KENOSHA KID: MISSING PIECES
–MELODIES OF SUBSTANCE AND SUBLIMITY-
Releasing February 12, 2019 in vinyl and digital formats, Missing Pieces finds the Athens, Georgia-based unit in a striking two-guitar incarnation, augmented by three-piece string section.
Based in the humid indie-rock haven of Athens, Georgia, guitarist Dan Nettles and his shapeshifting post-genre electric jazz ensemble Kenosha Kid are proud to roll out the band’s forthcoming full-length studio album Missing Pieces. Nettles describes Missing Pieces as “a beautifully layered record with a sense of melodic longing and intriguing rhythms. Expressionistic, undefinable and ecstatic, it is instrumental music drawing from the gutters and ditches of many legitimate musical traditions including, and defying, jazz, rock and modern classical genres.”
Named after an ambiguous figure in Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, Kenosha Kid launched in 2004 and has proved a durable creative outlet, allowing Nettles and a rotating group of musicians not hidebound by tradition to perform and record his music, open to wherever his imagination might travel. According to GeorgiaMusic.com, Kenosha Kid “explores jazz, jam, psych, funk and rock territory with an infectious enthusiasm and instinctive creativity.”
On Missing Pieces, Kenosha Kid’s sixth studio effort, Nettles signals a dramatic shift from the group’s two most recent outings. While the companion albums Inside Voices (2015) and Outside Choices (2017) presented Kenosha Kid as a sextet with three horns, Missing Pieces finds the band reinventing itself as a two-guitar quartet augmented by strings. Joined by second guitarist Rick Lollar, electric bassist Robby Handley and drummer Marlon Patton (whose cumulative credits include work with Jimmy Herring, Lonnie Holley and Col. Bruce Hampton, among other Atlanta notables), Nettles conjures some of the most sublime melodies of his career to date. Each song is a distinct sonic and emotional universe, dreamed up by Nettles through a process of improvisation and experimentation, gradually brought into focus with the band.
Missing Pieces means a number of things, Nettles offers: “These are ‘pieces’ of music, of course, but also a jigsaw puzzle. When you finish there are sometimes vital parts of the puzzle that are lost, and you have to learn to live with the gaps.” It’s also an album borne out of recent personal losses, Nettles adds: “As time goes by, more people leave you, by choice, or not. The more you lose, the more parts of the pattern of life seem broken. This album is me attempting to come to terms with that. As a life raft of sorts, I made it my job to write eight hours a day, demo everything, and meticulously see what else was needed. We ultimately recorded 20 songs, and this album is 10 of them.” On Bandcamp, Nettles will offer extensive compositional notes on Missing Pieces, detailing the songs’ initial inspirations and inner workings.
Within the two-guitar formation, Nettles began searching for ways to reinforce the songs’ many interweaving parts. He arrived at strings as a way to emulate the twinned functioning of the guitars, in terms of tonality, sustain and other characteristics. The strings also reflected Nettles’ avid classical music listening in this time period, further persuading him that the timbre of strings would prove complementary to his vision. Beautifully recorded and deployed with great subtlety, the strings are Luca Lombardi, Serena Scibelli (luminaries of both the classical scene and the jazz group Whitehall Collective) and Andrea DeMarcus (leader of the alt-country band Cicada Rhythm).
On “Missing Pieces,” the title track, Nettles incorporates the vocals of Julián Miro and the late Carl Lindberg [1975-2015] in an almost mystical way. Lindberg’s suicide was devastating for the Athens music world, but especially Nettles, who shared his formative youth with the late multitalented bassist. “Losing Carl was really the tip of a dark iceberg. I got left behind in love, my dog passed away, my mother died, and all this kept bouncing off unresolved feelings about my own brother’s suicide in 1989.” Nettles retreated deeper into his art, unsure of the end result but consistently searching nonetheless. The songs play out in this spirit:
– “01 Always Will Be” concerns “no matter how you change, parts of you end up always the same to another person.”
– “02 After This” is about “the feeling you have once something horrible happens, and you realize the next day will be even worse.”
– “03 Another Hour” is “wishing you could take time — the times you like, the good times — and stretch them out, have them last longer.”
– “04 How Would It All Fit?” imagines “taking all the things that you’ve created in a loving relationship and putting them all away in a box. There’s no way everything would fit.”
– “05 Letters” refers to “the correspondence that remains when the other things are gone.”
– “06 Waiting for the Dam to Break” is “after you’re drained of emotion and you’re just waiting for the axe to fall.”
– “07 Simpler” captures “a memory of an easier time, but on close examination something seems out of step.”
– “08 Missing Pieces” wrestles with “the idea of more and more people leaving forever, never coming back, and learning to live with the holes left in your life.”
– “09 Lift the Stone” represents “an explicit attempt to create a channel to a higher power. It’s a sort of prayer, an invocation, an opportunity for the gods to connect.”
– “10 (Don’t Listen to the) Static” conveys a message about “making sure you’re paying attention to the things that matter and not all the other bright flashes of light trying to distract you.”
From their earliest stirrings up to the present, Dan Nettles and Kenosha Kid have done much to bolster the status of Athens, Georgia (famed birthplace of R.E.M., The B52’s and countless other influential bands) as a regional music capital in the American South. The group’s distinctively omnivorous take on jazz reflects Athens’ character as an eclectic bastion: since the debut release Projector (2005) they have offered works in a variety of formations (from trio to 10-piece) and concepts (from silent film scores to sci-fi-influenced future music). To accompany Kenosha Kid’s official releases, Nettles has also created an extensive Bandcamp archive comprising over 40 live shows in their entirety.