Sometimes, when you get lucky, you get a band which takes an approach to rock music that takes it completely, almost devotedly seriously as art. And sometimes, when you get very lucky, that art has a brass section. Anyone who is about to listen to the debut EP by Brighton’s own Opus Kink, out on June 17th for Nice Swan Records, is about to get extremely lucky.
After releasing a series of increasingly tantalising singles and playing some rather exhilarating live shows (most recently on tour supporting FEET,) the sextet have now put together an EP they describe as “six songs of bad love, ill winds, possession, stagnation, and earthly delights.” It is an apt summary for a record that’s thick with poignant, carefully crafted, in places, unsettling lyrics; a feat of storytelling as well as music. This storytelling element is one of the strongest features, setting this EP apart, indeed; it is particularly successful in the way that the lyrics and the music work together in painting a vivid picture, the descriptions outlined by sound compounding those created by the words into a whole that is smoothly and accurately delivered. There truly is a raconteur’s grace to the band’s blend of rock, blues, and country suggestions, brought together with a subtly punk edge and a shrewd use of vocals, both main and backing, all meant to summon an atmosphere which is somewhere in between old western movie and late night in a dingy bar.
Then, of course, there is the sound, too. I love a band with a busy line-up; minimalism is nice but the skill required to build a sound out of many pieces and make them all work finely together towards a common goal is a rare one, and it is a joy when it is found. Opus Kink have plenty of it: in every single one of the six tracks contained in this EP there is a whole lot happening, but you wouldn’t notice at first—only when you dive under the surface of the deceptively easy listening (wading, so to speak, ‘Into The Stream,’ as the lush instrumental opener suggests) you notice how many moving parts there are in the composition of every single one of these songs. This makes for a rich, textured, enveloping sound, drawing you in from the very first notes and proving surprising at every turn without ever losing consistency.
The blues and country mood might be the first thing that’s noticed here—check out those Calexico-like brass parts on ‘I Love You, Baby,’ for instance; or the way in which Angus Rogers’ vocals, in that same track and elsewhere, have almost an echo of the great Howe Gelb in them. But there is so much more to it than this devils-and-dust mood; those very same vocals can turn to an almost-shouted punk growl, the brass is compounded by a sneaky thread of electronica, and the scratchy, bold guitars are pure hard-rock. The staccato rhythm in ‘(I’m Going Down To That) Hole In the Ground‘ is pure jazz, but the vocals and drumming have something of the post-punk, performance-art-adjacent mood that draws its roots from ’80s London. ‘The Unrepentant Soldier‘ is a catchy cavalcade with a bit more of a Giant Sand déjà-vu mood which then devolves in cathartic madness towards the end. Single ‘Dog Stay Down‘ makes for multiple re-listenings with remarkable ease and would not at all be out of place on the Peaky Blinders soundtrack. The closer, eponymous track ‘‘Til the Stream Runs Dry,’ has a haunting bass line coursing through it and is almost a summary of the exhilarating blend of sharp lyrics and soft-and-hard sound this band is capable of, going from pure Sergio Leone to electronic-infused roaring at the drop of a hat—and then making them both work at once. My stand-out track for this record, the monumental ‘St. Paul Of The Tarantulas,’ sounds almost like a spell or a summoning and has a perfect measuring of tempo and pauses, almost a hallucination made music.
It is one of the most surprising records I have listened to this year, one of the boldest and one of the most deeply artful. Opus Kink have created a thing of beauty; dirty, stark, complicated and unrepentant. It is impossible to listen to it without getting deeply enmeshed in its mood; surrendering to it is the only way to go—going with the flow until the stream runs dry.
Opus Kink will be touring the UK in September with a selection of headline shows scheduled for:
Photo Credit: Berhnard Deckert