This Is The Kit

Gorilla, Manchester

17 September 2017
This Is The Kit are touring their new album Moonshine Freeze. Louder Than War’s Lee Ashworth caught up with them at Manchester’s Gorilla.

You’re never quite sure who might be in the line-up at a This Is The Kit gig. Kate Stables’ touring band is more of an interchangeable ensemble that tonight features Rozi Plain on bass, Jamie Whitby-Coles on drums and Neil Smith on lead guitar. At Deershed in 2016, Rozi was absent and after listening to her intimate, ethereal and ambient solo work Friend of a Friend between This Is The Kit albums, it is astonishing to see she actually exists as a physical human being. Tonight her slow grooves are mesmeric, ploughing furrows of bass, ridden over by Smith’s sliding embellishments.

But, stripy and adorned with a banjo, Kate Stables commands the stage with her distinctive vocal style, her strumming and between-song banter. Playing and chatting to the packed house with an almost constant smile, a perfect set is interspersed with the kind of subtle, witty storytelling reminiscent of Jesca Hoop. Clearly, for both artists, these communiques have evolved through the need to entertain the audience during tuning sessions between songs. The frequency and regularity of such turnings and their accompanied anecdotes has become an art form in itself and I wonder how long before someone charges an entrance fee just to see the tuning and talking.

Tonight we learn that This Is The Kit were close to having no kit. Fuzz pedals and guitar had forgotten to be packed, rescued at the last minute by a friend. Despite that, there were no visible signs of stress as Kate and Rozi were in their usual on-stage mode of blissful relaxation that is the hallmark of this band on record and on stage. The stories involve life guards, steam rooms and drummer dreams of hiding in the carcass of a Taunton, inspired by watching Empire Strikes Back. When these stories are relayed you can feel the audience smiling.

The set features tracks from Bashed Out and Moonshine Freeze, as well as early classics such as Two Wooden Spoons. Again, like Jesca Hoop, Kate Stables has a talent for reducing an entire room to her voice and the focus of her face behind the microphone. She has a gift for intimacy and there is genuine respect and appreciation from the lively crowd.

The songs really breathe out of the studio. The rhythms are darker and the layers are lush but real. Tracks gain a higher definition. There is something hypnotic about their repetitions. Underlying everything is a sense of something organic. The fragmented lyrics, abstract and never too cluttered, often sound like spells or disjointed incantations. After a while, it becomes clear that the music is trying to summon something up, except instead of something obviously New Age such as an unspecified energy or spirit, the words urge us to reach for something more personal, intimate and human.

There’s a lot of drop D tuning in tonight’s gig, and although it should be remembered that drop D is only one letter short of a euphemism for a blissful state, This Is The Kit are fully-formed and equipped for the next level.

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