The record kicks off with the punchy, disco-infused Last Train to Kingston. Barely cracking three minutes, the track gleefully romps through different stylistic influences, notably highlife and bluegrass. The second track, Jet Age, starts with a canned bossa nova beat and is soon joined by minimalist piano before rapidly evolving into a powerful number that suggests both promise and risk. Maps not Territories is one of the few mind-bending moments on the album – a hypnotic, acoustic guitar and synthesizer-driven track that tips its hat to German experimental bands of the 1970s. Any lingering feelings of introspection are quickly dispelled by Salvador Divinorum, an up-tempo, latin-inspired number which sees the band in full swing, replete with dense layers of afro-latin percussion and rough-hewn vocals reminiscent of Lou Reed. Point Reyes is a similarly fun track, sounding like an Appalachian porch-front jam – but one where the neighbors on the other side of the tracks were invited to join in. The title track, Kinder Machines, starts slowly with a simply strummed acoustic guitar, building into an eight-and-a-half minute epic. Trumpet, cello and piano sweep in, leading to a final breakdown, dirge-like outro recalling the Beatles’ Hey Jude.
Engineered and mixed by Grammy-winning engineer Oz Fritz, best known for his work on Mule Variations and other Tom Waits albums, the album describes itself as a “High dynamic range recording: tracked, mixed and mastered entirely in analog domain”. Kinder Machines sounds huge and is a must-hear album from one of modern music’s most exciting, creative and surprising genre-twisting groups.
Beaten by Them are: Andrew Harris (acoustic guitar), Chief Boima (cello, ableton live), Jeff Ardziejewski (electronic and acoustic drums), Spencer Murray (electric bass guitar, bass synthesizer), Max McCormick (piano, synthesizer, pump organ, vocals). With: Ricky Carter (percussion) and Mike Olmos (trumpet)