Album Reviews

King Creosote – I DES

(Domino) UK release date: 3 November 2023

Kenny Anderson returns with his first album in seven years, a slowburning set of songs full of delicate beauty and affecting, idiosyncratic warmth

King Creosote - I DES Scottish alternative folk musician Kenny Anderson, the man behind the King Creosote name, has been making music for over 25 years now, much of it released in the earlier days only on CD-Rs via the Fence label on a small scale, DIY basis. Recent years have seen him migrate to the grander surroundings of the Domino label from where he has released a series of albums of heightened individuality that have resonated with a special emotional appeal.

We last heard from Anderson back in 2016 on Astronaut Meets Appleman, an album that showcased his ongoing interest in broadening his sound away from traditional folk tropes, a theme that is continued on latest album I DES. The album’s title is a characteristically obtuse reference to one of Anderson’s key collaborator’s this time around – multi-instrumentalist and co-producer Derek O’Neill (aka Des Lawson). It sees him delivering a set of songs that pull at the heartstrings while incorporating his usual slight idiosyncrasies and outsider status.

The album opens with It’s Sin That’s Got Its Hold Upon Us, a track which features a dense, substantial musical base for Anderson’s fragile, emotive vocals. Ahead of the album’s release he explained that he had built a modular synth in 2020 and it’s in evidence at moments like this. Elsewhere, the album also employs vibraphones, accordions, e-bows and pipes to create more in the way of warm sonic beds for Anderson’s songs to inhabit.

Blue Marbled Elm Trees is one of the most immediate tracks on the album, Anderson displaying gratitude for the life he leads and finding comfort in domestic pursuits. “I had the best time laughing with my girls, I had the best life offered up, by this blue marble or any alien world” he sings, matching some of his most poignant moments found on career highs like Diamond Mine, his 2011 collaboration with Jon Hopkins, or his 2014 soundtrack to the documentary film From Scotland With Love. Moments like this, with its rich and accomplished sound, also demonstrate how he continues to outgrow any former lo-fi artistic motifs. They also show how a sense of place (specifically his home of Fife) and an examination of relationships still informs much of his music.

A simple appreciation for his current existence crops up on the wistful and poignant Burial Bleak, as he sings “I’m thinking that maybe dying’s just not for me, you’ll see how hard I cling to my life”. A similar sensitivity runs through Walter De La Nightmare with its pronounced sense of longing amid the evocative musical arrangements. The wonderfully titled Please Come Back I Will Listen, I Will Behave, I Will Toe The Line offers more in the way of supercharged and keening desire, also succeeding in sounding utterly triumphant.

There are a couple of anomalies along the way but they’re minor concerns in the grand scheme of things (the jarring digital effects and accelerated tempo at the beginning of Susie Mullen in particular takes some getting used to and the 36 minute long Drone In B# that closes the album feels a little incongruous, although in no way unpleasant). The overall take out from I DES however is of an artist continuing to play to his strengths, delivering another slowburning set of songs full of delicate beauty and affecting warmth.

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More on King Creosote
King Creosote – I DES
King Creosote – Astronaut Meets Appleman
This Music Made Me: King Creosote
King Creosote @ Milton Court, London
King Creosote – From Scotland With Love