Release Date: Jul 7, 2017
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
"To be patient and awake / There are things to learn here, Kate", sings Kate Stables on Moonshine Freeze's opening track. 'Bullet Proof' opens the fourth album from indie folk outfit This is the Kit, as Stables' rich vocals glide over a charming picked guitar melody. The Paris-based musician seems to be giving herself a pep talk as she sings this luscious tune to herself.
P aris-based Kate Stables returned to Bristol for her fourth album, with production duties undertaken by longtime PJ Harvey foil John Parish. There might be echoes of Dry-era Polly Jean on Hotter Colder (if Dry had featured wild sax solos), but for the most part this is a highly individual take on alt-folk. Musically, there's a wealth of ideas, Parish's minimalist arrangements allowing each instrument room to breathe and foregrounding Stables's vocals - a wise move, as her lyrics are intriguing.
Kate Stables is usually the only person in This Is the Kit's press photos, yet her newest album, Moonshine Freeze, is a pretty communal affair. Stables has always had a band backing her up--three wonderful LPs precede this latest effort--but the ensemble cast of collaborators she's gathered for her newest album allows her to employ new arrangements and access deeper emotions. With incredibly reputable figures such as legendary producer John Parish (PJ Harvey, Perfume Genius) and The National's Aaron Dessner (who produced TITK's previous album, Bashed Out) offering their support, Moonshine Freeze is the peak of an uphill path Stables has traced since her earliest recordings at the turn of the decade.
Sparkling banjo arpeggios; freak-out saxophone; John Parish's inventive production; a wealth of strong, beautifully-enunciated vocal melodies - tons has gone into the latest work from Kate Stables, aka This Is The Kit, and all of it is good. Even the album's song titles pack music (Two Pence Piece; Riddled With Ticks), while Stables's richly poetic lyrics can be fascinatingly esoteric ("cycles of three triangles are tricky") or comfortingly colloquial ("What a proper pair of Charlies!"). Fans of Sufjan Stevens's Carrie & Lowell should fall for Bullet Proof and Easy On The Thieves, and throughout Moonshine Freeze there's a similarly gratifying sense of a capable artist raising the alt-folk bar.
There's a song a little way into Moonshine Freeze, the fourth album by Kate Stables' This Is The Kit, called Easy On The Thieves that - on the very surface - isn't far from the sort of thing that ad agencies decided a while back would flog us insurance and fancy plimsolls. There's an appealingly plucked banjo, a plaintive vocal - demographic targets are being totally reached now guys! But hold on, rather than the faint irritation of the "zone out, wait for the Skip Ad countdown to end" effect, you quickly realise that there's something an awful lot more substantial going on here. Stables begins in an almost disarmingly direct manner, "We've been going easy on the thieves.
This Is the Kit (essentially an alias of Kate Stables and her ever evolving and revolving group of musicians) have come full circle for her fourth full-length outing. Stables chose to return to Bristol for the recording of Moonshine Freeze, and enlisted the production talents of John Parish (PJ Harvey), who also worked on her debut, Krulle Bol, in 2008. It's been over ten years since Sunday Best Recordings included "Two Wooden Spoons" on its Folk Off compilation, and a couple of years after her breakthrough record, Bashed Out, was released.
This Is the Kit is a band led by Kate Stables with a fluid community of collaborators, including Aaron Dessner (the National), and John Parish (longtime PJ Harvey producer). Band members Jamie Whitby-Coles, Rozi Plain, Neil Smith and Jesse D. Vernon have been around for at least an album or two (and many shows), and the collective chemistry is conveyed strongly. The record opens with delicate drumming from Whitby-Coles, before a polyrhythmic but tightly interlocking banjo part enters; the rest gradually builds without any single element taking over or feeling out of place.
R ough Trade's indie-folk moment continues to eddy languorously in 2017. After signing Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, they've also snapped up This Is the Kit, AKA Bristol-bred, Paris-based singer-songwriter Kate Stables, whose thoughtful, guitar-seasoned songs have gathered fans including long-time PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish and the National's Aaron Dessner, who have produced her albums and play here. Listened to loud, these songs drift warmly away on the air, but up close, Stables' voice burrows into the ears, sounding direct and sweet, like a dear old friend you're reconnecting with, or a more grounded Cat Power.
'Moonshine Freeze' offers a soundscape of soft, alternative folk in which tracks swing from one to another in a dreamlike state, telling folkloric stories like a lullaby. This Is The Kit's fourth offering follows last year's 'Bashed Out' and the band appear even more comfortable in the unique folky space in which they inhabit. Kate Stables is at the heart of the musical collective, this time surrounding herself with a tight knit band and even tighter producer, John Parish -- of PJ Harvey production fame.