The Brother Kite
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The Brother Kite

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In the last year or so, Clairecords has continued to astonish me in respect to how many records of innovative, shoegazer bands they have been able to release. Highspire, Airiel, Hartfield and Sciflyer have impressed me this past year or so, but now the folks over at Clairecords have certainly hit a homerun with Thebrotherkite, a musical unit hailing from Rhode Island. They are amazingly eclectic with the ability to bring all those disparaging parts into a seamless, meaningful whole. Drawing from 80's pop/post-punk, the Beach Boys, and shoegazer influences, Thebrotherkite hit the scene with their debut self-titled album with a bang!

Thebrotherkite's s/t cd starts with dreamy violins and angelic voices. A short time into "Goodnight, Goodnight, Goodnight", the slow, syncopated guitars and drums cut in. The vocals on this song are fantastic, not just for the quality of Patrick's voice, but also for the effects that give the vocals a great, shimmery feel. Also, the bridge in this song quiets down and feels akin to Saxon Shore or Early Day Miners. Following upon the heels of "Goodnight" is a raucous tune entitled "The Music Box". This song is, well, a favorite of mine on this disc. It has everything I could ever ask for in a driving, shoegazer song. The melodies are catchy and popish; the guitars driving, intricate, and shimmering; and the percussion is aggressive. It is a perfect mixture of early 80's pop/punk and modern shoegazer elements. Frankly, it's a beautiful song.

Thebrotherkite really changes things up in "Mere Application". This is a song with just vocals and acoustic guitar. It is just a little over two minutes long, but it is great vocally, showing that Patrick is not hiding behind all the effects but truly has a charismatic and wonderful voice. As "Mere Application" fades away on the disc, "Simply Say My Name" kicks in with glimmering, huge guitars layered upon one another. Thebrotherkite is brilliant at allowing their levels of guitar to play off of each other instead of letting them just wash out into one another. It makes for a beautiful sound with intricate melodies. They even throw in some acoustic guitars and beautiful female BGV's by Andrea in this song to boot. "Death Ray" really displays their mixture of 80's pop/punk and shoegazer style because, during pieces of the song, they alternate between the two styles, dropping the layers, and letting the distorted guitars and vocals take over. This song is masterful, brilliant, complex, and has its simple moments all at the same time. Each of the songs on this disc display a sort of stream of thought style in the lyrics, which work wonderfully with the style of music.

"The Blackout" is more of a harder, driving song on the disc. It begins with really off-key guitar picking and moves into full walls of sound and just keeps driving till the end. Once again, the walls of sound drop in this song as well for brief periods, really displaying great guitar work by John and Mark and vocals by Patrick. The final song on the disc, "The Way That You Came Down", incorporates more influences that I don't really hear on the rest of the disc. I hear a mixture of Beach Boys, My Bloody Valentine and The Lassie Foundation in this song. There are beautiful Beach Boys melodies in the vocal parts and some of the guitar, some sections with walls of sound and also melodies akin to early Lassie Foundation. There are fantastic Richard Swift style organs in parts, Echo and the Bunnymen sonics, and glorious noise in this diverse, yet coherent song.

There is a lot going on in Thebrotherkite's self-titled debut, and it shows that their diversity and talent has been brought together into a masterful piece of shoegazing beauty. - Somewhere Cold


When I reviewed thebrotherkite's minimally-designed six song demo in mid-2002, I couldn't help but notice the potential. The review ended with a simple, gutsy statement:
"By the time it all comes to a close, you won't be able to comprehend why the band hasn't already been snatched by an indie label."

Lo and behold, it's 2004 now and thebrotherkite has a disc out on established indie Clairecords. It had to happen; the band's infectious brand of dreamy noise-rock couldn't go unnoticed for long. And unsurprisingly, this self-titled album is an incredibly solid debut.

Featuring four songs from their demo and four new ones, this disc is the perfect blend of shoegazer and noise rock. thebrotherkite combines charged guitars and percussion with dreamier elements like feedback layers and strong, lovely melodies. "Simply Say My Name" stands out immediately due to a wonderful build-up/breakdown chorus and a sensitively explosive structure not far off from the hypothetical offspring of My Bloody Valentine, Archers of Loaf, and XTC. "Porcelain" and "The Music Box" follow in the same vein, each with a chorus that just begs to be screamed along to; meanwhile, the passionate "Goodnight, Goodnight, Goodnight" ranks among the disc's best. The album only cuts away from the formula in two places - "Mere Appreciation" is a quiet and touching acoustic tune, and "The Way That You Came Down" occupies its space as a slow-building, pure eighties shoegazer epic.

