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Last Thursday night I went to the Crocodile Cafe to see Kinski playing their official CD release show for their new album, Down Below It's Chaos - although it was actually released a month ago and they played at Easy Street Records that week. Unfortunately I missed the first opening act, but I was in time to catch the second act, Wolves in the Throne Room.

Wolves in the Throne Room are a trio on guitar, bass and vocals, and drums. With a name like that, it should come as no surprise that they are a metal band, complete with hoarsely screamed vocals and vigorous headbanging. They played only three songs, though each was over 10 minutes long - the last one was easily a 20-minute epic with at least three false endings. The music involved a lot of thrashing about, both musically and physically. The first song was just an endless drone of thrash, but the latter two involved melodic bits that showed they could actually play a tune when they wanted to. I couldn't help being reminded of Animal from the Muppets - they might start with a nice melody, but then they'd be overcome by METAL and break into the thrashing and screaming, after a while calming down enough to do a little more melody before thrashing out again. I can't say whether they were good or bad, as I have no good idea how to judge what they do, but clearly this was not a band for me.

Kinski are the quartet of Chris Martin (guitar and vocals), Matthew Reid-Schwartz (guitar, keyboard and flute), Lucy Atkinson (bass), and Barrett Wilke (drums). They played a half-dozen songs from their new album, plus a couple from 2005's Alpine Static and one from 2003's Airs Above Your Station. Their largely instrumental music has been tending toward straight-up hard rock, but they still have an experimental, art-rock edge to their work. This was evident for example in the encore, when they came back on stage one at a time to gradually build the opening of the song, layering flute on top of bowed bass guitar, guitar loops next, then adding keyboard, and finally bringing in the drums. Likewise, to open their set, they each started playing apparently random riffs and noise until Martin's guitar cut into the beginning of "The Wives of Artie Shaw". The new songs have less of this sort of experimentation, and Kinski played fewer freeform transitions between songs than past shows. But even if lately Kinski is emphasizing the rock in art rock, they haven't forgotten or neglected their artistry either, and that artistry is present throughout the music. Their performance was great as always, and I had a good time.

Kinski: Lucy bowing her bass

Kinski in motion

Kinski setlist (readable)


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