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The Monks Kitchen
Music From The Monk's Kitchen Ned Raggett , December 20th, 2013 07:06

The Monks Kitchen's second full-length album, titled simply enough as Music From The Monks Kitchen, feels more like an assemblage of randomness than an album – and that's very much a compliment. If the group isn't as utterly amorphously cryptic in both membership and result of the still befuddling after all this time Supreme Dicks, there's something to be said for a band that just records when it feels like it, streams tracks whenever, then finally appears to release an album strictly and solely for the hell of it. More should be relaxed, or maybe simply lucky enough to be able to work in this fashion.

But there's also something to be said for the fact that, even if this is folk-inspired in one sense of the term or other, it's not anything like Mumford and Sons or any of the shouty nonsense that makes more than a few people wistfully look back at 1998 and wish for a time machine to stop people like Jeff Mangum and Wayne Coyne from causing the inadvertant horribleness that was soon to come. A song like 'Dark Ramble' actually earns its name, not least because it actually sounds like it could be a spy movie break from 1965 or a moody night in a red and black lit nightclub as much as some sort of hoedown.

The singing throughout matches this, being at most undemonstrative and often simply not there at all. The sense of pleasure in performance mixed with simple understatement may be a construction of how the album sounds rather than whatever is behind it, but that's the end result – like you're sitting maybe a few rows away in the theater or again, the nightclub, and everyone's taking it in easily, just so. But it's not a performance to nobody, not when there's audible pleasure to be taken in how electric or acoustic guitar tones can weave in and out of main melody lines, how keyboards can appear and disappear. 'Hollow Of The Night' sounds anything but that on that front, while 'Bluebird' introducing soft bells to an uptempo arrangement is a lovely touch.

Above all else, there are constant moments of fragmentation, in and out and they're done, like songs are flickers of thoughts never fully completed, never needed to be. At almost twenty songs in forty one minutes, it doesn't sound like Wire or The Minutemen, but there's a similar appreciation of focus in the moment, the more so because the sequencing prevents things from simply bleeding into each other. It can be the brushed drums suddenly emerging and driving 'Black Park', followed by the near early Tindersticks swing and kick of 'Anyhow', the understated country tinge of 'Don't Lie Awake' coming on the heels of the gentle invocation of 'Dawn Song'.

Sometimes it's as simple as the calmly sung sentiments of 'Ill Legged Dog' just plain working with an arrangement as gentle, reflective and engaging as one could want, tender and sad in equal measure without hitting you over the head with it. Nothing wrong with that, or this album, at all.

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