“Much Later” – D.A. Kissick

I remember crowding in to The Club with 80+ teenagers and young adults jostling to get a good standing spot facing the modest stage crowded with collaborators known as Climb Aboard the Friendship. It was singable, introspective pop-folk music that I almost certainly would have insisted on calling “indie music” at that point in my life. There were glockenspiels, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, and all manner of singers. I remember the crowd being very happy to welcome our under appreciated hometown artists Andy Shauf and The Emerson Letters for their featured songs. It was the happiest, most welcoming party I had ever been to.

I loved their album and it has remained a favourite while I have been waiting for their next release, which at this point is likely to never come. I tell you all this because one of the core members, Darryl Kissick, has joined with many of his past collaborators to release the album “Much Later” under the name D.A. Kissick.

It is going to be very hard to hide my excitement. This review is late compared to when the album was released – I hope you didn’t mind waiting because I have waited patiently for at least six years for this album.

This album is a masterclass in using the full timbral opportunities available through arrangement and orchestration. An instrument will weave its way in and then make a dignified exit; sometimes the process happens over the length of a whole song and sometimes this happens over a matter of seconds. The opening song “Lord, I Was Set Up” is a perfect example of this complex orchestration, featuring banjo and mandolin trading melodic and rhythmic duties while delicate string plucks intermittently dot the horizon.

The drumming of Avery Kissick throughout the album needs to be highlighted for particular praise. Avery’s approach to drumming is such that it sounds like a unified musical force but highlights the individual voices of each stick, skin, and cymbal. Any track he lends his talents to is buoyed by his work but the first example from the album (“Loyal Moonlight”) is a strong indicator of his versatility while he plays such varied parts as “the quirky metronome” or “textural atmosphere” within the space of eight measures.

I’ve referred to the varied musical sounds as “voices” throughout this review because of the individuality we hear from each, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Kissick employs a number of voices for their distinct qualities. What is surprising is how the individuals combine to form a new voice, not quite choral in it’s sameness but also melding such that the lyrics take on an ethereal quality while still speaking to a unified human experience. It inspires a reverence from me that I don’t often feel in secular music, and while I’m not looking to listen to Bach chorales every day in a cathedral, there is something pretty special about that feeling of overwhelming sacredness.

These measured approaches lends to the general air of thoughtfulness and reflection throughout the album. There is always the danger of detailed music feeling overwrought, and with the significant amount of time since we last heard material from Darryl it is not unreasonable to picture him slaving away feverishly in a room with a bunch of lyrics painted obsessively on the wall. It doesn’t appear to be obsession, but instead a careful meditative look on human condition. There’s nothing wrong with taking time.

You worked well everyone – take a break and relax for the next couple years or so.

– Jon Neher

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