In theory, it should be easy to see what’s expected here. Kiama are a modern supergroup, associated with Magenta, Frost*, Maschine and Shadow Of The Sun.
But their debut record Sign Of IV is a surprise package, especially to anyone expecting lots of earnest self-indulgence. Instead, here are four musicians locked together in an attempt to represent the best aspects of the mid-70s, when epic rock performances were almost de rigueur and taken for granted.
You can hear the ambition on the opening track, Cold Black Heart. A sophisticated timbre is immediately set up, nestling a funk motif against a more grainy rhythm, as Dylan Thompson’s vocals meld comfortably into a punchy guitar stride from Luke Machin. Tears, meanwhile, gives Rob Reed the opportunity to lead a more sedate process on keyboards, while Muzzled brings to mind The Beatles’ psychedelic hustle on Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.
A modern supergroup representing the best of the mid-70s.
As each song offers a fresh angle on the talents involved (the line-up’s completed by drummer Andy Edwards), you get immersed in a joyous reclamation of the depth that quality prog and rock music gave to everyone 40 years
ago. But this is never a nostalgic rehash of past glories. You might hear the occasional shuffle that’s reminiscent of
Led Zeppelin, as on the warmly intimate I Will Make It Up To You. Then there’s Slime’s building soliloquy that nods towards The Moody Blues and, on To The Edge, even a strut that could be construed as somewhere between The Who
But these are merely devices used to construct tracks that have genuine, ever-deepening layers. For instance, you might think you know where Beautiful World is heading from its sensitive opening, but it still has a few twists in store that give it the semblance of a Yes presentation, even allowing Reed to flex his muscles on bass.
Throughout, there’s an intense respect for the power of melody. On Slip Away, the musical variations around a core theme are all predicated on the fact that the basic tunefulness of the song is never buried under the weight of virtuosity. Much of this is down to the fact that Kiama already sound like a cohesive unit, one where each of the four members instinctively knows how to blend in with the others. This is the sort of approach you might only expect from a band seasoned by years of playing together, not one at such a formative stage of their development.
Moreover, all the songs sound like they’ve been created for live performance. Let’s hope Kiama are already planning to show their mettle onstage.