Bent Knee – You Know What They Mean: Album Review

Release Date: 11th October 2019

Label: Inside Out Music

Formats: CD, DL, gatefold LP

The band that gives Inside Out Music’s progressive tag a certain edge with their hybrid of progressive and creative art-rock.

While a proportion of the Inside Out roster may stretch to classic progressive works of lengthy proportions, Bent Knee’s longest songs might stretch to just over five minutes, but they’re a band who are more about invention and experimentation in moving forward.  I guess you could say it is really what defines ‘progressive’. Size matters? Occasionally, but perhaps it depends on what you have to say and how concisely and effectively you can say it.

Their fifth release, You Know What They Mean, seems to have been defined and shaped by two incidents and accidents that influenced the creation of the new songs. Drummer Gain Wallace-Ainsworth’s broken ankle from a stage fall and a traumatic tour bus accident provided the fuel for a ‘for better or worse’ philosophy. It’s resulted in what might not be Bent Knee as you know them, but you know what they mean…

Roused by a spirit of knuckling down and forging ahead, they’ve surfaced with songs that producer / sound designer / synth player Vince Welch has described as  “greatly simplified from anything we’ve done before.” It might not appear that way at first as an undeniable heaviness and a groove-oriented quality emerges. It swings between crossing King Crimson bizarreness with the big band swagger of Arcade Fire plus some whiffs of electronics and a philosophy that has avant-garde at its core.  

A philosophy that’s commemorated with an opening salvo of a lo-fi recording from the start of a live show that evolves into the uninhabited swerves of Bone Rage where  Courtney Swain kick starts a roller coaster switchback of an album with suitably wild abandon. Yes, it’s jagged and visceral with her impassioned delivery ranging from softly accompanying the delicate percussion of Egg Replacer and the stark and sparse piano on Bird Song to almost primal outpourings.

At times the distorted and industrial experimentation – Lovell sees them break down and start a discussion mid-track – gives a feeling of stepping into the rehearsal space, yet frequent periods of calm restraint litter the experience. It may take some time but Bent Knee is worth the investment in their genuinely state-of-the-art celebration of what doesn’t kill you makes you more strong.

Watch the video for Hold Me from the album:

Bent Knee online:

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Youtube / Bandcamp

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