You may not have heard of thebrotherkite before, but open your ears quickly. This is one of 2004's best debuts. Play it loud. - Indieville


Is shoegaze back? Did it ever go away? I don't profess to know, but I can say with certainty that The Brother Kite is a shoegaze band. All the ingredients are there (In leiu of the technical names of the following effects, I've made up my own terms): the washy guitars, the soaring vocals, the shimmers, the quakes, the squiggles. It just all sounds like your floating in space weightless and suspended in the soupy production mix of the music.
When a song like "Goodnight, Goodnight, Goodnight" comes on I feel like I should be asleep and dreaming of floating somewhere in between Mercury and Venus waving to the nice space folk I see waddling by me. Either that, or I feel like I should be high playing a really stellar game of Galaga, killing some wicked space bird ass. It really doesn't matter because regardless of what I think I should be doing it's anything other than sitting at my desk typing on a keyboard. Good shoegaze music has that ability to make you transcend your current time and place. And certainly much of this disc has the ability to do that.

Though the group's sound is firmly planted in the realm of all things shoegaze, its also interesting to listen to where else the group has grabbed some influence. Strip away all the production effects on "Music Box," for instance, and it's really nothing more than a mid-90s power pop song, maybe something like Teenage Fanclub. Wherever these musicians are getting their ideas from, all of this disc is entirely British. They are indebted forever to pioneers like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Swervedriver. However, also poking its head in sometimes is the danceable pop of the Stone Roses.

This is a good record. What my short-attention span likes most of all is the The Brother Kite's ability to head off tedium before it starts. Most bands like this would try to lull you into a repetitive and tiresome sound-wash jam, just to show you that eight minutes of loud music can actually make you fall asleep. Though there are the trippy repetitive episodes, none seem over-indulgent.

So that said, who cares if shoegaze ever went away or not. The Brother Kite is worthy of the term keepers of the flame, bringing some innovation and enjoyable tunes to the genre. - Delusions of Adequacy


7.6/10

Providence, Rhode Island's Brother Kite make music that floats, tethered to the ground by the thinnest of strings. Their music glows a bit as well, in the same way a cloud or a contrail glows at sunset, bright at the edges with a sober-hued core. The shoegazer tag will be misapplied to them, if it hasn't been already, even though the imperfect label that suits them better is probably power pop. Sure, their songs are coated in big sheets of guitar and synth, but at their heart they have more in common with Superdrag (especially in the vocals) and Teenage Fanclub than Ride or My Bloody Valentine.
Waiting for the Time to Be Right, the band's second album, is nicely balanced, flowing with ease from gigantic ballads to sugar-spiked, double-tracked vocals stacked on quick beats that sound like something Brian Wilson might have dreamed up if his musical resources had been limited to guitars and reverb. "The Coat of Arms" kicks the record off with a three-minute instrumental intro. It's a rush of thoroughly blended guitar and synth that boils itself down to a simple organ figure as the drums retreat. The first vocals you hear drift in the echo as they gradually build-- like the instrumental section-- into a swirl of harmonies.
The feel comes back on the title track, where the guitars and drums are held back for nearly two minutes. When they do come in, the drums are huge, blowing the song out to widescreen proportions. It's followed by "Hold Me Down", a song on overdrive for nearly all of its four and a half minutes, guitars jangling madly for a texture that nearly overflows with sound-- this is actually rare on the record, as most of the songs course between dynamic extremes of fullness and starkness.
"Lay Down Your Burden" is almost violent about dynamic shifts, sweeping away its quietest moments with drum rolls, sheets of reverb and luminous harmonies, as though the band is reaching for some goal miles overhead it knows it can't reach, but has to try for anyway. It's beautiful stuff. The Brother Kite's formula computes most incredibly on "Out of Sight", a song that teases you with unexpectedly dark chord changes the first few times you're sure it's going to explode, and just when you've accepted that it will stay subdued, it modulates and heads skyward of the backs of chiming, harmonized guitars. The vocal melody aches-- it's a pop song played as large as a pop song can sound.
It's not all as blissful as that, but Waiting for the Time to Be Right has more than enough wow moments to make it worth listening to over and over. "The sky's the limit" has been an outdated expression ever since Sputnik, and it's records like this that remind us that the cliché's obsolescence extends to music as well. The Brother Kite slip right past the sky on their guitars and into low orbit here, and it's a pleasure to join them there. - http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/


9/10

According to the economic theory of bounded rationality, choices are constrained by the cost of acquiring information. If that’s true, you’d think the internet would be a boon to the average music fan. With a few keystrokes, one can pull up information on just about any artist. However, the tremendous wealth of information available has paradoxically erected its own walls. Faced with potentially infinite pixilated space, we’re forced to rely on a few reliable information filters. The end result: while we may have more information than before, in many ways, we’re still no better at accessing it.

The Brother Kite released their sophomore album more than a month ago, and while the album is easily one of the best you’ll hear this year, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of it until now. There are two reasons for this. One, the Providence, Rhode Island-based band is on a tiny Gainesville, Florida label called Clairecords, home to a sleepy stable of shoegaze-style bands. The second and somewhat related reason is that this band’s previous record (also its debut) trafficked in a fairly run-of-the-mill shoegazer sound, somewhat typical of Clairecords artists. Taken together, no doubt few were waiting with bated breath for the band’s new album.

