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Bent Knee: Land Animal

The fourth album from American art rockers Bent Knee finds them in typically ebullient form, a collection of songs not particularly interested in playing by anyone's rules but their own, amassed to become Land Animal. Having jumped ship from Cuneiform Records to Inside Out (after two early self released efforts), there's a feel that this band might just be ready to break their waves across broader shores. If there's one thing that is undoubtedly in their favour it's the gloriously rich tones of front lady Courntey Swain, who is also the band's keyboard player. Just the right side of quirky and cooky in her vocal delivery, the power and charisma in her style is enough to turn your head until your neck strains. There's also a suggestion that she possesses a devil may careness in her attitude that might just take her to mainstream success, if not the stardom of the super kind.

However this isn't a solo venture, the other five members of Bent Knee equally skilled at their chosen specialist subject, although without possibly the same crossover appeal. That the band met and formed at Berklee College of Music should give you an idea of the talent on show, although it will also possibly give a hint of the lack of compromise. "Holy Ghost" may well be the exception, it's hardly a bubblegum pop hit, but with a cheeky riff and the merest hint of Rush at their synthiest, there's a more obvious way in than this band often care for. "Insides In" hits like an ambient-Haken hybrid, drama and atmosphere colliding in a smush of small intricacies and huge set plays. It's both inviting and stand offish at the same time. Whereas the title track flits between Bjork-like crazy and James Bond theme tune although if 007 was to be found chasing the bad guys to this soundtrack, there's a good chance he'd end up both shaken and stirred.

Equal measures of prog, avant, jazz and art rock are to be found as you flit across the bizarre terrain that this Land Animal grazes upon, Bent Knee often making their way through a vast expanse of variance from moment to fleeting moment. At times it can be a dazzling array of lights floating across the sky, although on occasion at can be more rabbits in the full beam. Leaving you with the choice to be staring agog in wonder, or in complete terror.

Track Listing
1. Terror Bird
2. Hole
3. Holy Ghost
4. Insides In
5. These Hands
6. Land Animal
7. Time Deer
8. Belly Side Up

9. The Well

10. Boxes

Bonus Tracks

11. Way Too Long (Sylvia Massy Treatment)

12. Land Animal (Ben Levin Remix)

Added: August 7th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Land Animal on bandcamp
Hits: 1712
Language: english

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Bent Knee: Land Animal
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2017-08-07 10:01:28
My Score:

Bent Knee is an American band from Boston having formed in 2009 at the Berklee College of Music. They released their self-titled debut in 2011, followed by Shiny Eyed Babies in 2014, Say So in 2016 and finally their brand new release on InsideOut Music titled Land Animal.

In the band are:
Chris Baum (violin)
Jessica Kion (bass and vocals)
Ben Levin (guitar and vocals)
Courtney Swain (vocals and keyboards)
Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (drums)
Vince Welch (production and sound design)

Land Animal has been my introduction to the band and after a few listens I have to say this is some excellent stuff. Call it what you want: crossover prog, progressive pop, art rock, etc, the level of sophistication and talent is very high. It all starts with the lead vocals of Courtney Swain. Her unique voice is at the center of these songs as she steers the music in whatever direction she pleases. The arrangements are refined and are not overtly prog but there are many proggy touches throughout these ten tracks. Tasty guitar and vocals highlight the disc's first tune "Terror Bird" with interjected keyboard laced change ups upping the progressive factor. "Hole" and "Holy Ghost" are catchy pop tracks with the latter having a Pretenders feel, especially Swain's lead vocals being somewhat reminiscent of Chrissie Hynde. Swain's voice takes on a jazzy inflection on the gentle "Insides In" while "These Hands" is one of the more progressive tracks with shimmering keyboards and as the music begins to build into a magnificent crescendo near song's end the guitarist lays down one of his best solos on the disc. More dramatic keyboard layers and guitar riffs can be heard in the title track before Swain's voice takes the band into quirkier territory. Back and forth it goes before mellow guitar and vocals gives the song a softer edge for a short time until soaring lead guitar and dramatic rhythms burst through the soundscape.

The final track "Boxes" has a more ambient vibe with an hypnotic beat that will really settle into your brain if you let it.

Although quite accessible Land Animal is still an album that may require a few spins to fully appreciate. For those into stylish pop music with a refined sensibility you really need to hear this disc. Oh yeah, prog fans should love it as well.

Bent Knee: Land Animal
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2017-07-27 19:11:23
My Score:

Land Animal is the latest release from Boston art-rockers Bent Knee, their fourth overall but first for progressive powerhouse label InsideOut. It's an interesting signing by the label, as Bent Knee don't actually fit squarely into the 'prog box' so to speak, their music an intriguing collision of indie, jazz, ambient, electronic, pop, R&B, avant-garde, some metal, and a touch of dub-step. Led by the overwhelming talents of vocalist/keyboard player Courtney Swain, the band also features guitarist Ben Levin, violinist Chris Baum, drummer Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth, bassist Jessica Kion, and producer/sound designer Vince Welch, Bent Knee are as eclectic as it gets. Swain's over the top, soaring vocals cross the line between R&B, rock, jazz, and pop, her 'Beth Hart on steroids' delivery on tunes such as "Holy Ghost", "Terror Bird", and the atmospheric "These Hands" is truly awe inspiring. The band jump back and forth between symphonic prog and majestic show tunes pop on the charming title track, and "Time Deer" almost comes across like The Gathering had they been more of a jazzy pop band.

As good as Swain is here, many of these songs lack that bit of 'punch' and certainly some instrumental flair that genre fans might crave. The entire band are truly skillful, but the arrangements don't allow for much exploration; these songs are more about tones, textures, and colors, so if you are looking for daring musical passages and solos, you've come to the wrong place. Superior vocals, quirky & varied arrangements, and a keen sense for the dramatic is the name of the game here, so if that sounds intriguing this eclectic little album just might be for you.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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