Bittersweet folk – we check out Matt Kivel’s new album Janus set for release this February


Born out of a session of some good ol’ fashioned internet stalking (more on this later), Matt Kivel’s third full-length album ‘Janus’ sways between the soft and delicate folky storytelling of Fleet Foxes and the breezy summer guitar pop of Real Estate.

Where Kivel differs from these two bands is in the darker musical moments on ‘Janus’.Tracks such as ‘Violets’ and ‘The Shining Path’ build up into unsettling, whirring landscapes reminiscent of the kind of thing you’d hear from the likes of British Sea Power. But to compare this album’s sound to a few indie bands doesn’t fully describe the dark corners‘Janus’ manages to reaches into.

Perhaps a bit more background on our ‘internet stalking’ opening statement will give you an insight into how the album subtly dips its toe in a number of genre pools.

During his time writing ‘Janus’, Kivel began listening obsessively to Scottish singer/songwriter Alasdair Roberts. He decided to get in touch with Roberts and suggested working on the album together. Despite Roberts never having produced an album for anyone but himself, a few months of emailing back and forth, and Kivel travelled from his LA home to Glasgow and spent two weeks kipping on Roberts’ sofa while the two of them shaped the sound of what would become ‘Janus’.

It’s not just Roberts’ direct influence that you can hear on the album, it’s also the input of the 11 diverse local musicians that played across ‘Janus’, giving tracks a glimpse into their own styles and seasoning Kivel’s songs with sprinkles of avant jazz, classical, and outré experimentalism. The album’s subtle shifts into different musical spaces and emotions will surprise some listeners along their aural journey.

A good example of this mixing pot of influences can be found in the track ‘Prime Meridian’, which sweeps back and forth between plodding jazz and discorded piano bashing, sounding like the kind of thing you’d hear at the end of a foreboding Nick Cave ballad.

It is safe to say that this is an album of surprises. One would be forgiven for labelling ‘Janus’as a typical acoustic folk record when hopping from one song intro to another. But along with Kivel’s bittersweet vocals and warm acoustic guitar is a delicate undertone of gloom that may not be realised upon first listen.

Check out current singles Janus and Jamie’s.

Matt Kivel’s Janus is released on 5th February 2016 (Driftless Recordings). Pre-order the album here.

Laura Barnes

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