldview, one which still sends shivers down my spine. Songs like 'Wedding Day' and 'Done With Everything' still resonate with me over a decade on, and I truly believe that their show at the Troubadour a couple years later (in support of sophomore album The Hill For Company) rivals the Mark Kozelek show there last year (the venue now known as Black Bear Lodge), or even the Magnolia Electric Co show I saw in London in 2009, for reverence and magisterial beauty.

The band split up in 2007, after four great albums, but have since gravitated towards each other - Cohen joined Smith in the band Lee Memorial in 2011, and this year they reformed as Sodastream for some shows. That said, Karl Smith is releasing some material on his own in the form of the album Kites (out now through Fortuna Pop) - and man, the memories came flooding back. Smith's voice was the first hook - that elegant, fragile timbre. Then there are the songs themselves - the gentle, undulating plucking of acoustic strings, the fragile delicate nature of their construction... The songs reverberate with the conflicting emotions Smith was feeling as he prepared for the imminent state of fatherhood, a daunting yet exhilarating process, and songs like the excellent 'Little Lucy' and opener 'After Mr Morrison' perfectly capture such swirling emotions.

For a man who was born in New Zealand, raised in Bangladesh, schooled in India and kickstarted his musical career in earnest in Perth, Smith is not only worldly, but steeped in the intimate knowledge of isolation in its many forms. This echoes through his acute observations, always a pleasure to behold. Welcome back into my life, Mr Smith.

You can (and really should) buy Kites here, now.

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