But nothing, not even the band’s prior anonymity, should obscure the Brother Kite’s present achievement, the remarkable leap forward that is Waiting for the Time to Be Right. Spiritually, the record is guided by the ghost of Beach Boys records past—the elegiac harmonizing eerily reminiscent of Brian Wilson’s California troupe. Yet the musical framework for Waiting is decidedly more modern—drawing slight inspiration from their shoegaze/dream pop roots and displaying an even more impassioned reverence for the Northwest indie rock of Sub Pop bands like the Shins and Band of Horses.

“The Coat of Arms” makes their widescreen ambitions explicit from the start—opening with a surging power chord and eventually splintering into spidery guitar lines and rumbling drum fills. Yet despite with such a bold announcement, The Brother Kite are somehow able to make an act of hubris sound economical, a testament to their skill. In stark contrast, “Out of Sight” thrives on sheer simplicity, driven by a simple repeated riff and Patrick Boutwell’s echoing tenor. His uncommonly expansive vocals get an even more fitting showcase on “Hopeless and Unsung”, a lush, blooming ballad that also stands as the Brother Kite’s most heartfelt tribute to the halcyon harmonies on Pet Sounds. Elsewhere, the band appropriates the Cure’s signature guitar work from “Just Like Heaven” for the wordless chorus to “Get On, Me”—a buoyant, unabashed pop song. “Hold Me Down”, arguably the band’s crowning achievement, is perhaps their most overt nod to their shoegaze roots, but even this song sidesteps mere genre exercise with uncharacteristically insistent drumming as the song escalates to a towering climax. It’s an accidental anthem of sorts, a victory tinged with yearning and regret.

If there’s a complaint to be lodged, it’s that the Brother Kite’s meager recording budget sometimes works to the detriment of Waiting’s brimming melodies. The band supposedly recorded these tracks in a home studio they constructed. While that may lend the album its effortless effervescence, it might also explain why some of the more subtle sonic elements get lost in the mix. It’s a tradeoff that probably still redounds to Waiting’s benefit, even if a more professional approach might have cast the Brother Kite’s epic aspirations in sharper relief.

Belying its title, Waiting doesn’t presume patience to be a virtue. The Brother Kite pack an impressive amount into its 45 minutes, touching on a wide array of sources even as they stake out their own claim in an increasing crowded indie field. If they tread with any trepidation, it’s certainly not apparent on this effort. With any luck, the Brother Kite’s confident strides on Waiting will be rewarded with the sort of attention that has eluded them thus far. If so, maybe our channels of information aren’t as constricted as we once imagined. - http://www.popmatters.com


7/10

With their last effort, Waiting for the Time To Be Right, the Brother Kite established themselves as a solid, up-and-coming band with an expansive sonic palate. And with Moonlit Race, their new EP, they show that their success is no fluke. The disc is a collection of odds and ends from their last album. Alternate versions, live takes, and unreleased tracks—along with one carry-over track from the last album—make up the six tracks on the EP. But this isn’t merely a fan-only holdover disc. In fact, Moonlit Race has no business being as good, and cohesive, as it is. The acoustic version of “Hopeless and Unsung” shows that, underneath their big dream-pop sound, are simple and elegant guitar pop songs. “Never in Years”, here performed live at WERS in Boston, shows the band capable of bringing their studio shimmer to life even in the confines of a radio studio. And non-album tracks like the stellar “Half Century” show off the band’s consistency, as even their castoffs are solid tracks. As a whole, the EP packs a lot into six tracks, and impressively teaches us a few things we may not have known about the band. As good as they sounded on Waiting for the Time To Be Right, Moonlit Race shows us that we ain’t see nothing yet. - http://www.popmatters.com


Discography

Split 7" (Clairecords fern-077)
Moonlit Race EP/CD (Clairecords fern-067)
Waiting For The Time To Be Right CD/LP (Clairecords fern-064)
thebrotherkite CD/LP (Clairecords fern-055 2004)
Split 7" (losing blueprint records lbp-015 2003)

Photos

Bio

From allmusic.com:

Providence, RI's the Brother Kite had their beginnings in the collaboration between musicians Patrick Boutwell and Jon Downs in 2001, but the group itself didn't come together until the following year with the addition of bassist Andrea Mason and guitarist Mark Howard. The group released a split 7" with Vaguely Starshaped in 2003 and followed it up with their first full-length, The Brother Kite, the following year. They recruited drummer Matt Rozzero soon after that, and the group started thinking about their second album. The Brother Kite emerged from their homemade studio two years later with Waiting for the Time to Be Right, an album that cobbled together the band's trademark shoegaziness with psychedelic power pop reminiscent of Smiley Smile-era Brian Wilson.