By Matt Hinch
Kylesa are nothing if not prolific. From 2002 to 2012, the Savannah group has released five full studio albums along with a trio of splits, two EPs and three 7”s. Apparently not content to rest on their laurels anymore than necessary, Kylesa compiled From the Vaults Vol. 1 last November to hold their growing fan base over until their most recent release (Ultraviolet, released in May 2013). Relentless touring has honed this quintet into a potent force. So much so that the unreleased material presented here is quite formidable even if didn’t make its original release. In addition to those tracks, three alternate versions of older songs and two covers comprise the album. With one new track included of course!
Although From the Vaults is made up of tracks spanning the majority of their career, there is a cohesiveness that binds the tracks together. Each song bears some Kylesa trademark, more often than not the vocal interplay of co-vocalist/guitarists Laura Pleasants and Phillip Cope. The pair work as seemingly one mind, trading off as the movements of the track see fit. As is also known, Kylesa employ the use of two drummers in the form of Carl McGinley and Tyler Newberry (at the time. Eric Hernandez has returned to his throne). While this is not unique, (as pointed out to me by Pleasants and Cope in an unpublished 2009 interview) it certainly is not common. But at least their particular execution of the double drummer dynamic is unquestionably Kylesa.
The alternate versions culled from the vault, “111 Degree Heat Index”, “Between Silence and Sound” and “Bottom Line II” have been remastered and reworked, updating their feel to bring it more in line with their current material while maintaining the heart and essence of the originals. The rare tracks are equally fitting. “Inverse” pounds with a tribal beat and some of the most primal vocals the band has presented while working in some swirling melodies. “Paranoid Tempo” sounds like it’s from the Static Tensions sessions. Its constantly straightforward drive and upbeat manner could draw comparisons to Torche. “Wavering” is a pounding sludge fest with nimble riff work, crescendos and dreamy vocals.
New track “End Truth” slows the tempo mid-album with fluid bass lines courtesy of drummer-turned-bassist Eric Hernandez. It’s relaxing and psychedelic but not without some burliness. If this is where Kylesa is headed with their new album, I see no reason to worry.
The also relaxing “Bass Salts” leads into the first of two covers. The first is “Drained” by Buzzov-en. Draped in feedback and oozing bowel shaking sludge, Kylesa have cleaned up the song and added even more weight. Now, I see covers as serving two purposes. The first is paying homage to bands you like. The second is exposing fans to other bands you feel are essential or influential. This is exactly what Kylesa has done with their second cover. They’ve taken Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and made me want to go buy every Pink Floyd album. Kylesa maintains the heart and general structure of the original but made it all their own. While the Floyd version is a stoner’s wet dream, Kylesa’s take adds muscle and angst. It’s honestly one of the best covers I have ever heard.
The final track is simply titled “Drum Jam” and it’s exactly that. Both drummers pound out a tribal beat, accenting and complimenting each other. If you’ve never seen this live, you’re seriously missing out. The timing and co-ordination is amazing. In the flesh, it is jaw dropping. On record, it’s a perfect way the end the album.
From the Vaults Vol. 1 by no means sounds like a collection of songs. Despite being pulled from every stage of the band’s career, the album feels unified. Perhaps this is due to the production work of Cope. Stellar as always, he has homogenized the quality to the degree that this doesn’t sound like a compilation at all. From the Vaults more than satiated fans eagerly awaiting Ultraviolet’s release, and also serves as an excellent primer to the Kylesa pantheon for those just discovering the band. The question is; what goodies can we expect on Vol. 2?
(Season of Mist)