Ka Tet – Arcadia – Review
There seems to be a sudden emergence of grunge music on the Irish music seen as of late. Ka Tet seems to be embodying an early Nirvana essence in their style. Despite coming from the rural depths of west Ireland (Galway to be precise), their music is anything but the folksy charm that I’ve come to expect from that part of the country. Indeed, their very focus appears to be to shake the any sort of country quality from their music, there is a distinctly grimy feel to their style. However, it is this less than polished manner that makes their music so attractive. I’m always drawn to music that is as real as possible, free from over-zealous post-production, no auto tune or synth effect upon voices. Ka Tet aren’t afraid of allowing their flaws to shine through in their music, it’s exactly what makes them the perfect sort of band to play in Whelan’s or the Sweeney Mongrel.
Their new album, “Arcadia”, is a delightful combination of a rockabilly pounding and a more relaxed, softened out music essence. Moreover, there is a slight presence of jazz added to the mix to provide this wonderfully heavy rock offering. They take a swift step away from what it is to be radio-friendly and instead focus on creating this sharp, entrancing album. It’s a refreshing change up for Irish music, this new genre emergence tears open a new rock niche. With a lead singer that croons in a measured timbre not unlike Josh Homme, and a style that could be right off the latest Queens of the Stone Age album, Ka Tet are unafraid of educating Irish audiences on what real, and deliciously imperfect music sounds like.
“Let my Lady” has a chord progression not unlike that of the Vines’ track “Get Free”, but by allowing dirty guitar to ring throughout the track there is a much more heavy rock feel to the song. It’s an electrifying little track that really sets up a successful album. Full of pounding drum and impetuous rhythms, you’re left to focus more on the instrumental effect rather than lyrics. Nonetheless, this is a band that has a way with lyrics that cannot simply be ignored. Consider their track “Free Love”, there is this starved quality to their music. The rockabilly command of lyrics is played up so wonderfully with the accompanying shriek of guitar. The lead singer’s broad range is so much more powerful in this track, there is this sense of longing that captures raw human emotion so deliciously that you are left simultaneously taping your foot and shaking your head to the impulsive beat. There is a raw tension that just works so well with this style of music, it worked perfectly for Kings of Leon, and works spectacularly for Ka Tet.
Nonetheless, there is a range to this band that conveys that they are not just a one trick pony. The track “Stall on the Milky Way” is significantly more pared back, the focus being on the gentle strum of guitar and basic vocals. Once again, emotions are prevalent; the acoustic guitar highlights a strange yet captivating combination of loneliness and love. Moreover, “Shere Khan”, demonstrates a strong jazz influence in Ka Tet’s music, there is a rash little beat that makes this an infectious track, conveying a prowess of guitar playing throughout.
The shrill, electrifying style of “Cocaine Sandwich” is wondrously tempting; the metallic intro is a slick opening to a wonderful track. The progression of guitar and drums demonstrates that some of the best rock music arises from a wonderful combination of skill and rhythm. Moreover, as it is placed so perfectly towards the end of the album it conveys that this is a band unwavering in its style, committed to their sound throughout their album. Instead of cramming a debut album with a handful of classics and multiple filler tracks, “Arcadia”, is an album that is pure gold from start to finish.
The album can be purchased from Ka Tet’s Bandcamp.
Review by Elaine McDonald