Kingsbury Manx

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Kingsbury Manx , 6.5/10
Let You Down , 6/10
Aztec Discipline (2003), 5.5/10
The Fast Rise and Fall of the South (2005), 6.5/10
Ascenseur Ouvert (2009), 5/10
The Bronze Age (2013), 5/10

Kingsbury Manx is a quartet from Chapel Hill (North Carolina), led by singers and guitarists Kenneth Stephenson and Bill Taylor, that play gentle (very gentle) psychedelic folk.

The band debuted with Kingsbury Manx (Overcoat, 1999), a collection of mellow, tender odes, barely caressed by strings and electronics and built around three-part vocal harmonies a` la early Byrds and late-period Beach Boys (Pageant Square, New Old Friend Blues, Piss Diary, How Cruel, Silver Trees). The albums sounds like a slo-motion replay of early Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkel, Velvet Underground And Nico, particularly the six-minute Fields. Except for the relatively upbeat Cross Your Eyes, Kingsbury Manx's songs are as light as dreams.

Let You Down (Overcoat, 2001) is revealing, but not the way Stephenson and Taylor would like it to be. The songs are mostly quiet and bucolic odes that lack bite and wit. The music indulges in country/folk rhythms/chords and overflows with vocal harmonies in the tradition of Alan Parson Project. Porchlight, Sleeping On The Ground, Arun are delicate lullabies that reenact the miracle of the first album. The spare alt-folk of Et Tu Kitte outdoes Will Oldham. Despite Courtyard Waltz and Let You Down, that display some feelings, the album is mostly the musical equivalent of a thin mist in an autumnal landscape.

Aztec Discipline (Overcoat, 2003) is un undistinguished collection of well-crafted songs, the typical outcome of bands that try too hard to follow the fashionable. Fixed Bayonets, Pelz Komet and Growler in the Rumbleseat have their moments, but there is precious little that identifies the music as Kingsbury Manx's rather than a generic sound of their era. The EP Afternoon Owls adds at least Time Well Spent to the canon. The Paisley Underground of Los Angeles used to make similar music, and it was original even then.

Kingsbury Manx developed a very original and unique sound on The Fast Rise and Fall of the South (Yep Roc, 2005). While mostly quiet and complex, the tunes inhabit the melodic limbo of groups that normall played longer and looser tracks (such as Built To Spill). Kingsbury Manx instead remained faithful to the classical song format while harnessing enough extra-melodic power to dance around the tonal center of the song. The results were somewhat off-kilter but still lilting (Snow Angel Dance, Harness and Wheel, Zero G, 1000 8).

Ascenseur Ouvert (2009) contains simpler folkish tunes like Crest and Walk on Water.

The Bronze Age (2013) contains the Pink Floyd-ian Galloping Ghosts.

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