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Gareth Koch & Martin Kennedy - Music in The Afterlife (Foghorn Records)

25 February 2023

Throughout my 40-year love for The Church, I’ve enjoyed myriad releases from singer/songwriter Steve Kilbey. His prolific solo and side project output over the last four decades is frankly overwhelming, but worthy of time and exploration.

Through Steve’s work separately with two fellow Australian musicians, Gareth Koch and Martin Kennedy, I discovered ”Music In The Afterlife” just released on Foghorn Records in January 2023. Notably, while each had worked with Steve in the past, Gareth and Martin hadn’t worked together prior to this beautiful new instrumental album despite both being based in Tasmania.

For the uninitiated, Gareth Koch is an ARIA Award winning performer, composer and songwriter. With considerable prowess as a classical and flamenco guitarist and a PhD in Music under his belt, he’s produced sometimes arcane releases that range stylistically from medieval to post-modern psychedelia.

In addition to frequently working with Kilbey, Martin Kennedy produces atmospheric, occasionally ambient electronic music as All India Radio. Seek out his albums for the music as much as the psychedelic cover artwork. The titles alone (e.g., ”Afterworld”, ”Utopia”, and ”Lost Songs From Infinity”) shed light on Martin’s interest in intangible places and how the theme for the new “Afterlife” album may have been conceived.

With the new album, ”Music In The Afterlife” I was immediately taken by a few things. The album seamlessly blends acoustic passages with bass and electronic beats and swirling keyboard accents. The key here is that the resulting song pieces are balanced, deftly walking the line between being too sonically full or too stripped down. This music is not quite ambient, but not so in your face as to prevent you from listening while working or reading. Importantly, for me at least, the music evokes something positive, but it does so without sounding new age, plodding, or contrived. Too often, I find that instrumental music imparts gloom or turmoil. If this is music in the afterlife, I’m all for it. Selfishly, I’m happy that I have a glimpse of this music while I’m still on Earth.


I was enamored enough that I recently reached out to Gareth to ask him a few questions about the new LP, how it came about, and more.

David: In a great way, you’re hard to pin down as a classical and flamenco guitarist who’s into everything from “medieval music to post-modern psychedelia.” I’m curious how the new LP, came to fruition with Martin? Why this album and why now? Was the theme of the afterlife something you’d been contemplating musically for a while, or did this music idea come about more recently for you/Martin?

Gareth: “I had been enjoying Martin’s ‘dreamscape-like’ music for some time before I approached him with the idea for a collaboration. My own output of late has been more in the esoteric realm and it felt like we might be a good fit.

I was also looking for an excuse to record my new lyres which symbolically represent the instruments of the afterlife. The lyres feature throughout most of the album, often artfully manipulated by Martin in the final production. The lyres are the wafting throughout, supported by a deep resonance in the bass frequencies played either on bass guitars or synthesizers.

David: Had you written/recorded with Martin in the past? I know you’re both in Tasmania and presumably close to each other.

Gareth: “Martin and I actually live a little far apart. I spend time a small locality in the north of Tasmania called the Tamar Valley as well as Launceston and Devonport. Martin’s in Hobart so a lot of our idea sharing was done at a distance. The process was perhaps a bit like finishing each other’s sentences. Both of us have been completely open and accepting of the ‘musical interferences’ of the other! One of the hallmarks of the project has been the complete absence of egos, if that’s the right word. Our strongly held ideas were expressed solely in the music. I’m so impressed how well this album sounds, at least to me.”

David: I’m intrigued with instrumental LPs like this one and wonder about your writing process from early-stage musical ideas to fully finished song pieces? Are they produced with improvisation with you and Martin playing together? Or are you sending bits and pieces back and forth to each other? Do you have or did you create a “system” for making this LP?

Gareth: “There was no system, at least not from my end! I generally find a piece or song guides itself through the evolutionary process. Once a single instrumental part is recorded this seems to open up many possibilities, including of course the need to occasionally admit that things aren’t working out. Sometimes it’s necessary to consign something to the flames. Not everything is a masterpiece.

Martin and I exchanged ideas regularly and I think this fired our imaginations in ways which doesn’t necessarily happen with solo projects. In our case, each piece evolved differently. Sometimes I would present a fully formed idea which Martin would re-interpret. Conversely, we also shared snippets with each other which required a different approach to finishing the work.”

David: For me, “Valley of Echoes”, the longest piece on the album, is where the new LP truly got into my DNA. Suddenly I felt a “lift off” in my brain. Like, “Ah, I get this record. It makes sonic sense, and it has transported me somewhere else.”

Was there a point in the writing/recording of the album when you (and/or) Martin felt you’d reached a similar (or different) self-critical stage and felt you were onto something special?

Gareth: “I felt we were onto something special the moment Martin presented me with his re-imagining of the first song. It was then that I felt we should make an album, rather than a couple of singles as previously agreed. I saw an album as a more legitimate way of expressing the ideas and aesthetic of the compositions. They required the scope that an album affords.”

David: The new record has fantastic sonics. You thank Glen and Pamela Macready, “sonic consultants”, from Portland, Oregon’s Decompression Studios. You’ve worked with them (or at least Glen) in the past, too. Just curious how you worked with the Macready’s for “Afterlife”?

Gareth: “Glen and Pamela have been long time supporters of my work. They have steadfastly believed in my output and provided valuable advice particularly in regard to mastering. I always send ‘roughs’ to Glen for comment and his insights have been invaluable.”

David: Anything else you’d like to share as far as “Afterlife”? What’s next? I was laughing a bit to myself with the thought of “what does one do next after writing music in the afterlife?”

Gareth: “Great question. Maybe various ‘adventures’ happen in the afterlife which require a musical soundtrack. I’m keen to continue that journey and see what transpires. What do you think Martin?”