Album Review: Peter Kernel – The Size of The Night

Unconventionality seems to be the central theme of Alt-Indie duo Peter Kernel’s fourth release; in terms of defining their genre and predicting the trajectory of their tracks, the pair are hard to pin down. But the unpredictability works: each track is so wildly different from the next, the sequence creates a sharp sense of intrigue that will reel listeners in for years, decades, perhaps centuries.

Aris Bassetti and Barbara Lehnhoff – the two creators comprising the collective – have expressed a shared fascination with the unfixed nature of night, rooting the inspiration of their latest project in its fluid, undefinable character.

A collection of angular pieces initially deliver a barrage with complex themes and emotions, before each forming into distinct narratives rich enough to plant themselves deep into the bed of listeners’ thoughts and intoxicating melodies that linger on the lips.

Whilst the pair are often described as the new Sonic Youth, any listener of their latest would attest the reductiveness of such a comparison. Yes, some Sonic Youth vibes emerge, but so do glimpses of Deerhoof and Beatles’ psychedelia, all of which are subtle homages paid within a great auditory tapestry woven with the duo’s own inventive material. What marks the individuality of the album is the employment of ostensibly conventional instrumentation – guitar, voice and drums – to examine themes of futurism, interspace travel and escapism, tenors that the pair will have limitlessly explored in their former studies of art of film-making.

So effortless it seems almost accidental, the sequence opens with Lehnhoff’s absent-minded humming, a continuous note that rolls into “There’s Nothing Like You”, where call-and-response shouting blasts away any potential for tranquility, all before Lehnhoff’s bold experimentation with various vocal techniques, from saccharine child-like singing to monotonous scream-singing silenced by a eerie fade out of distant, slurred melodies.

Dark spaces abound in “Terrible Luck” and “The Fatigue of Passing The Night”, two tracks conveying the freedom to found outside of daylight. Varied vocals effects in “Men of the Women” and “The Shape of Your Face in Space”, however, amplify the surreal vibes initiated by their predecessors, simultaneously diversifying the sonic texture of the overall ensemble.

The range of the female vocalist – illustrated by the use of humming, mumbling, speaking, singing, shouting, dissonant wailing –  proves itself impeccable. She produces a plethora of sounds that fortify the otherworldly, psychedelic effect that characterises the traction of the overall traction of the album.

The latest experiment from the Peter Kernel duo provides a fresh perspective on what many listeners will perceive as overused narrative themes – delivering a sequence that is as innovative in theme as it is in sound.

Bethan Ryder

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