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
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
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.
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.
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,
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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