[9 September 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The year 2009 has seen a spoil of riches for Steve Kilbey fans. First, his solo album Painkiller received a North American release. Then came the Church’s career-high Untitled #23, followed by the publication of Robert Dean Lurie’s Kilbey biography, No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and the Church. Now comes Unseen Music Unheard Words, a collaboration with Martin Kennedy of Australian downtempo outfit All India Radio and Kilbey’s brother John.
These dozen tracks are appropriately atmospheric and ethereal. Kilbey handles all the vocals, his singular voice revealing more range and emotional depth with each passing year. Along with the expected mysticism and non-sequiturs, Kilbey’s lyrics are focused on remembrance and loss while the music is suitably spacious and surprisingly organic-sounding given Kennedy’s background. The clean, crisp arrangements and production may strike some as a little too adult alternative. However, they’re a nice counterpoint to the heavily textured, often dense sound of the Church’s recent output. The melodies are often subtle, but they’re rewarding. The bass harmonics on “Thought of Leaving” even give a wink back to the Church’s “You Took”. All in all, it makes for an extremely worthwhile effort. Kilbey and Kennedy must agree, as a second album is already in the works.