Album Review: Shifting Distance // Kinbote

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Decades after the internet first threatened the music industry, the digital production process has transformed into a democracy of increased affordability and open sharing. As anyone with a social media account can attest, it can be an overwhelming experience to be inundated with this new breed of creative- the MacBook musician. However, this enlarged access to music production has seen some truly incredible work from dedicated songwriters. Producers such as Alex G, Baths, and Steve Lacy have expressed the unbound creative potential of today’s technological abundance, which we all love to hate. It is within this sonic context, and from this school of bedroom pop that Kinbote, of Lost Map Records, brings forth his own idiosyncrasies with his debut album, Shifting Distance.

An album crafted with understated poise, Shifting Distance runs at just over half an hour, providing a surprisingly compact listen. Everything that newcomer Matt Gibb wants to say in his breakout LP is fleshed out efficiently within twelve tracks of modest length. Each track offers succinct and craftily composed invitations into the producer’s internal monologue. Reciting lyrics that source from fragments of conversations, observations, criticisms, and supposed text message responses, Gibb’s muted tone infuses rich sarcasm into surprisingly experimental instrumentals. Far from a lacklustre listen, each track contributes to the project’s aesthetic fluidity. Certainly a consequence of the limited running time, the song selection is pragmatic and effective.

The effect is a record that is wise beyond its years, fleshed out with the world weariness of an artist who has long sharpened his sense for scouting out moments in his daily existence that warrant “song-ification.” Arguments that turn to tepid bass lines, sighs that end up in crackling snares. However, the experiences themselves are strongly embedded in the singer’s post-teen/ young adult phase, featuring the all-too-familiar experiences of wanting to leave a nightclub early or sleeping uncomfortably at the parents’ house of a significant other. 

In album single ‘Hiemalis,’ jittering broken guitar loops underscore pleas of “I’ll go quiet if you let me” and “Don’t tell her she upset me.” The deadpan delivery keeps the record from any true emotional indulgence; this is clearly by design. The album’s exposition sounds out more with the restrained depth and emotional emptiness of Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, or Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, or even Olivier Assayas’ Non-Fiction, than any typical pop record. This seems fitting as Gibb himself has a keen eye for filmmaking, shooting and directing his own music video for the track, and a previous fully visual EP. 

The often tinny, childlike timbre, full of found sounds and a broken charity shop keyboard, is expertly wielded by Gibb, and satisfyingly whipped into rich climaxes. Where some tracks are lacking in complex structural development, there is certainly no over-indulgence in Kinbote’s relish for experimentation. The effect of this is that it makes the emotional highs and lows of the record more palatable, less melodramatic. It allows lines such as “Months are rotting by like ether teeth” to warrant more a self-conscious head nodding than the wail of utter despair it should rightfully elicit. In this way, Kinbote is able to maintain a consistent artistic identity, no small feat for a newly signed artist.

Though lugubrious at times, the album is certainly catchy and danceable, a clear nod to the craft of the artist’s plethora of indie and glitch pop influences, and a very enjoyable listen for inquisitive audiophiles. 

Words by Samm Anga


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