Review: Qoheleth – Black Kite Broadcasts

QOHELETH - Black Kite Broadcasts - cover

Label: Bad Cake Records

Black Kite Broadcasts might be one of the most interesting ideas for an album I’ve come across in some time. The second album from noise rock band Qoheleth isn’t actually by the band – instead, it’s a captured recording from a radio station in the future, when humanity has been all-but wiped out. Or is it? These songs are all by different bands, interspersed with DJ chatter that tells just enough of the story for a narrative to be formed without giving everything away. Or are Qoheleth instead doing something adventurous not just with their music, but with the way their music is presented – toying with the album format and means of presentation? Both interpretations are valid, but the fact remains that Black Kite Broadcasts is a great album, and a marked improvement on previous release God is the Warmest Place to Hide.

Whilst that debut was an assault of raw, scrappy noise rock, Black Kite Broadcasts is a more melodically-inclined record. It still keeps up the aggressive, abrasive aspects of noise rock (as it should!), but as befits songs supposedly being played on the radio, most of them are catchy and with a real feel for hooks. There’s also a sense of humour at play, evidenced by the song and band titles – Territorial Pissants is a particular favourite name, as is the title of the haunting, damaged ‘Exquisitely Dressed, and Caked in Blood’.

Not every song can be described as even remotely accessible though, and there’s plenty of moments that can seem like they’re pushing against the listener, challenging you to dig deeper as they won’t give up their secrets easily. ‘Toxic Waste Buzzkill’ is a raw, feedback-drenched piece of arty noise rock that still manages to keep a sense of energy, somewhere between The Stooges and Sonic Youth at their most convention-defying. ‘The Sublime Pungence of Drumpf’ is like early 80’s hardcore played through broken amps and a collapsing drum kit – it’s noisy, crude, and kind of brilliant.

As this might imply, Black Kite Broadcasts is a very varied listen, and though the constant changes in style are rarely drastic, within the genre of noise rock they can often push the genre to its limits. That Qoheleth are big fans of noise rock is evident, but the album is at its best when it is at its most free-roaming, as on ‘Hooray! They’re Dead’, a song that feels subdued compared with the rest of the album, and features relatively soft singing to great effect. The inclusion of the radio announcements between songs also helps the album hang together – as well as providing an overall sense of narrative, and some excellent world-building that would be the envy of many an author, they add a consistency of mood and tone. The ten minutes of noise and snatches of music behind the drones and static that sees the album out might prove too much for some, but as a piece of art, it’s hard to fault.

And, really, that’s the proper way to consider Black Kite Broadcasts – as a piece of art. This extends not just to the physical presentation of the album, but the media it is delivered by. I’ve never before seen a band take an old radio, and load it up with a copy of an album, but that’s what Qoheleth have done. It’s a unique delivery that is completely in line with the world that Black Kite Broadcasts is building, and I’m hugely impressed by the band for achieving something so creative, both in terms of the actual music and the way it is presented.

Black Kite Broadcasts is available digitally, on cassette, and on custom-made radio via Bandcamp.

 

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