splendid > reviews > 2/10/2003
Airs Above Your Station
Sub Pop

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Waves of Second Guessing"

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Kinski write monstrously big songs -- massive, lumbering instrumentals (mostly) full of guitar riffs powerful enough to knock downtown office buildings. Predictably, these gargantuan compositions don't move quickly; with the exception of convention-flouting pop nugget "Rhode Island Freakout", they trundle forward with epic-level inertia. Songs such as "Schedule for Using Pillows & Beanbags" and "Your Lights Are (Out or) Burning Badly" slog gradually from build-up to extended flame-out, as nimble -- and as self-contained -- as battleships. It may take them several minutes to execute a metaphorical right-turn, but when you're along for the ride it'll seem like seconds -- seconds spent in a blissful haze of white noise and psychedelia.

Ever seen Bardo Pond open for Mogwai (or Godspeed You Black Emperor) and wished that you could mix and match the two acts -- get Bardo's mind-expanding, explorative rock-outs without the attendant druggie excesses, and Mogwai's crescendoing grandeur minus the hard-edged, joyless pomposity? Kinski's your band. Let's grab a track at random -- how about "Waves of Second Guessing"? Eight minutes, 22 seconds, leading off in gently-lapping waves of resonant, heavenly harmonic drone. The waves -- bowed electric guitar-strings? -- gain volume, and their unstructured melodies grow more complex, as the piece floats forward, and once we hit the halfway point it's obvious that there's a simple melody biding its time beneath all the gauzy stuff. Then, with three minutes to go, the song explodes -- a fuzzed out intro and pulsing kick drum herald a blossoming flare-up, all thwubbing bass and cascading drums, noodly psych-out melody with gut-wrenching feedback jabs at the line-ends. Damn, what a payoff. When you hear stuff like this live, the experience usually winds up on your list of Best Shows Ever -- the stage-lights go all blinding-white, and your skin feels like it's electrified, and you're convinced the amps are pumping out gale-force winds. Call it a tantric orgasm, indie-rock style, if you'd like. The people who'll laugh at you for saying that haven't heard Airs Above Your Station.

And of course, there are other albums like it. The Kinski experience is neither entirely unique nor excessively derivative, and their variation on the whole crescendo-to-climax oeuvre is both refreshingly earthy and mercifully light on mawkish technique-showcasing. You won't hear "Steve's Basement"'s sludgy, post-Sabbath destruct-a-thon elsewhere, and "Schedule for Using Pillows & Beanbags", while it leans on a comfortable retro-goth-metal framework, squeezes extra laps from its concept in a third-act maelstrom. And if "I Think I Blew It" and its reprise, "I Think I Blew It Again", cheat by offering the ambient lead-in but withholding the balls-out payoff, you can always take the four minute "Rhode Island Freakout"'s ultra-heavy, Dino Jr.-on-major-steroids excesses as compensation.

In short, this may not be an album you'll want to listen to every day, but its disproportionate number of "Holy shit!" moments should earn it a spot close to your stereo.

Airs Above Your Station is clearly meant to be enjoyed at dangerously high volume, with the listener in a prone and receptive position -- for instance, slumped smack in the middle of your surround-sound rig's sweet spot (call it the eye of the storm). Clear plenty of room on the sofa, ingest whatever pharmaceutical shortcuts you require to get good and relaxed, kick the volume up to eviction-threat levels and let Kinski separate your mind from your body.



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