Country Spotlight: A Review of This is the Kit’s Wriggle Out the Restless
Harry Hawkins considers This is the Kit’s second record, Wriggle Out The Restless.
Folk writing in Britain has a rich and complicated history, with traditional shanties and regional songs kept in oral tradition for hundreds of years. The songs that are still remembered, then, must have some serious staying power. I may be hedging my bets, but I’d reckon that Kate Stables, the primary songwriter of the This Is The Kit, will have more than a handful of her songs remembered for a while yet.
” ‘She is one of those musicians who can conjure an atmosphere all by herself.’
Whilst Kate had lots of songs under her belt before it, and has continued to release brilliant albums after this record, my favourite example of the power of her songs is her band This Is The Kit’s sophomore record from 2010, Wriggle Out The Restless. As the first full record, Kate plays with a larger band arrangement, Wriggle Out The Restless provides a larger palette to work with, and unconventional ways to create emotional potency.
From the outset, opener Sometimes The Sea presents Kate’s proficiency as a guitarist and singer at the centre, yet her playing slowly becomes clouded by a warping soundscape and dreamlike swipes from indecipherable instruments, showing us that this is not just a solo record. ‘Easy Picking’ follows, with the rustic and beautiful banjo tune slowly working into a folksy jam where Gaelic violins create a hypnotic atmosphere. Every extra instrument manages to add intangible lift to the songs, but they never feel overwrought or laboured upon – they come across as the voices and contributions of friends, fitting in snugly.
One of the best things about the added power of Kate’s bandmates is that they allow power and aggression to be expressed even whilst she barely raises her voice. In ‘Spinney’, for example, the song reaches quite a few points of intensity where you would expect a singer to belt out or even outright yell, but Kate instead lets a horn section provide the grandiosity, whilst she keenly intones “Wriggle out the restless, and a scratch against the edge” for one of the most satisfying moments on the album.
At first sight, the lyrics on Wriggle Out The Restless usually bring a peaceful, natural imagery that portrays simple struggles and comforts – like why you should “dub up your boots” on ‘Waterproof’, or the song simply called ‘The Turnip’. However, these small objects are used in Kate’s songs to contrast with huge and even cosmic energy.
In ‘Waterproof’ the Universe’s enormity and changing nature leads Kate to ask the listener to prepare for harder times because sometimes we can see troubles coming from a long way away (“We even saw it come/ Getting closer every day”) that can ruin our preparations and plans (“And then it tore off the roof/ No longer waterproof”). Enormity and danger are also used in the band’s most swaggering song, ‘Earthquake’, in which the song and Kate’s vocals ebb and flow with intensity whilst she sings of a secretive relationship (“Unbeknown and never showed/ How when alone, oh, how we glowed”) which is thrilling yet uneasy, like the titular earthquake. Kate is decidedly more of an impressionistic lyricist, so take any of my interpretations with a grain of salt, as yours will be just as valid as mine. However, I am sure that all of the lyrics in Wriggle Out the Restless would be as relevant to people born hundreds of years ago as they will be to future generations.
For a band who encapsulate their experiences in wonderful ways, and can create portraits of places and feelings, This Is The Kit can certainly provide a singular sense of songcraft which creates a sense of wisdom beyond their years. I would particularly recommend this record for fans of artists who use classic and rustic instrumentation, like Big Thief, Weyes Blood, Fleet Foxes, Phoebe Bridgers, Laura Marling and Angel Olsen.