acoustic alternative dark folk folk music review singer songwriter strings

Kristin McClement – “The Wild Grips” Review

Brighton has a new star in the world of the musical dark
Kristin McClement
Kristin McClement

A new British talent swept across my ears on Bandcamp last week and I was compelled to buy her new album – The Wild Grips. It just pulled me in immediately.

Opener “Blackfin Gulls” is a prime example. A backwards sounding drum brush signals its arrival before carefully laid acoustic guitar and a sumptuous voice breaks through. Soon enough the waltzing vibe takes over and what started off as a simple folksy track has warped into a dark and shadowy dance with all kinds of sounds popping in and out the track. There’s a lot of experimentation but it’s never at the fore of the track. In the same way “No End to the Drum” pushes a rockier tone with electric guitars and pianos calling out like a siren, it manages to avoid trying to stay still. Kristin’s voice is suited to this dark rock just as much as the initially lighter tone of the opener. The cryptic lyrics will certainly keep you guessing too.

“Giant No Good” is a lethargic gypsy track that is free-flowing in tempo, pace and style. Its percussion has attempted starts and flops out over the guitars and strings before it seems to have the power to get going for a really beautiful Arabic shaded closing section. It’s a long track but the pay off is worth it. “Hoax of a Man” is something of a travelling wonder. The integration of strings into the arrangements of the music gives the album an old world quality and when Kristin gets the middle of the track it all comes to a halt as she repeats “One by one the Lord collects children from floating beds” it all becomes ghostly and unnerving in the way nadir that the song feels like it’s hit. The outro then is a far more manic instrumental section and very fitting. The seven minute epic “Hope’s Departure” turns hope into a woman and the lyrical prowess shown here, and throughout the album is top shelf. The track itself is the quietest the album has had so far with a start/stop nature of bass and guitar and plenty of string bending to create a dreaded foreboding.

“Mouthful of Shells” is one of only two sub four-minute tracks. I call this the Nick Cave track. It’s dark and arcane rock roots along with the purposely detuned vocal bridges that are catchy but enough to still make you shiver. It’s a really clever track in how the instrumentation switches up over the riffs too. “Drink Waltz” is a smokey ghost of a waltz as Kristin entices you in like a doom maiden softly singing “drink with me” as if it will be the last thing you will ever do. When her voice is multi layered onto herself she becomes a powerful beast when she isn’t charming you with it.

“Planks” is another building track where lots of little motifs and elements build together to create a dramatic finale. It also serves as another great way to show how Kristin is prepared to take her time crafting each track and it really improves the album and its vibe. I utterly appreciate it. Title track “The Wild Grips” is a simple track which is unusual for the album but its haunting beauty in the way it feels like it’s letting you go to sleep on its own terms makes the lullaby always have that sting in the tail. “Karoo” closes the album with a short 57 second muted piano riff that rolls in and out – I’d have loved to hear a song born from it.

“The Wild Grips” is really the first absolutely outstanding album I’ve reviewed in 2015 so far. As a new artist (to me at least) Kristin has captured the delicate nature of folk rock music and then wrapped it in the devils cape and served you the listener up with a spiked Martini. It’s utterly fascinating and quirky from start to end and I love the fact that at no point does any song feel rushed. There’s a lot of love here and I hope you find the love in it too.

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