Prepare to be unnerved.
I’ve been listening to, immersing my ears in, I Will Kill Again, the latest album from Neil Pennycook (and some extremely talented friends), under the guise of literature’s greatest outsider, Meursault. Four years in the making and recorded beneath the sunshine of Leith, it’s unnerving and disarming and heart-warming and haunting and strange, right from its opening track (enigmatically entitled ‘…’), all tinny piano and bowed banjo, and, just when you’re starting to warm to it, up pops a slightly robotic, cold voice to chill the blood with the words “I. Will. Kill. Again.”
It’s an ‘all bets are off’ opener, strapping in the listener for a ride to some dark but beautiful places; ‘Ellis be Damned’ is musically sweet but lyrically frightening and, on an album where you’d be best advised to expect the unexpected, ‘The Mill’ is a deftly handled melodic number until, three minutes in, it’s gloriously rear-ended by a yelping harmonica, simultaneously out of place yet perfectly suited.
On the anti-sea-shanty, ‘Ode to Gremlin’, guitar, piano and voice combine superbly. It’s raw and fragile and there are absolutely no hiding places in its sparse, open arrangement.
Meursault - Klopfgeist from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.
Unbelievably, from this point, I Will Kill Again slips its leash and starts running even wilder; ‘Klopfgeist’ finds Pennycook at his most inventive, with its cut and paste backing track, part Kanye, part Norman Collier, a lyric about Sinatra’s last words and a sparingly sprinkled piano. And ‘Belle Amie’, my favourite of a great bunch, has a fractured vocal (“It’s true that I still miss you, and it’s true that I’m still angry”) over a delicate waltz, barely there in some places, cacophonous in others. ‘Gone, etc…’ boats another fragile vocal, set to a backing of piano, valve hum and Geiger counter (possibly).
The title track holds the whole album together, as all great title tracks do, by means of a craftily constructed lyric, thoughtful and dark, as the story hinted upon in the four word opener unfolds across almost seven intriguing minutes. It’s a deep and complex tale of suppressed thoughts that holds the attention throughout, until it finally fades into the gentlest of piano themes.
It’s important to stress here that albums of this quality are rarely made alone, and the contributions of Liam Chapman, Faith Eliott, Alex Livingstone and Reuben Taylor can’t be underestimated, the powers of I Will Kill Again would be considerably diminished without them.
Sad to say, I can guarantee that you're unlikely ever to hear another album like this one, which is all the more reason to seek it out and treasure it deeply.
UPCOMING LIVE DATES (full band shows):
25th February (Song, by Toad's GRANFALLOON) – Summerhall, Edinburgh
4th March - The Lexington, London