Some of you may remember that, during the lockdowns, I had an imaginary place that I went to… a cabin in the woods by the water… to escape the world and listen to music (see here)… and occasionally I still do when I just need some space. I was reminded of this this week by an interview with the band More Klementines on the Weirdo Shrine blog (see here), in which one of the band members, Jon Schlesinger, stated:
“Living in the woods of Connecticut near the shore gives the opportunity to listen to the trees, lapping of the water, and drive winding roads while listening back to recordings and mixes. Something about these surroundings permeates the music – it’s kind of a state of mind- the ebb and flow of the tides that pulls on things and has profound influence in subtle ways.”
It was a comment that really chimed with me and, once I’d overcome my jealousy, I thought that I should explore the band’s music a bit more. I’m not going to go into a lot of further detail about the band’s background here… I suggest you read the Weirdo Shrine piece (here’s the link again).
From what I can see this is the third release from the band, on their own Twin Lakes Records label, the first, eponymous outing being in 2018. Comprising two long-form tracks this acts as a great introduction to a trio who just seem to be channelling all sorts of amazing music through the sort of naturalistic lens that I just find a huge amount of empathy with… I really like the way that they alight on an idea and just run with it for a while without in any way needing to dwell on it… this sense of letting go for me shows a confidence in improv that is impressively there from the start… meaning that there are far too many highlights than I can really go into here… but probably just to say that I’m rather disappointed that I am only getting to hear this music now… because it would have been on regular rotation in my imaginary cabin during the pandemic… it would have been perfect for that!
At this this time More Klementines were able to meet up outside to jam together in the Summer of 2020 on a skate ramp that Schlesinger had build for local kids to enjoy during while they couldn’t travel further afield (hence the title ‘sk8 @ yr own risk’)… the cover of the album, which I think was only ever available for download, shows the set up they used… and it is great that this moment was captured… a transmission from what already seems like another (very strange) time. I don’t know whether it’s my imagination, but despite being performed outside the music feels much more inward looking… there’s a claustrophobic quality, at least for the first ten minutes or so before starting to open out through what I could describe as Americana motorik (the band describe their music as ‘Appalachian Krautrock) which seems to pull the trio out into the moment.
However, that first side… the ‘Frontside’ was for me a kinda just a warm-up for the ‘Backside’ which just leaps into action at around three minutes into a full-on superhighway… I love the idea of imagining these guys jamming out in the open for the first time in months… clearly now having lots of fun and just going for it… I love that you can hear that in the music, which is just great… and by the time we’ve got to minute seven it has a real chug to it and the whole thing is just freaking out wildly… I’ve got so carried away with listening to it here that I forgot that this actually isn’t the album I wanted to write about… so just to say that this is joyous, and have a listen ☝️.
Right, so anyway I HAD to listen to the end of that before coming back to the job in hand of talking a bit about this new More Klementines release ‘Who Remembers Light’. Thinking on from the whole imaginary cabin thing, I was reflecting on what else might draw me to this band, and I think that they might bring together a few musical things that I particularly like. There’s definitely the Krautrock element and especially Can at their most grounded, and Neu at their most flighty; and with that there’s some Constellation vibes going on in there for me… definitely some Godspeed moments… but then from the Americana scene too, which I was particularly into in the 1990s… but have carried a torch on for… there’s also some stripped back ‘Nuggets’ aesthetic going on too… and then, with other elements, all wrapped up in a free-form psychedelia that just feels irresistible…
Having worked through that I can now just get down to enjoying this album… because that, I think is the best way to do it. I mentioned earlier that More Klementines are adept at looking forward when they play… letting go what has just gone… and I think that this is a good way to listen to this music too… it’s at its best when you are in the moment with it. Nowhere is this more the case than with the opener ‘Hot Peace’ which stretches out majestically over its fourteen minute duration containing many of the above described elements… many of which combine to develop a real momentum that is just irresistible… probably one of my musical moments of the year as we approach the ten minute mark… and then drops into some sort of ace dystopian freak out… just brilliant!
After that comes the almost interlude-like 3’44” of ‘Key of Caesar’… a track with, shock horror, lyrics… after having listened to the band’s oeuvre to date this was quite a shock until I settled into it… the delivery reminded me a bit of Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips, Rose City Band etc…) which added a plangent air to the number, which I found to be a nice addition to the set.
Back to the long form again with the title track… a slow darker section is gradually invaded by that motorik beat again which once more takes us off again… I feel like an Ewok careering through the woods on my speeder bike, on the way encountering all sorts of shades and moods… there is some low level post-punk guitar in there at one point while something else is going on above it… the sights and sounds of a sonic forest where we eventually reach a clearing at around ten minutes… just as darkness falls and eyes appear all around us… it’s spooky and evocative… and then it is gone… dissolved into the imagination.
After that it’s worth pausing a moment before the final number ‘Ascension’… which provides a thoughtful and relatively downbeat ending to ‘Who Remembers Light’… a sort of invocation to reflect on where this music had taken us and how we now feel as we come out of it again… I must say that I feel notably more relaxed and fed by the whole thing which has been an experience and, once I had got my musical compass sorted at the beginning, was something that I come away from feeling as if I have actually been somewhere… not necessarily back to my imaginary cabin, but away from my chair and my room… and that, at root, is pretty much all I can ask for.
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