Album Review: Kidsmoke – A Vision in the Dark

There is an ethereal majestic sheen that permeates the new album from Kidsmoke. It may well stem from the wild and beautiful landscapes of northern Wales, where the band comes from, but nonetheless sparkles and glitters like a golden thread throughout ‘A Vision in the Dark’. Every track on this vital album is imbued with a sense of innocent optimism, despite antithetically being drenched in an air of wistful longing. It’s a remarkable balancing act.

Second single and second track, ‘Layla’s Love’, captures this dichotomy so well. Chiming guitars and effervescent rhythms underpin the deep longing in the vocals. Of the song, singer/guitar player Lance says

This song is a retrospective story about a relationship. Trying to answer all those questions that weigh you down, like ‘could things have been different if I……? Ultimately, the main character comes to terms with the fact that they’re now a better person because of the relationship and that’s something they’ll ‘never lose’. I’m a big fan of Prefab Sprout and love the way they utilise the male/female vocals; the a dream-like section, when the main character is having an imaginary conversation with ‘Layla’ is my favourite moment on the album.

Similarly, ‘Colourfield’ is imbued with longing and catchy melodies over the crisp instrumentation. Songs like ‘Higher’ bring to the fore the distinctive jingle jangle guitar riffs that are threaded throughout the album – a Johnny Marr level of intricacy and melody. Of this track, James Stickels (bass and vocals) says:

This is another song written in a strange tuning – which makes it difficult to record the guitars, and also play live. I wrote this whilst living in Manchester, my girlfriend worked Saturdays at the time and I’d spend most of those days watching television trying to subconsciously find interesting chord progressions.

Kindsmoke also create vaulting harmonies in the interplay between the voices of Williams and Sophie Ballamy (guitars) and Stickels, augmenting the gorgeous melodies that stick like superglue.

The last track, ‘The Bluest You’, was the first single off the album and reviewed by me back in May. It is, as noted, a glorious anthemic track with its spectral guitars and awash with a celestial imperial glow.

It is challenging to compare the music to any other bands. There is a Smiths jangle, the frenetic pace of Arcade Fire, a Cocteau Twins wash of sound. This is certainly dream pop of the highest order.

‘A Vision in the Dark’ is ultimately a summery blast of brightness, shining through aching romanticism and self-reflection. You can get it through the link below:

The Institutes are:

Reid Currie – Vocals
Andy Hall – Guitar/Vocals
Andy Lowe – Bass
Kirk Savage – Drums

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