A horrible hack

Birthmark

the Layer

Year Released: 2007
Format: CD
Label: Coraille
 
Reviewed by Tom Sloan on Feb 6, 2008
It’s difficult to write about Nate Kinsella’s début project without reference to the fact that he happens to be the cousin of Mike and Tim, which rather takes away from the fact that The Layer is such an accomplished record in its own right. If Tim espouses all-things avant-garde and jarring, and Mike strips things back to the pleasant ringing of a an open-tuned guitar, then Nate could be said to be occupying a place somewhere between the two. The sound of Birthmark is all about subtlety and nuance, with that Kinsella knack of coming up with ear-catching melodies, but fashioned in a way that avoids the bludgeoning aesthetic of a Joan of Arc or Make Believe record, but transcends the (waning?) effect of Owen’s immersion in prettiness for prettiness’ sake.

The opener, The Layer, is inescapably gorgeous, beginning with some reverberating chimes, acoustic guitar and cello, evolving elegantly with a quietly sampled drum track and vocals to a busier climax. Those vocals are nicely pitched, too, with none of Tim’s warble but an element of Mike’s whisper. Whilst we’re on the subject, Nate’s lyrics paint a few evocative images and turn-a-phrase nicely, adding to the refined nature of the proceedings - no existential wordplay or songs about girls, here. Flightless Bird stands out in this regard, with its eloquent chorus, and post-Victor Villareal guitar progression: distinctive, but spacious and noodle-free.

Those two songs do stand out, and the L.P. does finish with a bit of a flicker, but the overall affect is one of understatement and charm. It’s also worth mentioning that the production is sublime, the songs allowed to breath, with every instrumental flourish feeling vibrant and vital. Hopefully Nate Kinsella will carry on making Birthmark records, because there is the sense here that there is even better to come, something quite special, in fact.
Recommended record by Collective Zine!

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