Shop our Big Takeover store for back issues, t-shirts & CDs
Follow The Big Takeover
The ever-prolific, hypnotically trippy, mystical realist and tantalizing lyrics charmer Steve Kilbey has devoted himself to finishing up and recently releasing an album titled Speed of the Stars, which is also the name of his collaboration with musician Frank Kearns. Technically, this album and duo aren’t 100% new, but the result of a long-running creative process that started way back in 1998. Let’s rewind for moment to get our bearings…
Kilbey, The Church’s (the long-standing Australian dream-rock band; not a religion – Well, maybe for some…) main man, and Kearns, the founder and guitarist of Irish indie rock band Cactus World Times, had charted a course in 1998 with the intention of making landfall – I mean, an album – from their collaborative navigations. They were waylaid at the time by Kilbey’s battle with heroin addiction and production on the album was dropped for almost 15 years. In 2012 Kearns sent Kilbey the old tapes they had been working on and the artists renewed their musical association, making some headway by recording a few more compositions together.
Various commitments of the musical and other kind delayed the project yet again, but early this year Kilbey and Kearns said enough with treading water. They took the plunge and wrapped up recording for Speed of the Stars, releasing the Pledge Music-funded album at Bandcamp on June 3rd. Speed of the Stars is also available for purchase at iTunes worldwide and most online retailers, including Amazon.com.
The 11-track album contains 4 songs recorded in the late 1990s in Dublin, Ireland, 4 songs from the 2012-2013 time period, and a cap of 3 tracks that were finalized in Sydney, Australia this past April. Depending on the song, Kilbey (vocals, bass, keyboards) and Kearns (guitars, backing vocals) enlisted the aid of Wayne P. Sheehy (Cactus World News) or Barton Price on drums and percussion.
Kilbey and Kearns dive deep into atmospheric soundscapes and vocals and mysterious, yet revealing lyrics as Speed of the Stars, opening with “Song Within The Shell”, a dreamy rumination about the birth of existence as life makes its way to the “shore”. The song courses patiently along, wending with diaphanous guitar reverberations, brightly glistening keyboard curls, and extended shimmering cymbals accents. Kilbey sing-talks in his distinctive clear, but velvety delivery, “The surging of the tides / The beating heart of the Earth / Only blinding light to bind me.”
“Heliotropic” continues the low-key flow with gently captivating bell-tone guitar notes and Kilbey’s lightly processed vocals. A laid-back drum beat, soft cymbal hits, and contemplative guitar lines wind through the air as Kilbey, sometimes backed by Kearns’ shadowy, deeper vocals, encapsulates the ambition and imagination of the human mind with the lines, “Once I thought I could fly / just because a bird, I caught… / but it came to naught.”
A stronger drum beat, tapping percussion, and continual bass line thrum surge through “Black River”, giving it a restless edge. Reflective piano notes contrast against the turbulence as Kilbey placidly narrates the voyage of the original explorer, describing dispassionately, “Water all around / Water to sustain us.”, before changing to a more fervent tone, warning, “If you crack / the black river carries you away…”
A relaxed, bluesy vibe infuses “Autumn Daze” which hangs suspended with globular, bending ebow guitar notes, keyboard dissipation, and a quicker tempo of brushed drums shuffle and burnished cymbals. A daydreaming Kilbey, sporadically backed vocally by Kearns, intones with hushed longing, “…waves just vanish in my eye.” as several shining guitar lines twine into the sky.
Limpid guitar strokes and Kilbey’s dusky vocals wind through the nocturnal ambience of “Nepenthe”, while luminous, high keyboard lines float over the lively drum beat. Religion makes its entry into the developing human world, with Kilbey regretfully proclaiming his vivid, yet enigmatic lyrics, “The worm in the flesh / in the heart of an apple / The wound in the mind… / The saint in the fields…”
The title of album-ender “Words Are Wasted” couldn’t be further from the truth, as communication via complex language is one of humanity’s distinctive traits, a vital means to stay connected, and one of Kilbey’s favorite obsessions. The light refrain of piano notes, mellifluous to keening guitar lines, and pronounced drum beat belie the seriousness of Kilbey’s lyrics as he soberly reminisces about faded and forgotten, human-created empires, musing, “Walk with the wind / Talk with the silent dead… / The speed of the stars / The poppies and graves…”
Kilbey’s final words, although delivered in a pragmatic manner, have a bleak ring to them as he compares the fleeting and futile nature of life and its endpoint to the speed of the stars, sighing, “Words are always wasted deep in the heart of me / The battles we lost / The wars that we won / The peace that will be / when desire is done.” He seems to be intimating that on a micro scale, human life is transient, and in the grand balance, all existence is impermanent on Earth.
More in recordings