Album Review: Steve Kilbey (The Church) and Martin Kennedy (All India Radio) are Kilbey/Kennedy and they combine forces again to weave their aesthetically jaw-dropping sci-fi sonic magic.

The Breakdown

With the mix of Kennedy's multi-instrumental retro sci-fi shimmer and sparkle and Kilbey's spiritual aestheticism and lyrical mysticism, the result is as ever something that exceeds the sum of its parts to achieve something quite magnificent.
MGM/Foghorn Records 9.5

Steve Kilbey (The Church) and Martin Kennedy (All India Radio) separately produce some of the most stunning music coming out of Australia in their various guises. Kilbey – so prolific in 2021 – has been relatively quiet recording-wise this year while touring extensively, both solo and with The Church as well as finalising the new Church album. Kennedy has only just released a new All India Radio album (‘The Generator of All Infinity‘) and in a swift sucker punch released his new collaboration with Kilbey.

The last time Kilbey/Kennedy got together as a duo was one of the most outstanding releases of 2021 – ‘Jupiter 13’ – my album of the year and in Backseat Mafia’s top 50 releases. Now, we are gifted the magnificent ‘The Strange Life of Persephone Nimbus’. With the mix of Kennedy’s multi-instrumental retro sci-fi shimmer and sparkle and Kilbey’s spiritual aestheticism and lyrical mysticism, the result is, as ever, something that exceeds the sum of its parts to achieve something quite magnificent.

As ever, strange tales are told: we are transported into an ethereal world brimming with vivid imagery and wonder, a broad canvas upon which Kennedy lays down his magnificent other worldly multi-layered instrumentals and Kilbey creates a mystifying and celestial world. Kilbey says of the story behind album:

Persephone Nimbus was just an ordinary woman living an ordinary life, with a promising job at Eternity Incorporated. Until one day she was kidnapped by the Plutocracy. There she reigned for 6 months of the year, a sad cold queen of the dark webbed world …

But for 6 months of the year she was allowed to ascend to the Overworld with its marvelous technological illusions. And it’s towers that pierced the very sky …

But on the first day of every autumn she must take the long staircase back down, down into the Plutocracy, with their frozen lakes and above them, a sky of iron.

Kilbey’s imagination soars into the ether yet again, carried by the esoteric psychedelic instrumentation that Kennedy perfects.

After a brief intro, ‘Goldman & Narcissus’, featuring vocals from Leona Gray, launches us into space with the usual delicate melodies and opaque storytelling. Kilbey’s ear for melody comes to the fore in ‘A New Planet’ in a track brimming with a melancholy glow over swelling strings.

With a number of atmospheric interludes such as ‘I Know What I Have To Do’, ‘Room’ and ‘Please Alight’, the duo’s agility with mixing an air of psychedelia with a commercial pop sensibility is on full display in tracks like ‘Galaxy’: sky scraping choruses that are heartbreakingly beautiful with a stately presence, and echoes of The Church. ‘Persephone’ has an eighties new wave drive that canters along at a high stepping trot with Kilbey’s wry, sardonic tones.

‘When Time Has Run Out’ is a wide screen epic: vast endless horizons with the arpeggiated instrumentals creating a wondrous billowing pillow of clouds under Kilbey’s vocals: euphoric and exultant.

And the duo can turn the dial down with great effect: the balladry of ‘Jesus Warehouse & Judas Smith’ features delicately picked acoustic guitars and delicate harmonies and ‘There Were Times’ is infused with an exquisite sense of longing.

The world of Kilbey/Kennedy positively shimmers and sparkles in the firmament.

‘The Strange Life of Persephone Nimbus’ is out on 28 October 2022 through Foghorn Records and available through the link below and can be pre-ordered here. A vinyl version will be available in the new year.

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  1. […] first concept album, but it not a new weapon in Kilbey’s armour. Recent collaborations with Martin Kennedy (All India Radio), Glenn Bennie (Underground Lovers) and Gareth Koch have either been concept […]

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