// Album Recommendation

Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy

Glow And Fade

(2017)

"I love the river where we washed away
All the sins that I love
And I love the love that I love to give away
Until I ended up with no one to love."

Glow and Fade Album Cover Kilbey Kennedy

In 2007, The Church’s Steve Kilbey got in contact with All India Radio’s Martin Kennedy through his brother John Kilbey, who owned the now defunct Karmic Hit label, which had released Kennedy’s Big Spaceship side-project, Dream On. Kilbey had been listening to Big Spaceship and All India Radio’s self-titled third album and wanted to know, if Kennedy had any unused music, or if he could write some new tracks, for him to add his vocals to for a forthcoming collaboration. A decade later and here we are, here’s Glow And Fade, the dazzling duo’s 5th official studio album (not counting the three must-have collections of songs commissioned by fans). 

After the completion of Kilbey/Kennedy’s previous album — 2015’s Inside We Are The Same — Martin Kennedy, who writes and records all the music, sensed that it might turn out to be their last release, at least indefinitely, as he felt burned out. Kennedy: “I usually always feel as though our most recent album is going to be the last, perhaps because of the effort put into them and the draining feeling that always goes with it.” The album title and some of the lyrics certainly seemed to suggest that things had indeed come to an end. For instance, the title track, Glow And Fade, implies a fire burning out. Or that the collaboration had, possibly, come full circle with this release: the last song, entitled One Is All, alludes to the first album’s All Is One. But, apparently, “closure” was never the inspiration for the duo’s Glow And Fade.

In August, 2016, Martin Kennedy received a phone call from Steve Kilbey: “Martin, no matter what happens, we’ve got to keep recording. We just have to keep recording.” And now, with the positive reception of Glow And Fade, Martin Kennedy feels re-energized and enthusiastic. Kennedy: “In fact, I’m inspired to continue faster and better than before.” So what are the lyrics on Glow And Fade actually about? The beginning and end of things on a much larger scale: life, love and death? As always, singer/lyricist Steve Kilbey is not prone to explain his lyrics, preferring instead to let his fans do their own interpretations. 

Steve Kilbey: “I have my own interpretation, which I can’t summon out of my subconscious to give it words. It’s all connected up. Space. Time. The love of women. The temptation to fall into regret and bring on loneliness. This album deals with wide-eyed optimism and bitter scepticism in one breath — not so much cosmic, but, rather, microcosmic. The universe reflected in a tawdry love affair.” Glow And Fade is nothing short of mesmerizing, the hitherto most effectively enticing opening track of any Kilbey/Kennedy album. The seductive, velvety timbre of Kilbey’s voice, as he sings ”Sorrow is an anger / As I poke into the puddle / And I start to drink” is haunting and decidedly hypnotizing. It’s full of loss and regret, seemingly suggesting irresistible, inevitable infidelity and its repercussions, yet Kilbey’s vocal performance comes off as strangely uplifting: “I love the river where we washed away / All the sins that I love / And I love the love that I love to give away / Until I ended up with no one to love…”

The epic 16-minute long tour de force that is the spacey The Game Never Changes may possibly be the greatest composition that the duo has ever recorded, a culmination of everything that they represent (and according to Martin Kennedy: his favorite Kilbey/Kennedy song). Kennedy began working on the The Game Never Changes, as he was completing work on All India Radio’s 2015 album The Slow Light. Kennedy: “I was influenced by Pink Floyd, particularly 'On The Run' from 'Dark Side Of The Moon', and other similar songs that bridge the more traditional verse/chorus compositions. I’m very proud of The Game Never Changes.” As he should be. It’s fantastic. 

