Beaten by Them: Kinder Machines
I think it’s safe to say that the people of Australia are a pretty happy bunch and can you blame them? Australians have a sky-high life expectancy, live in a gorgeous climate, and have improbably avoided the supposedly global recession. Therefore with Kinder Machines’ light, carefree tone, it stands as no surprise that Beaten by Them’s two founding members, Andrew Harris and Max McCormick, hail from the land down under. Labeling themselves as a “post-rock” outfit, Beaten by Them vacillates between sprawling instrumental tracks that hearken to the genre’s darlings like Sigur Ros and smaller acoustic jaunts. Although post-rock is a genre that seems to be growing in popularity once again, the dangers of a fully post-rock record are numerous. Beaten by Them falls prey to a few of the dangers ‒ the songs can become interchangeable and overlong, the tempo can hover in one level for too long. But overall the band’s careful attention to sound makes Kinder Machines a solid record whose rewards can be found in the sonic subtleties that are peppered throughout the album.
The album’s opener, “Last Train to Kingston,” is a sunny, buoyant opener with percussive elements that keep it interesting. Most importantly it does what a good opening song should do: it sets a very definite tone for the rest of the album. “Jet Age” brings the album in a more folksy place initially, then resorts to synth that isn’t necessarily needed. I would have preferred more of a commitment to a simple arrangement. Fortunately this chaotic “more is more” mentality is really only limited to this one song. Parts of this album remind me of one of the unsung albums of 2012’s first half: Dustin Wong’s Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads. Although Wong’s album is far more experimental and visceral, it similarly fuses simple guitar melodies with intriguing effects for the entirety of the album. Mixing effects and good-old-fashioned guitar, Kinder Machines’ “Point Reyes,” has an incredibly catchy guitar melody and some percussive beats that give the impression of a simple, beachy song but, in reality, make for some complex orchestration.
Kinder Machines is a moderate record, one that has an underlying life to it in the subtle touches that inhabit it. On “Maps Not Territories,” the nine-minute behemoth of the album, the song initially appears to have a pretty routine melody. In fact, it’s almost aggressively conventional, the type of song you might hear in a commercial for a bank. But a sharp guitar riff slowly sneaks in and provides the song with the sense of depth it needs. So “Maps Not Territories” just about sums up the album ‒ overlong in places, intermittently dull, but with an appeal that manifests itself in the background.
MP3: Beaten by Them “Point Reyes”