Released 17 June (UK)
Louder Than War check out the new album by the (self described) ‘ambient electropop’ band Kyte who, despite having ‘smashed it’ in the Far East already, are as of yet little known back on their home soil.
“Big in Japan” – it used to be an industry joke, but not any more. While other young British bands slug it round Northern Europe in splitter vans – and that’s the lucky ones – Nick Moon, Tom Lowe and Scott Hislop are probably as familiar with the arrivals halls of Far Eastern airports as their own bathrooms. Their Instagram postcards – photos taken from stages in Taipei and Tokyo showing venues full of delighted fans – tell a fascinating story, even if the details such as how and why are not immediately apparent. In a couple of weeks they’ll be heading back there for the prestigious Fuji Rock Festival and their first ever Hong Kong date, celebrating an album that’s been out for a year already there and climbed as high as number two in the Japanese I-tunes chart. This week it finally gets a home release, in a country that for the most part might ask “who the hell are Kyte”?
The short answer: three young men from Leicestershire who were barely out of school when they released their eponymous debut in 2007 and found themselves supporting the likes of Maps and I Like Trains (technically iLiKETRAiNS then. I don’t miss having to type that all the time.) Their sound, then, was probably closer to the latter; sweeping indie post-rock with enough guitar pedals to get Sonic Cathedral interested – though the resulting single featured a remix by Maps in which the reclusive electronica producer twisted one of their songs into a whole new shape, bringing to the fore the electronic flickers which had always been lurking in there.
Six years later you’d be hard pushed to call them a guitar band at all really, as synths at the ready they seem to be taking a somewhat M83-esque route into more pop territory – albeit with the swoops and builds and atmospheres which have been there since day one. They certainly haven’t turned their backs completely on the post-rock sound – if great swelling Sigur Ros instrumentals are what you’re after then “September 5th” ticks all those boxes and should probably be accompanied by a film of migrating birds – but nor do they feel the need to constrain themselves to making music for people who go to Iceland for their holidays and own a number of records whose titles sound like IKEA lamps. Some tracks, for example the sunny “You & I” and particularly “Over After”, have more than a bit of 80s pop going on. Good 80s pop, that is, as in some of the less cheesy tracks tucked away on A-Ha albums, but it’s definitely there. And it works. This comes coupled with a new-found confidence in Nick Moon’s vocals which are a lot more upfront here than on previous releases, though there’s still a sort of breathy little-boy-lost feel to them which makes the prominent use of expletives on “Half Alone” rather more surprising than swearing usually is on a record these days.
What this definitely isn’t, though, is some desperate attempt to win new fans. Quite the opposite in fact: Kyte sound like a band that are completely at home with what they do; it’s a long album (maybe too long? There isn’t any particularly under par track asking to be dropped, but in the olden days a couple of these might have been saved for the post-album EP release) and the big hitting tracks don’t come along until much later on. “Aerials” is glorious, the sort of thing that makes you want to throw open the windows and let the sunshine in and the title track is the sort of thing which will sound magnificent and massive as it soars over the slopes of slope of Mount Takenoko.
You can sit and debate all day why some bands that seem to have all the elements for success in whatever form end up playing to fifteen people on a Wednesday night while some two-bit bottom-feeding “indie” band is being touted as the next big thing, but in this case our loss has for a few years now been Asia’s gain. Time to catch up.