The Game Never Changes takes off with a spoken word intro — NASA recordings of Mission Control talking to the astronauts from the Mercury Space Program in the early 1960s (“Did you see anything else that might shed some light on this?”) —  a gentle acoustic guitar, synth stabs reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Echoes (off the progressive, psychedelic band’s 1971 album, Meddle), and subtly chiming electric guitar chords. Then, midway through, there’s an energetic instrumental passage inspired by ‘70s/‘80s Electronic music such as Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Georgio Moroder, respectively. Lyrically, The Game Never Changes revisits Spirit In Flame from Steve Kilbey’s 2008 solo album, Painkiller, the trials and tribulations of life and love (“The game doesn’t care, if you win or lose / The game doesn’t care, if you’re bleeding or bruised”). Martin Kennedy: “This track ends with a soaring solo of Pink Floyd proportions, which took me weeks to get right!”

The album artwork was designed by Bruce Pennington for a book cover back in 1973. Martin Kennedy had admired it for ages, and it somehow seemed to suit the mood of the music, which is why he asked permission to use it for Kilbey/Kennedy’s Glow And Fade. As can be seen, the illustration depicts skulls and bones orbiting the planet of Saturn, immediately bringing to mind the infamous secret society (Skull and Bones) and various conspiracy theories, the history of ancient civilisations, the rulers of the world, those in the know about the ‘secrets’ of the universe, mysticism, mythology, the royal families, the elite/illuminati, satanists worshipping Saturn, and their repeated use of big business logos that resemble the ringed planet, etc. But I had to ask, if I was overanalyzing the album cover and reading too much into the lyrics of a song like the acoustic ballad They Know? Steve Kilbey: “My songs invoke all the things you mention, yet are not necessarily about them. My songs are rarely about anything specific. They are abstract canvasses for you to interpret. You can never read too much or too little into my words. They are guides for you to roam through your imagination with. Martin’s music and my voice and my words in symbiosis to lead you into a lovely place. If you like this album, it’s because you already understand what it’s about.“

There’s a melodic simplicity to the synth-Pop of We Are Still Waiting, the album’s first promotional single — which also features All India Radio/Melbourne-singer Selena Cross’ airy, ethereal vocal, plus a pleasantly catchy acoustic guitar outro — and it’s by far the most radio-friendly song here (much like Theodora from Inside We Are The Same). Steve Kilbey’s own personal favorite song on Glow And Fade, The Law Of The Jungle, is a mid-tempo track underpinned by an electronic drum loop and adorned by half-programmed/half-real trumpets, and, once again, the backing vocals of Selena Cross, who first sang on All India Radio’s Four Three from 2006’s Echo Other album. 

Like the lovers in the song’s narrative — who’ve reached a standstill in their relationship (“And I would levitate / If you just gave me one good reason”) — the languid Levitate is barely moving, albeit sizzling with staticity and pent-up intensity, as well as a synthetic, clicking effect (sort of like castanets), spectral synthesizer sounds, and sporadically rolling drums. The Story Of Jonah morphed out of All India Radio’s Crows In The Machine, a piece of music from Sci-Fi Indie film The Rare Earth (2014). Martin Kennedy culled the strings from a song titled The Lie (off All India Radio’s 2012 album Red Shadow Landing), and the strings were then arranged and conducted by Sydney-based Australian conductor, composer and arranger George Ellis, who also conducted/arranged the Church live album A Psychedelic Symphony: Live At Sydney Opera House, released in 2014. A thumping, recurring synth bass motif is heard all the way through The Story Of Jonah’s musical arrangement, as if simulating a pounding heartbeat. As the song reaches its crescendo and Kilbey sings “But now you swallow me only / Spat me out lonely / Rolled me out on to the hostile shore”, a flood of sweeping synth sounds washes over the listener and creates the single most goosebump-inducing sequence of any Kilbey/Kennedy song so far; it's got that melancholic, mystical atmosphere to it that always makes me fall head over heels in love with a piece of music. 

The closing album track, One Is All, alludes to All Is One off Kilbey/kennedy’s debut album Unseen Words Unheard Music, but, when Kilbey sings “Spirit, come and take me now / Spirit, come and fill me now”, you get the feeling that he’s not referring to death, the end of things; more likely, he’s summoning a spirit, a muse, to feed his creative mind in order to keep his musical legacy alive. Long may Kilbey/Kennedy run. 

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