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Kief goes on sonic exploration of the cosmos in psychedelic debut

Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, June 27, 2019  /  11:59 am
Kief goes on sonic exploration of the cosmos in psychedelic debut

Hard rock: Kief's music evokes images of leather-jacketed macho rockers, but the trio actually comes closer to the goofy bro-ness of the teenage mutant ninja turtles. (Courtesy of Kief/-)

The instrumental psychedelia-tinted hard rock of Jakarta-based band Kief evokes images of leather-jacketed macho rockers who’d rather drive around town looking for good intoxicants to indulge in at the rehearsal room than actually practice.

Such is not the case. The trio comes closer to the goofy bro-ness of California surfers or the teenage mutant ninja turtles through a distortion pedal and good-time-for-all beverages.

Asked to describe the band’s music to the uninitiated, the band’s drummer, Hoffman, said it was “fun to make, and exists to make others have fun too“.

“Music to party to! Whatever kind of party it may be,” said guitarist and occasional singer Don Marley.

El Gringo, who handles the low end with his bass, described the band as dudes who just wanna have fun. “The idea of having sincere fun was the idea behind the music we wanted to make. Fun stuff only,” he said.

The trio's chosen stage names are another testament to their let-the-good-times-roll approach.

Hard rock: Kief's music evokes images of leather-jacketed macho rockers, but the trio actually comes closer to the goofy bro-ness of the teenage mutant ninja turtles.Hard rock: Kief's music evokes images of leather-jacketed macho rockers, but the trio actually comes closer to the goofy bro-ness of the teenage mutant ninja turtles. (Courtesy of Kief/-)

On the band’s debut four-song EP Cosmic Suplex, Kief's music is indeed filled with a let-loose energy, even at its most slug metal moments. Everything is tuned down low, with tight arrangements that are solid but never glossy.

This is undoubtedly due to the album's production method, with all tracks recorded in one take. This gives everything an obvious live energy, but more than that, it magnifies the dynamics in each song – lending each loud-quiet-loud transition more of a human punch than any editing software could replicate.

There are elements that bring to mind American “stoner rock” groups but Kief makes them its own. 

All of this is coated with the band members shared passion for all things intergalactic and science fiction. Well, that and more. The lyrics reference everything from articles about NASA to Japanese comic series Dragon Ball to British rock royalty Oasis and reggae music.

“The psychedelic element we employ in our music is expressive freedom when composing our songs, whether that be in the notes or the tempo,” said Hoffman.

In fact, most of the album was improvised in one-take with only a few guitar overdubs added later.

“The process of making Cosmic Suplex was 70 percent unplanned jamming. We let the space take over us as we jammed together,” Hoffman said, referencing psychedelic rock groups such as Black Brothers as key sonic influences in this regard.

“The psychedelic spectrum is rich and free,” said El Gringo, adding that those were the things Kief aspired to be.

“We basically just pour out whatever we have inside our heads when we jam,” he said, pointing to two songs that have specifically made him thirst for that feeling – “Visions for the Celestial by the band Datura and “Ikan” (fish) by Indonesian legend Bing Slamet.

For El Gringo, Cosmic Suplex is a record that celebrates personal feelings in the context of the vast universe that surrounds us. He called it a “personal interpretation of sensations and situations in the cosmic realm” in which each part “describes either factual or fictional occurrences in space”.

The four songs are each divided into sections, creating a multi-chapter narrative.

"SL9" (part of the second track) takes its name from the Shoemaker-Levy Comet that crashed into Jupiter in 1994. While "Rail of Debris" (part of the first track) describes “the sensation of hitting a rail of debris”.

The cosmic indulgence is part of the trio's shared hobby of “pretending that we're traveling in the cosmic realm”, said El Gringo, confirming that “Yes this is an actual hobby we like to do together”.

“Throughout the years of enjoying this hobby together, we decided to summarize it into a form of music. I'd love to do it visually but I suck at drawing,” he said.

The trio feels satisfied with the EP, and was even more surprised when the Jakarta rock-focused independent label Lawless decided to release it. Still, perhaps the next album will feature more pre-planning when it comes to arrangements.

“When the recording session was finished, then we realized how tiring it is to record everything live in one take” said Hoffman.

Kief expressed hope the album would live on to become a soundtrack for space travel.

 “It will be fun and funny to see first time space explorers get sucked into space,” said El Gringo. (ste)

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