Consummate and captivating songcrafters Steve Kilbey (of The Church) and Martin Kennedy (of All India Radio) have joined creative forces once again to form their 4th collaborative studio album, Inside We Are The Same, to be released on July 3rd on MGM Distribution in Australia and on CDBaby, Amazon, and iTunes worldwide. Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy have already taken listeners on transfixing and transportive mind’s eye journeys through 3 other studio albums (Unseen Music Unheard Words, White Magic, and You Are Everything). Those albums were full of lush and unrushed meditations and the occasional upbeat number like “Can’t Get Free” off of You Are Everything. Steve and Martin use that track as a springboard for some of what’s offered on Inside We Are The Same, exploring ‘rockier’ terrain with the incorporation of invigorating electric guitar lines and brisk drum tempos, yet still travelling through Martin’s expansive and spellbinding soundscapes and Steve’s mysterious to incisive lyrics and vocal delivery.
On Inside We Are The Same, as on previous SK & MK albums, Steve supplies the words (and vocals) and Martin provides the music. This time out the sonic voyage hits a few rough patches, but in the main it’s an enchanting trek that is smoothed out further by the addition of supporting vocals from Hollie Houlihan-Mckie and symphonic strings. The dreamily sweeping indie-rock opener “Amenia” materializes in a mist of vaporous synths until strong cymbal shimmer, an insistent, wiry guitar line, and emphatically beaten drums take over with a cantering pace. Steve sing-talks in a longing sigh that “The minutes are not limitless…” and “I’m alone in my race for the dark.” He’s headed headlong towards an end that we must all eventually face.
The ephemeral instrumental “Amenia II” is a conceptual bookend of sorts to “Amenia”, with wordless exhaled breaths from Steve and Martin’s radiant, windswept soundscape possibly emulating an arrival into the hereafter. It’s placed 4th in the tracklisting, but would serve better, at least in a thematic sense, by being the last song on the album. The slower paced “This Merciful Blur” (“…of distant memory to shelter me…”) is sonically calmer than “Amenia”, but it’s an emotional powder keg, with a vulnerable Steve singing plaintively that “The time slips away…” while an electric guitar line and intermittent violin pulls mirror Steve’s wistful vocal register.
The constantly up-tempo “Oh My Glad” seems to be an ode to enduring relationships in “a mad world”. Steve pushes out his vocals expressively on the verses, sounding a bit gravelly, fitting in perfectly with the rock style of the song. The bass line groove and drum beat provide an anchor for a gleaming electric guitar line to swoop freely skyward. Depending on listener receptivity, “This is the Universe”, with its inclusion of a Bjork-like-sounding children’s choir (courtesy of Kensington Primary School Early Birds Choir and arranged by Brooke Johnson), is either a pretentious affair or a sweet reminder that kids are the future of this world. Solemn suspended synths, warped electro-notes, and a low-key bubbling beat surround a ghostly Steve as he sing-talks in an inscrutable murmur about downed planes and sunken ships. Midway through the children’s glowing voices cycle through the song title, its refrain growing into an all-encompassing luminosity amid an erratically thumped drum beat.
“Shegaze” is not exactly the shoegaze song it titularly seems to indicate at first, instead wallowing in a wobbly vintage synths sound and featuring deeper spoken word from Steve about the plight of a “regular man” in the jungle of the modern world. Steve’s ruminations that “It’s a rough time to be alive / and it’s all crumblin’ around you.” are spot-on but bleak. The lyrics-focused drive is buoyed by an incandescent grind of guitar on the chorus and an uplifting finale that beats in both dreamy vocal reverie and poignant symphonic strings.
The gently slow-burning duet between between Steve and Hollie (Or maybe it’s a threesome considering the additional vocals from Katie Marie…) on “Elude” floats on a brooding cloud of extended synths, soft cymbal ticks, contemplative piano notes, and little ripples of acoustic guitar. Steve and Hollie delicately trade and shadow each other’s vocal lines amid Martin’s draping cascades of electric guitar, bemoaning melancholically that “You have eluded me… / You have deluded me / and I see it… in your eye.” “Swansea” brims with brightly swimming electric guitar chime, electro-note runs, acoustic guitar strum, and a steadily tocking beat. Steve yearningly sing-talks the complicated, mostly indecipherable, lyrics, expressing that he dreams “…of being what you wanted me to be.” except for that darn issue of “insolvency”… If the words could be heard clearly, the song would have more impact.
“Theodora” touches upon mortality and the passage of time, picking up the pace with a prominent low-end bass line and fast-tapped drum beat. It moves from a more reflective mood to a vivid rock guitar finish. Steve is backed by Hollie, as she hovers ethereally over his stark words that “We all go away eventually / Eventually you’ll grow up…” Steve and Martin pare it down just a hair on the barely sparer “Ho Chi Min”. Hollie’s beguiling coos grace the beginning of the track before being joined by a measured syncopated beat, short riffs of acoustic guitar, and restless electronic bleeps in the background. A velvety-vocal Steve comes in amid hushed, suspended synths, slowly drawing out the words “I’m only here today.”
Lambent, expansive synth notes and acoustic guitar strum merge with Steve’s emotively fragile vocals on last track “Once”, as he intones “I stand by your side… / Inside we are the same.” Electric guitar curls, a soft drum beat, and Hollie’s light vocals mix with Steve’s mysterious whispers. Steve’s and Hollie’s voices intertwine and blur until they arrive at the end of the line, where Steve states with matter-of-fact finality “…in a shadow slumber / your number just came up.” The trip has been sonically tantalizing, lyrically enlightening, and vocally bittersweet, but now the destination has been reached…