Alternative music reviews

March 20, 2008

Is/Are/Was by Khaya

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Is/Are/Was by KhayaKhaya were an Edinburgh band active between 1996 and 2001. Although they recorded two Peel sessions I don’t think I remember them – I must have been just dipping into the Peel show in that period. I am however very grateful that this retrospective album has been released because it allows me to catch up and enjoy their music. I can’t find the details that say when the CD is available but I assume it is soon.

The opening track is Summer/Winter Song which was their debut single and it’s easy to see why it made a big impact in Indie circles. It is a multi-layered jaunt with half-spoken lyrics over the top of a bouncing rhythm track with twanging guitar lines, effortlessly adding melody through backing vocals and an occasional distorted guitar to beef it up. The next track is Duet which features a young woman telling a story of a day out with her mates in the band and she can barely hold back the giggles. I certainly get the idea that beer and fun were a big part of the band’s raison d’etre.

When they step beyond whimsicality, things get even better. The Vampires allows some harrowing screamed vocals but some lightness through the use of violin and a particularly theatrical invitation of “Come on, vampires”. For a perfect combination of the two sides of Khaya you have Death 2 Numbers that combines a cheesy violin section with some thrashed guitar and a glorious chorus of “Just because there’s no second verse doesn’t mean there no song, Anna”.

Despite the fact that this is a compilation and so is by its nature is bitty, there are more than enough highlights to make it wonderful listening. It’s a suitable reminder that this was a talented and beautifully shambolic band.

The Vampires by Khaya

The Vampires by Khaya

Khaya on SL records

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