Electronic moody dream pop producer Knightstown follows up his excellent EP with his self-titled debut album which came out yesterday. With his trademark hushed high register voice that smoother than the peanut butter you’ve spread on your sandwich and warm grooves and keyboard loops to match, it’s a chilled out affair but with plenty of depth.
Opening with EP track “First Cry” sets the mood. The keyboard synths jangle and glisten whilst the synth pads underneath are warm, pillowy and even the beats are soft too. Yes, there is a kick drum but its thump is pulsing rather than a smack and this approach stays throughout the album. As Knightstown’s vocals fade in and out, it’s hypnotic and foot tapping without ever taking you out of that zen-like zone. “Bitter End” continues this approach which I liken to SOHN doing a 2am set. There is a smoky jazz feel to the approach as electric piano gently plinks through and the synths often play like whammy bars from jazz guitars. “Catcher” has a beautiful afterglow warp to it as chords bend and sink. Even though the chorus itself is relatively punchy and euphoric, the whole sound has a tinge of sadness like Royksopp often does on their more mature albums and even the keyboard synths sound similar at times. That’s no slight – it’s a huge compliment and a pat on the back. This track, in particular, is an earworm that will be on repeat. Single “Charlatan” showcases Knightstown at his best though. Paired vocals that give a warm and angelic feel, even though the lyrics suggest otherwise, and the understated complexity of the bass, synths and melodies that entwined together – it all melts into an alluring lullaby that’s hard to resist.
“Eyes Wide Open” is a single in waiting. It’s possibly the most symphonic and punchy of the tracks on the album. The chorus lets Knightstown’s falsetto soar and the keyboards are replaced by some excellent synth strings that slide over the beats like they’ve been lifted from a happy 1950’s commercial. It’s lush and when it bends slightly out of tune, also comes with a small pang of warning signs. It’s juxtaposition with the low key “Boarder” is key too. This track has Knightstown singing mostly in his lower voice and with its minimalist approach for the first half before it’s symphonic dream pop second half kicks in and they play off each other really well. Finishing off this darker section in the album is “Come Home to Me” which raises the pulses and has a robotic arpeggiator that threatens so much to break into a huge dancefloor smack down but never does. Instead, the track plays with a single riff and moves the key slightly which gives the whole track an oppressive foreboding overtone which I really like.
Switching gears again “Moon” is the album ballad. Tinkling pianos echo over slow RnB grooves and simple strings, letting Knightstown’s voice and the spacious arrangement take hold. It stands out because the production of the entire album is dense and vacuum locked. Often sounds stop dead when not playing, there is absolutely zero filler in almost all the other songs and because there is almost no reverb during the album, having something spacious here cleanses the ears. It makes way for my inner geek to appear for “Colossi” which I’m certain is an ode to the game of Shadow of the Colossus in part and this track is the perfect example of everything I mentioned about vacuum packed production. There are some great string arrangements here but at the end of every 4 lines, it vacuums to silence and the track switches chords. It irked me and I have no idea why. It’s funny because “Two Appear” rounds off the album with a mellow techno track that shows playing with frequencies, faders, reverb and making the arpeggios sound like dreamy bells works an absolute treat. It’s a fantastic track and a great way to round off a lovely cuddle of an album.
Knightstown’s debut album is excellent. Full of low key anthems you can relax to with the lights down low whilst still getting up for those mellow light dances too – it’s hit a real niche of soft electronica pop that I’m really, really digging. I may have been a little harsh on some of the production choices but it’s much more likely me being picky so don’t let it dampen your enthusiasm too much. This is a great new producer and you’d do well to pick this up if you like the adult side of Royksopp or the synth-pop tones of C Duncan.
Recommended track: Charlatan
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