Ireland’s master genre-blender, David Kitt, returns to front-line action with his ninth album
Release Date: 31st March 2023
Label: RE:WARM Records
Formats: CD (limited edition), Vinyl, Download, Streaming
Irish musician David Kitt is known to be something of a genre-blender, and that’s a talent that he brings by the bucketload to Idiot Check, his ninth album, as he explores and reworks a range of influences that include ambient, jazz, electronica and traditional folk. And it works surprisingly well!
Idiot Check has had a long incubation. Written variously in Dublin, Paris and, most recently, in the village of Ballinskelligs in south-west Kerry, the place that Dubliner David now calls home, the album’s earliest compositions leaked from David’s pen as long ago as 2016, and the finishing touches were made during the final stages of lockdown in 2022. It’s pretty well all David’s own work, too; he recorded and produced the album himself, using his Breaking Bad mobile studio set-up and he plays just about everything that’s to be heard on the album. He’s not been completely without assistance, though – his long-time collaborator Katie Kim contributes some pretty splendid backing vocals to several of the tracks and Dylan Lynch from Dublin alt-pop outfit Soda Blonde plays drums on the album’s closing track, Wave Of Peace. Perhaps David’s real coup d’état, though, is managing to secure the services of Canadian singer-songwriter Mary Margaret O’Hara to provide some of the spookiest backing vocals you’ll ever hear on Oh Folly, one of the album’s centrepiece tracks.
David Kitt has been around a long time – it’s actually 23 years since his debut album, Small Moments, sneaked into the shops, to rumblings of interest from those in the know. His big moment arrived in 2001 when his second album, The Big Romance achieved double-platinum sales in Ireland and attracted the attention of media pundits in both the UK and the USA. Follow-up album, Square 1 (2003) did even better, hitting the number one spot in the Irish album charts and, along the way, David secured a spot at the 2002, David Bowie-curated, Meltdown Festival.
Whilst his albums have continued to receive critical praise, David has never quite managed to replicate his successes of the early noughties, although relationships he established with the likes of Tindersticks and David Gray continue to flourish. Indeed, as I write, he’s just completed a short tour of the UK and Ireland supporting Mr Gray. David Kitt remains a highly respected musician.
Idiot Check is a fine example of David’s ability to blend acoustic instrumentation with a range of electronic elements and to combine that musical approach with a lyrical gift that finds David exploring topics as diverse as relationship breakdown, the impact of lockdown, socio-political issues and religion. The songs are, alternately, intimate, ethereal, challenging, sometimes scary and frequently compulsive. David’s tunes are unusual, yet immediately likeable and the signature genre-blending is imaginative, effective and never, ever predictable.
The die is cast right from the start with opening track, Every Little Drop – a compelling concoction of lo-fi electronica and folk, with a sprinkling of jazz thrown in for good measure. The combination of strummed acoustic guitar and synth sounds that is such a feature of the album is pleasantly surprising, and Katie’s harmony vocals are an enticing appetizer for what’s to come.
The percussion-heavy Not Too Soon is upbeat and enjoyable, before things take a sharp left turn for the spacy, fuzzy Wishing Well. Wishing Well is one of the album’s slow-burners, peppered with interesting sounds that range from a gut-rumbling bass, spacy whoops, sprinkles of tinkly, dreamy, keyboard and a driving drumbeat. It’s all very engaging and very rewarding.
Guest Mary Margaret O’Hara makes her appearance in Oh Folly, one of the album’s genuine highlights. David sounds as though he’s whispering in your ear as he delivers his intimate vocal, whilst Mary Margaret’s eerie moans give the song a feel that’s truly ghostly. The resonant keyboard notes and the strained howls that comprise the song’s instrumental backing are equally spooky and the overall impact is almost Beefheartian in its structure, delivery and grandeur.
The mood is lightened, somewhat, for the quickfire It’s In Some Of Us, and this time it’s Katie who chips in with the spooky sounds… The percussive rhythm to Leave Me Making was almost strong enough to cause my coffee to jump out of its cup, whilst the song’s keyboard flourishes were lighter than air – another of the album’s delightful contrasts.
The folky Wexford Strawberries is, perhaps, my favourite track on the album. It’s another song that builds slowly and insistently as David provides his own vocal harmonies to a backing of acoustic guitar and a driving percussive rhythm. And the song’s lyric recalls a sad, unfortunate experience, as David explains: “My partner had moved home to Australia and my intention had always been to follow her. But COVID completely changed the situation and, unfortunately, our relationship didn’t survive the pandemic.”
Katie’s backing vocals and, particularly, her whispered reassurances that “I’ll be with you till the end” are a sheer delight on Till The End, another song that’s propelled along by a foundation-shaking synth rhythm, before David takes another leftward swerve for the bouncy, folky, Balances. Described as a “jovial, traditional folk cut,” its inclusion here is not as incongruous as it might sound. David’s acoustic guitar provides the folky reference point, but the jumble of percussive effects serve to remind the listener that nothing is as it seems in David Kitt world, and the deep synth lines sound remarkably similar to a tuba. It’s all very fascinating, and it’s good fun too!
Closing track, Wave Of Peace is, perhaps, the most accessible track on the album. Dylan Lynch plays drums and the conventional kit helps to give the song an easy-going poppy feel – a feel that’s enhanced by the wonderful harmony vocals that David sings with Katie. It’s a happy and contented end to a remarkable album.
David Kitt will be playing dates in the UK and Ireland this spring, starting with an album launch celebration at Ifor Bach in Cardiff on 31st March. Full details of the tour are available here.
listen to Wishing Well – a song from the album – here:
David Kitt online: Website / Instagram / Spotify / Bandcamp
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