This Is the Kit

Melodious Ambiguity

Aug 30, 2017 Photography by Florian Duboé Issue #61 - Grizzly Bear
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While Kate Stables is beloved for the haunting Celtic tinged melodies and evocative lyrics she records under the alias This Is the Kit, one of the most poignant moments on her new LP is taken from a far off land and sung in a language you're not likely to understand.

"By My Demon Eye"a highlight from her fourth album (and her first for iconic British indie label Rough Trade), Moonshine Freezefeatures a chorus from an African folk tale first unearthed by ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey, whose work Stables studies and draws inspiration from. Those exotic lyrics detail a time honored tribal tale about a tortoise and a hare, the latter of whom tricks the former into visiting a miserable old woman who lures liars to her cauldron of scalding hot water. The repetitive portions of that foreign refrain describe the "boiling boiling boiling" water that the gullible turtle is being led toward.

"I like that the song has that horrific narrative while also sounding very lovely and gentle," the British songstress, who splits her time between Bristol and Paris, says. The woman's boiling water honesty test resonated with Stables because, when she was writing it, she was "wrestling with the idea of honesty and the even the white lies we tell accidentally. It's about our relationship with the truth and how complicated that can be."

And while she reveled in delving into such richly universal themes on "By My Demon Eye," Stables takes surprisingly little enjoyment from explaining the specifics of many of her other songs on Moonshine Freeze (which is produced by frequent PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish). One of Moonshine Freeze's other standout tracks, the brooding, minimalistic, pit pat percussioned and horn sprinkled "Two Pence Piece," begins with the chilling line "Blood in my mouth tasted of coin." And yet Stables won't offer up any backstory for that line.

"I've got a clear image of what I'm thinking about, but I don't want to be the sort of writer who forces ideas on people, as it were," she says, adding: "I have a tendency to leave it open to interpretation, partly so people can interpret it, and also because it's about my life and there's limit to what I want to go into."

She admits to taking some cues from Bob Dylan in that regard. "I like how tricksy he can be," she says, "well not tricksy, but he'll realize everyone knows one truth, then he'll say another." Stables says that's appealing because "there's always more than one truth in the way you tell stories. I like writing in that open interpretation that doesn't stay obvious...that way you can see part of the picture, and the rest is up to you, rather than having it handed to you on a silver platter."

That sentiment is indeed evident in Stables' lyrics on Moonshine Freeze tracks such as "Bullet Proof" (whose protagonist "let too many bullets through," over a backdrop of lilting acoustic strums) or "Hotter Colder" (for which she describes someone "on your shoulder" guiding you "hot or colder," over devilishly heavenly gypsy guitar mischievous percussion).

Or, as Stables puts it while detailing one of her other muses, science fiction/fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin (the Earthsea and Hainish Cycle series): "Her books don't make it obvious. It's up to you to piece the jigsaw and come to you own conclusions, and that's something I appreciate."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Summer 2017 Issue (July/August/September 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.thisisthekit.co.uk

 

 



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