Kill for Company: Alternative to Living – EP review
Kill For Company – Alternative to Living EP (Longevity Records)
DL & Ltd. 7″ release for Record Store Day
Out 20th April
Manchester based duo Kill for Company release their second EP on Record Store Day, Soph Lord listens to the guibass led shoutalong music, read what she thinks below
Before I start this review, I implore you, spare a thought for the poor, vulnerable bassists of this world – no matter what any ignorant, narrow-minded guitarist may tell you, being a bass player is no easy task. Vastly underappreciated and undervalued by so-called-musicians and long-fabled to be not so much the ladies’ choice as the ladies’ last choice as far as groupies are concerned (something I’d like to clarify as being untrue in my experience… even as heterosexual female bassist) one struggles to think of how the life of the humble, unassuming bass player could be made any more insufferable. That is until a group like Manchester-based duo Kill for company comes stomping along, complete with steel-capped boots, and kicks the already toppled bass player (hopefully only in the proverbial sense) whilst they are down. How exactly do they do this, you may ask? Well, with their latest EP ‘Alternative to Living’ – packed with thunderous, gloriously meaty tunes sure to get the floorboards suitably rattling – the Kill for Company boys, have managed to carve a sound that will appeal to the masses whilst still remaining innovative and unlike anything else out there at the moment – all in the absence of a conventional bassist. Instead, vocalist and guitarist Michael Banfield, does away with the complications and various personality disorders that the bassist persona brings to the band and plays the two instruments himself on a ‘guibass’, a Frankenstein-esque amalgamation of the two instruments that threatens to put bassists out of work everywhere – especially after listeners hear Michael’s monstrous creation brought to life in ‘Alternative to Living’. Be afraid, bass players. Be very afraid.
If music can transport you to other places then in this instance, audiences best hope that this is only meant figuratively when it comes to opening track ‘Alternative to Living’. With its skulking, ominous bass line and spooky string sound swooping overhead much like a predator, the title track conjures images of the protagonist or, indeed, the listener themselves slinking through all-engulfing darkness unaware of what lurks in the dense shadows. As if this suggested atmosphere wasn’t already frightening enough, tension escalates further as Michael’s voice stalks the listener and the deep, dark reverb used throughout the track suggests no escape from this eerie space. Later in the track the texture builds and deranged yet irresistible guitar motifs further haunt the listener. In a nutshell this is a tune that channels the spirit (or perhaps spirits?) of those evil, satanic mills I was forewarned about before my move from the Soft South to the (supposedly) ‘Grim North’ two years ago. If ever there was the perfect soundtrack to a creepy-stalker flick, this is it. (You hear me, Spielberg?)
Listeners will be relieved to find that they are returned to slightly less traumatising territory with second number ‘Black and White’ which is dominated by a calm, spacious octave-based guitar riff that hypnotises the listener whilst vocalist Michael delivers a relentless verse with his distinct and enchanting vocal diction before launching into an airy, drawn-out chorus complimented by his yearning, strained vocal line, conveying aching emotion. This particular number, along with later track ‘Decide’ prove to be two of the more sedate on the EP but still remain equally as gripping as their more aggressive counterparts, particularly due to the passionate vocal performance captured on both tracks. ‘Decide’ sees Michael deliberately and tantalisingly drawing out his words, working with the slinky, scraped guitar line to seduce the listener before entering a tormented chorus, whereby Michael menacingly warns the audience that it is ‘Time to decide’- and, by the sound of his brooding, evil delivery, ignorance is not an option.
One of Kill for Company’s many abundant strengths throughout their latest effort is their ability to write pounding, penetrating shout-along choruses of anthemic proportions. This is showcased no better than in third number ‘Push’. From the outset listeners will find themselves entranced and held captive by anticipation as the building bass line chugs along like an unstoppable freight train towards a thunderous and unforgettable chorus. Completed by a fiendishly addictive vocal melody and a jolting, start stop musical arrangement, it is as if the chorus was tailor made to get gig-goers, er, going – well, that is if the combination of Mark O Donoughue’s gunshot snare and the immense wall of sound Michael manages to summon from his ‘guibass’ doesn’t blow their faces off first, mind you… Not bad for what is essentially a mongrel of an instrument, I suppose.
Snide remarks born out of being a bitter, out-of-work bassist aside, Michael’s use of the ‘guibass’ concept actually works in Kill for Company’s favour –ensuring the group maintain a distinctive and unique sound that remains not only visually captivating as baffled audiences wonder where all that low-end rattle is coming from, but also sonically inspiring. For a group with seemingly limited instrumentation, Kill for Company prove throughout their latest effort that their talents are limitless when it comes to sculpting songs with massive textures and fascinating use of effects with just the one harmonic instrument in the band. Although in reality he is armed only with his ‘guibass’ and backed by crashing drums, at times it seems that, through his array of effects pedals, Michael instead commands an orchestra; creating a plethora of colours and sounds that ensure audience member’s ears are engrossed throughout the record’s duration.
None so is this more apparent than during the deceptively slow-burning intro to stomp and shout-along anthem ‘Not Enough’, whereby Michael seemingly manages to transform the ‘guibass’ into a lonely, atmospheric Hammond organ, whirring incessantly and further diversifying the group’s sound. The vocals are at their most intimate and powerful here also as Michael’s onomatopoeic delivery of the lines ‘Crackle, Spit/See it burn’ imitates the fire he describes.
Put simply, ‘Alternative to Living’ only further proves what I already knew about Kill for Company. I was blown away when I first saw them upon my move to Manchester in 2011 and a whole 2 years later, with their latest EP, I am blown away all over again – sometimes literally in fact if I crank my sound system high enough. Having secured an avid following and receiving critical acclaim from the likes of BBC Introducing, it is surely only a matter of time until this powerhouse of a duo achieves big things and, if you know what’s good for you, I strongly suggest you join them for the ride.
Alternative to Living’ is set to be released on 20th April on Longevity Records, followed by a Launch party on April 26th @ Deaf Institute, Manchester. Tickets can be purchased here.
All words by Soph Lord. More work by Soph on Louder Than War can be found here.