Saturday, 14 September 2013

Kontiki Suite – On Sunset Lake

Laid back West Coast jangle, harmony, and good, good vibes courtesy of Cumbrian soft-country psychers.

As I write this we're at the tail-end of one of the wettest years on record. As welcome as an SAD lamp then comes this debut album from Kontiki Suite. A bumper thirteen tracks of Byrdsian jangle, late '60s folk-rock vocal harmony and West Coast haze. The last couple of weeks listening to this CD has saved me a fortune on tanning salon fees. The band's trademark sound harks back to a golden era Californian folk-rock when bands such as The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield ruled the roost, melodic country-ish songs over a soothing bed of strummed acoustic guitars, topped off by a shimmer of twelve-string electric arpeggios and subtle slide playing.

It's surprising to learn that the band weren't in fact formed on Sunset Strip in 1966, they actually hail from the decidedly less sunny English Lake District. For all the California dreaming the band's North-West roots are laid bare on the opening track 'Down By The Lake' where vocalist Ben Singh sings of his desire for domestic bliss aside “the lake.” A simple enough wish no doubt hampered by second homers pushing up house prices.

Conversely on 'Hollywood' Singh expresses a yearning to move in the exalted rock royalty circles of LA. Whether you prefer the Lake District or Laurel Canyon it's clear he has an undeniable ability of for writing strong songs, which the band tastefully flesh out. Dropping a couple of the less successful tracks might have made for a stronger, more coherent album, but there are some genuinely sublime tracks here – 'Magic Carpet Ride' is as much a modern day folk-rock gem as its title suggests, and 'Watching Over Me' would have happily graced an album from the Byrds' mid '60s purple patch. So if you fancy a little bit of winter sun without using your passport this is well worth checking out.