Kate Stables had already recorded the fifth This Is The Kit album before lockdown arrived, but it feels well placed to provide comfort to those in need through the ongoing restricted world we currently live in.
In this respect the title, Off Off On, is rather uncanny, reflecting life as it fluctuates from stage to stage, tier to tier. The album takes us on a journey via warm melodies and spoonfuls of sleepy, mindful music. It is full of nicely woven songs that are also life-affirming and gracious. In many ways the album acts as the restart we all need, offering a therapeutic unwinding from the world around us.
Kate Stables’ tender vocals and contemplative songs have gained the band much critical acclaim and praise from artists they have toured with, such as Sharon Van Etten and The National. It’s easy to understand why.
Off Off On really comes alive with the aptly titled Starting Again. Even though it is the second track, it feels like the moment where the album properly announces itself. With the watery drum beat at the start and dreamy rhythm guitar, the track manifests itself as a sort of expedition along a key theme – the complexities involved in getting life back on track. It delivers a masterclass in melodic pop, aided by Stables’ self-reflective lyrics that are enriched with emotion.
The sound varies from track to track, with the more traditional folk elements appearing on songs like This Is What You Did and the actual opener, Found Out. This is accompanied by added psychedelic influences from the likes of Joni Mitchell, Tim Buckley and Donovan that demonstrate Stables’ ability to bring continuity from classic folk rock acts. The experimentation in these songs captures an all-encompassing melancholic feeling, bolstered by the occasional addition of saxophone.
Another quality to the album’s arrangement is the eloquent harmonies between Stables and Rozi Plain. The duo achieve an ebb and flow that moves in beautiful synchronicity. A prime example of this is on No Such Thing, a track that tackles the themes of isolation and denial of truth, with each of their vocals looping around the other.
The final two tracks are arguably the best, tying up the knots of emotion that are bestowed upon us throughout the album. Was Magician offers melancholic, wintery vocals that are evocative of the loneliness of taking late-night walks in the woods. Keep Going has a similarly melancholic feel with its soft rumbling percussion. At over six and a half minutes, it has a longevity that keeps the listener hooked.
Off Off On captures something of how the world is right now. It has moments that encourage us to turn off and seek escape, but at the same time also provides energy to help us to re-engage with the world. In short, it’s a perfect soundtrack to help us through these pandemic-dominated times.