'Piece by Piece'- Inklings / Turned Up Louder
The music world is abuzz with discussion in this day and age about artists who have deviated from the creative path and style that awarded them their notoriety, in favour of a vastly different, usually more commercially viable sound and aesthetic. While this transition is often met with derision, and at times outward malice, by the fans of the bands making this leap of faith, one man whose switch in musical endeavours has garnered him much praise is former Fearless Vampire Killers (known colloquially as FVK) guitarist and vocalist Kier Kemp. Following the disbandment of FVK in 2016, Kemp went on to form Inklings, a new outfit with a vastly different musical focus than the theatrical, dark alt-rock platform upon which FVK stood high and mighty. The result of this new musical endeavour is ‘Piece by Piece’, a soft yet well-crafted body of delicate pop rock tunes. The whole record is wrapped in what feels like a fragile layer of fine musical silk: it carries a pale, self-composed delicacy throughout, as each track crests and recedes with a calming grace.
Bristling with static, the haunting, almost angelic synths of the ‘Intro’ dissolve to give way to lead single ‘Ambush’. Grandiose and melodic, the low bass rumbles with a soft, sultry edge, as the guitar ripples like a pebble dropped in a millpond and builds, lying like satin over the softly swirling dreamscape. The track is infinitely airy and breezy, with harmonies half-whispered and the chattering of the drums nestled in the back of the verses, it oozes a palpable synthesised delicacy.
Brittle and crunchy, the guitar tone of ‘Let Me Know You’re Alright’ reverberates through the delicate strain, before the pulsing pop rock melody kicks in in a bright explosion of colour. As fresh and airy as it is possible to be, it is the perfect soundtrack to many a movie-perfect teenage road-trip, with its chorus of synths that are as effervescent as popping candy! By contrast, the opening verse of ‘Settle Down’ is slow and seductive, as synths ebb and flow like shooting stars across the dark, dreamy backdrop of the melody, in tandem with the reverberating vocals. The whole atmosphere of the track is soft and silky, and the addition of more drums in the second verse give it some greater presence, as ethereal whispers weave their way into the fringes of the melody- it simply begs to be accompanied by a sea of shimmering phone lights.
Pulses of space-age synths greet the opening of ‘Holding Out’, crafting a sound that carries a tone like the poppier offspring of early Angels and Airwaves records. Driven by a simple pattern of drum beats, the arrival of the chorus promises a swooping upswing, yet it doesn’t quite deliver the gut-wrenching punch that is characteristic of a song borne from such anguish. That is, until the final chorus, when something deep and heartfelt that had been bubbling away just below the surface of this track comes to the fore, and the backing of a chorale of harmonies give it the added gravitas that it was craving. Wrapping up in style, the final guitar solo is a wonderfully unexpected delight wrapped in an impenetrable delicacy.
Speaking of wrapping up in style, the EP’s closing track ‘Answers’ appears to deliver in that sentiment with great flair. Shivering piano notes, stripped back with just the occasional synthesised twinkle permeate the caramel smooth notes, which converge to create a poignant song of redemption, acceptance and leaving your past grievances behind. Set over the pulse of a synthesised drum, the track meanders through delicate tones and shades, all building towards an anthemic final chorus, that then sadly doesn’t make an appearance, instead being replaced with a sea of harmonies that surge and then retreat through the myriad of swirling synth tones.
While those fans of FVK hoping for a repeat of the same may be disappointed by this new creative direction taken by Kemp and Inklings, his commitment to reinvention and to his own creative desires can garner nothing but praise. ‘Piece by Piece’ has all the hallmarks of great musicianship, yet it is also unafraid to dalliance with some experimental elements that will endear these tracks deeply to old and new fans alike. The atmosphere that permeates every crevice of this record is perhaps the most impressive of all- these songs may feel fragile and elusive, yet the impact of this record on those who connect with it most will undeniably be anything but.
‘Piece by Piece’ is due for release on May 10th via Marshall Records.
Check out the video for the lead single from the record, ‘Ambush’, below: