Here Lies Kulk by KulkRelease date: August 21, 2020
Label: Hot Fools Records
You may remember my interview with Kulk a short while ago, when they existed in the between demo and debut stage, well, the time has come for them to show us what they got. Here Lies Kulk sees the duo debut as an emerging act on the nascent Hot Fools Records roster alongside infamous London psych miscreants We Wild Blood. For those unfamiliar with their work, I’d say, imagine a bleak sonic middle ground between Casual Nun and Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs achieved with only two members.
Preceded by a brief funeral dirge, ’A Happy Death’ quickly sets the album up as a notable psych record employing entrancing chord sequences, a whirling instrumental passage and a familiar beat. It’s a solid opening but, really, ’My Fair Neighbour’ is when the album really kicks off. It feels as though those first two tracks bleed into one and Thom Longdin whilst not having many words to sing, sings them in such a way that the track becomes an instant ear-worm. Fuck knows what it’s about…I’d be intrigued to see the lyrics.
I think that ‘A Long Time’ and ‘Unheimlich’ do a good job of showcasing what makes this album different to other psych records out there they seem to be heavily influenced by and it’s their slow-burning leanings into doom metal and also, a kind of blended in wild-west kind of guitar sound. ‘Unheimlich’ starts doom, then goes psychobilly especially in terms of Jade Squires’ drumming, then it starts to sound like someone eating a bunch of downers at a Casual Nun gig before going kind of metal again. There’s a bricolage element here. I think for me, the obvious critique is that they sound great and they’re gonna be great live and their artistry is great as a kind of brand/vision, but there’s a definite need for Kulk to move towards being more Kulk and less Psych scene.
Firstly, that scene is dead and it’s being aped to shit. The bands are evolving and speaking for the audience, so are we. Secondly, there’s already one Casual Nun, we can always listen to them if we want to hear them. That doesn’t mean this is a bad album in any respect. ‘Slaughterhouse V’ is a fucking great doomy psych track for example, but these songs don’t sound like anything new to me. There’s shit loads of potential in this band and I think the key to that is them doing something that sounds totally different to everyone else, their merchandising and their line-up and their art direction is totally different to most of what’s out there. So I feel like with time, Kulk is gonna be completely different and fucking amazing.
I was particularly fond of the last two tracks ‘Three Mothers’ and ‘Fuzz War’. ‘Three Mothers’ is predominantly a more cosmic, proggy kind of hippy psych track like early The Fierce and The Dead, but has a nice burst of what is essentially the album’s reoccurring sound. The closing track ‘Fuzz War’ feels like it gives the band room to breathe and really see where this colossal screaming atop a mountain sound can go. The guitar explores more avenues and we finally see more range from the vocals. It sounds fucking massive at its peak, it’s a solid album closer and really highlights the full potential of the band. Also, it’s the track where I find it most surprising that they’re a two piece cause of how huge it is, but I do wonder if they’ll experiment with their line-up and what else they could work in.
Overall, I wish there was more melody in the tracks, it becomes almost sedative after a while because everything’s so screamy and fuzzy. It has like a harsh noise effect, where I start to zone out and I’m enjoying the music, but also totally disconnected from it. There’s an argument that this is not the intention of the album, but I would like it if they did more melodic stuff in the future especially with the vocals so there was more chorus type sections.
Here Lies Kulk is a strong debut into the psych scene for the duo, showcasing a wealth of potential. I would hope they’ll blow us away with something completely different soon, but for psych and stoner music fans, this will be a solid and cohesive album to add to their collection. They have a unique angle of being probably the most miserable and doomladen band I’ve heard in the psych scene and it’s no doubt a really strong debut. However, I think discarding the safety net of genre will be the key to Kulk avoiding a sophomore slump as they continue to establish what the ephemeral and intangible, unique character of their band is in order to set themselves apart from everyone else and not get lost in the shuffle.