Trouble Everyday: Sirens By Kevin Richard Martin

On his first album under his own name, Kevin Richard Martin (The Bug, King Midas Sound) offers up a record of unparalleled intimacy and sensitivity, finds Euan Andrews

“There is a problem”. If you have sat in a hospital or Doctor’s consulting room and heard these words, sometimes prefixed by the seemingly innocuous bracer of “Unfortunately…”, then you will doubtlessly be aware of the immediate sensation of gut-hollowing physical free fall and mind-scrambled overdrive that suddenly hits your body in the few seconds following this sentence being uttered. If you haven’t found yourself helplessly present within this scenario then, unfortunately, one day you will.

Time crawls to a halt in the hours and days that may follow such a diagnosis as you enter a zone of numb resolve in the wake of sudden and unexpected crisis. Sirens is an audio transcription of the emotions, both frantic and slowed to the point of stasis, that arise during these times as experienced by Kevin Richard Martin and his wife during the weeks following the birth of their first child, a period which involved potentially life-threatening emergency operations for their new-born son.

Kevin Martin is, of course, better known as The Bug and as part of King Midas Sound, the latter of whom released their most recent album, Solitude, earlier this year. Solitude married the charred devastation of Martin’s sonics with poet Roger Robinson’s character vignettes depicting the memories and thoughts of people so distant from having contact with other human beings that they had lost all hope of returning to lands of the living. It was a beautiful and haunted record which gave voices to forgotten souls and detailed the endless pain of separation.

Sirens, Martin’s first album under his own name, equally confronts the fears that accompany intimacy and the paralysing dread of sudden loss. The monolithic depth charge bass, such a crucial aspect of The Bug’s characterisation, is here rendered more as an immoveable force of weight; a dense unshifting mass hovering around and through these 14 instrumental pieces in constant threat of smothering and suffocating the listener. The bass on Sirens becomes the ambient temperature which surrounds you when forced to exist in a heightened state of red alertness.

That brief opening piece, ‘There Is A Problem’, gently sways to hopeful expectation before suddenly erupting with gaping blasts of nightmarish realisation and then ‘Bad Dream’ spreads as an unwelcome nocturnal fog with an uneasy awareness that will not be quelled upon waking. ‘Life Threatening Operation 2’, a piece which becomes increasingly harrowing to listen to over its ten minutes, seems to symbolise the vacuum and silence, the space of nothingness, in which the tiniest signs of life are being struggled over and the endless ramifications which may follow. A sudden escalation of asphyxiating tension finally resolved with long, slow exhalations.

Sirens do wail throughout the record as both signals of possible help and wished-for reassurance as well as the alarms and klaxons which scream of imminent danger. ‘Mechanical Chatter in the I.C.U.’ addresses the almost subliminal realisation that the sounds of medical trauma surrounding you have begun to normalise your state of emergency. ‘Necrosis’ and ‘Loss of Consciousness’ are the deepest and darkest of human fears set as a slow descent and a sense of sinking: of going under. Yet there are also constant life-signs and articles of necessitated trust such as the steady pulsing heartbeat of ‘Too Much’ and the eerily numbed faith represented in ‘The Surgeon’. Finally, ‘A Bright Future’ offers twinkling glimmers of hope as the sirens continue to howl far off in the distance.

This is a record which deserves your time and effort; it is not an easy listen and nor should it be. It is a dense and weighty work of art which examines the areas between life and death in which we shall all find ourselves. Kevin Richard Martin is making music about subject matters almost wilfully unconsidered by many due to the sheer terrors represented within their everyday realities. If you’re human, then Sirens will resonate with you.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today