Album Review - Kuato EP

Review by Dan Nightingale

Check out the EP for the low price of FREE on Kuato's bandcamp!

Kuato are a new band from Halifax, featuring an eclectic mix of musicians united around one goal: creating intense, heavy, sprawling instrumental music. While Halifax has a long history of experimental music, Kuato are part of a new wave of Halifax bands devoted to instrumental, post-rock, and post-metal sounds. Technically the history probably stretches back to The Motes, who were neither a post-rock band nor from Halifax – they did, however, eventually evolve into INSTRUMENTS, probably the unspoken standard by which most Halifax instrumental rock is measured. The Audiens were probably the first Halifax band that I'm aware of that was firmly rooted in the post-rock tradition, which of course was pioneered among others by fellow scruffy Canadians Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

My former band Tomcat Combat played one of our first shows at  The Audiens' last show, and carried the torch for another 5 years after that. Since we started, the number of Halifax bands and musicians I've seen influenced by this style has grown, and Kuato are, in my mind, at the start of the second wave of Halifax instrumental music. While at the core, their music follows many of the well worn techniques of post-rock music, like bowed guitars, deep echoing basslines, screaming feedback, and intensely picked, reverb soaked guitar drones, they also nicely fuse the Halifax/East Coast heavy/math rock sound thanks perhaps in part to drummer Pinky's involvement with recently deceased Halifax hard rockers The Establishment. The 9:00 minute mark of “Al-jazebra” illustrates this nicely, fusing a marching GYBE type with a solid Contrived style heavy backbeat.

Clocking in at just under 15:00 minutes, “Al-jazebra” manages to carry a consistent theme throughout the length of the song, while still varying wildly in tempo, structure, and dynamic. As you pass the 12 minute mark it's like the band is slowly evolving into The Melvins without dropping the vaguely middle eastern guitar weave that holds the song together. Amazingly thick crunchy bass rides wave after wave of intense drum flourishes before finally fading out in a sea of cymbals and feedback.

The second and last track on the EP, “Nazi Synthesizers,” (when you only have two song names on your album, they had better be awesome – checkmark), is so good that I feel silly trying to describe it. It's music, and it's beautiful, and needless to say it's perfectly played, not to mention well recorded. Every great band is, in some way, built around a great drummer, whether it's live, or in the studio, and like a lot of great rockers, the band is free to play around their drummer and know that the beat will always be solid, no matter how intricate. The drumming on this track almost recalls that of Do Make Say Think or Tortoise – but of course, they do it with two drummers (cheaters). Strong fuzz melody gives this track a lead voice that gives those used to a lyrical melody something to hum. At first you wonder how the band will carry the song past what seems like it's inevitable conclusion around the 5:00 mark.

Fortunately another fuzzy guitar run rips out of no where and the band launches off again with no loss of energy. It's great that they know when to put an instrument out front – a lot of vocal-less bands are afraid to put anything out of balance, but these guys realize that the listener needs something to grab onto, and something to support that. Even better, it's always the right tool for the job – whether it's the bass, the drums, or the warping feedback of an out of control delay pedal. Even more points for keeping their output to a nice, clean 25 minutes – not too long, not to short. That was the time we always used to base our sets on, and it's just the right amount of music to hear in this context. No instrumental band needs a 71 minute album as their first release. Kuato leaves you wanting more, so much more - so as soon as you get the chance, go out and see these guys, and get the album, and hope they stick around longer than this EP, because they're going to be something big if they can put the time in.


Kuato are playing tomorrow night at Gus' Pub - the first stop on their Maritime tour with Quiet Parade!

Nov 11th - Halifax NS
Gus' Pub
Kuato/ Quiet Parade/ Ocean Towers

Nov 12th - Fredericton NB
Gallery Connexion
Duke Haiku/ Kuato/ Quiet Parade

Nov 13th - Charlottetown PEI
Cashmere Disciples/ Trips and Falls/ Kuato/ Quiet Parade


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