The Knells - Knells II album review

Compelling encore from the Brooklyn art-rock ensemble

The Kneels - Knells II album artwork

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Four years after their debut, Brooklyn-based octet The Knells – guided by guitarist and principal writer, Andrew McKenna Lee – return with another intriguing, mesmeric album. Aside from the vibrant guitar and muscular drumming, this band’s unique signature sound emanates from the beautifully written three-part harmony vocals of Nina Berman, soprano, Charlotte Mundy, mezzosoprano and Blythe Gaissert, contralto. With a delivery that’s more akin to medieval polyphony, their sweet yet sour voices shimmer and glow. Like silver and golden threads woven deepinto the fabric of the music, they assuage the often acerbic scrape of their instrumental backing with layers of silky emollient. Yet the lyrics are often anything but soothing. Andrew McKenna Lee’s guitar soloing occasionally evokes Steve Howe’s zesty flurries, especially on the instrumental Bargaining, which hangs initially by a bluesy thread that quickly unravels into a flurry of starry harmonics. Alongside a tension and exhilaration that’s both beguiling and challenging, an unsettling quality prowls. In an age of identikit prog rock it’s good to have a band with such a distinctive voice.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.