The Great Upheaval is the first proper full length album from Halifax post-rockers Kuato, and it hits all the bases you've come to expect from the band's numerous live shows. While a lot of the music themes are well established in in the genre - opening track New Home has a jangling slide guitar that gives it a Red Sparrows type vibe – the melodies and arrangements are fresh and clearly draw on a wide array of influences.
From there the album arches out into more long form songs, where the band really shows their strength. Good instrumental music is about balancing theme and variety, prowess with reliability, and the band finds a good balance between all them. The guitars are direct and provide the hooks that you'll hum for days afterwords, wandering while still keeping the idea contained in a single building melody that doesn't overstay it's welcome. The bass and drums propel the action forward and provide dynamic support to give the tracks lift and fall, and guests spots from tubas to pianos and more give contrast at just the right times.
Of course it's very hard to capture the full range of dynamics that a live show can have, and for the most part, the band focuses on emotional dynamics, knowing when to bring guitar lines in and out and when to push burst of drum energy throughout songs like Red Sand. The production throughout shows the time and care that was spent, from the thick rich bass tones of Ripped from the Soil to the ripping snare drum rolls of Battle of Bloody Creek, and the quirky elements of the live show, like guitar-pickup-amplifed screams have a chance to make it into the recorded versions.
The proper physical edition of the album comes on two LPs wrapped in the original artwork of bassist Stephen MacDonald. It's worth gazing upon while you listen to the record and contemplate the song titles, and it's clear that the band hasn't just picked some titles out of a hat, but made an effort to tell a conscious story, informed in part by the band's Acadian heritage (Google Battle of Bloody Creek if it's unclear), and the music shares the story in a non-narrative fashion, becoming more aggressive sounding by the final side of the record.
This is clearly a record that you, as a fan of instrumental music and emotional music in general, need to own; the band has managed to create a compelling record that doesn't just stand in the post-rock genre but in any space of modern music. While it may not match the sheer intensity of the live show, there are no moments on this record that will leave you bored; this record smartly balances the long form structures of post-rock with the catchy hooks and beats of pop and rock. All signs indicate that this is band that will only to grow, and they've shown clear progress from their early EPs to create a polished and moving record that will stick with you long after it leaves your turntable.
- Dan Nightingale 2014
Tonight, Kuato release their anticipated debut full-length, The Great Upheaval in the same venue in which it was recorded -- The Old Confidence Lodge Studio & Stage. This will be Kuato's first show in nearly a year.
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