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Attic Salt

Attic Salt
(Troubleman Unlimited)

Kepler is a group that has slowly and steadily released a string of decent albums pretty much under the radar of everyone but those who saw them in concert or dug a little past the surface of most major review publications (printed or online). I've only heard a little bit of their work to date, but based on that small fraction, I can say that Attic Salt marks a solid step further for the group. Somewhat difficult to classify with a simply genre label (they mix everything from Americana rock to slow core), hopefully the group will attract a little more attention for this release.

The album opens with "Broken Bottles Blackened Hearts" and it's a simmering gem that hangs delightfully on a dark precipice without ever falling over the edge. Singer Samir Khan delivers lines in a broken, world weary way, while guitar feedback, subtle loops, and washing percussion wrap like smoke tendrils around a minimal piano melody. The song ends as if the tape itself were severed, and the group is onto "Thoroughbred Gin," a more upbeat, guitar driven track that winds through a batch of unexpected chord and structure changes that keep things fresh for the almost six minute running length.

Although there aren't any huge dynamic changes on the release, the group add and subtract elements here and there and keep things interesting with a wide range of instrumentation and solid songcraft throughout. "My Other" bleeds some steel guitar into the mix alongside some almost strutting guitars while "You Must Admit" mixes organ, piano, and some "whoo hoo" backing vocals for a very 70s rock influence.

The bottom third of the release lags a bit as the group keeps things slow and lush for the closing tracks, but it's a minor nitpick with an album that has so many other fine points. Fine attention has definitely been paid to the recording and layering of instrumentation, and lyrically the group mines some rugged territory in ways that fit alongside their output perfectly. Imagine Bedhead crossed with the Being There-era Wilco and you're getting somewhere close. With nine tracks and just under forty minutes of music, Attic Salt is a concise album that burns a bit bleak, but paints a compelling canvas while doing so.

Rating: 7.75