KESTRELS have a new record out on Sonic Unyon Records. 5 June 2012 sees the release of A Ghost History, the sophomore LP from the Halifax based band.
The band has a long history of blending earnest lyrics, an endearing sense of melody, and guitar histrionics, and A Ghost History delivers on the promises made on the early releases by the band. The record was recorded in various bursts of activity over 2010 and 2011 and features an updated mix of live staple “The Light” from The Solipsist EP (Noyes Records, 2010). Where debut LP Primary Colours (Noyes Records, 2009) was a relatively safe sonic affair, A Ghost History sees the ante increased considerably: the band self-produced the record to ensure it met their own standards, refining and re-recording songs multiple times over the year it took to make the record. (Album closer “The Past Rests” was tracked 23 times in four different recording sessions until everyone was satisfied.)
The results jump out of the speakers—from the opening drone and washed-out guitar of “Drowning Girl” to the screeching crescendos of “The Field Where I Died” to the alien lines all over first single “There All The Time Without You”, it becomes apparent that this is a record that matters. The record is notable for a rare guest appearance by Tim Wheeler of Irish band ASH on “Dumb Angel”. Wheeler was the teenage hero of Chad Peck (guitar/vocals), and the two struck up a friendship backstage at an Ash show in 2003. The track is one of the album’s highlights and features Wheeler’s inimitable style front and center. Lyrically, the album answers a question posed by Jean Baudrillard in an essay from The Vital Illusion: “Is a ghost history, a spectral history, still a history?” Fueled by a summer spent living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan (far removed from the insular peninsula of Halifax), Peck wrote a record that thoroughly mines out concepts of nostalgia and memory.
Taking the aesthetic of early 90s Creation Records and mixing it with the ethics and energy of the first Merge Records releases, Kestrels have forged their sound. They have cut their teeth as a ferociously loud live act, and the new record sounds appropriate turned all of the way up; it also warrants late night listening with headphones.
The band has a six-week North American tour lined up in support of A Ghost History along with key festival appearances at Liverpool Sound City.
Kestrels are Chad Peck, Devin Peck (bass), and Paul Brown (drums).
Order Kestrels "A Ghost Story" Digital Album here as MP3, Apple Lossless or FLAC formats.
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NOW RATING: NNNN
With interest in 90s shoegaze only getting stronger, the Kestrels’ sonic assault of a sophomore album arrives right on time.The Halifax trio perfect dialed-to-11 volume, churning guitar drone and feedback, and unpolished vocals – a mix that draws heavily from Creation Records bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive.
But it’s not all pummelling drums and tsunamis of ringing guitars obscuring the sometimes off-key singing. The sounds take shape around guitarist/vocalist Chad Peck’s melodic and structured songwriting, inspired in part by a summer living on New York’s Lower East Side. During that excursion, Peck also secured a cameo by one of his musical heroes, Ash’s Tim Wheeler, who lends exuberant guitar leads to standout track Dumb Angel.
That the young trio recorded A Ghost History themselves is another reason to admire them. Despite a few meandering tunes, the album sounds colossal and visceral. Apparently, closer The Past Rests, another standout, was tracked 23 times before they were satisfied.
Top track: Dumb Angel
• NOW | July 19-26, 2012 | VOL 31 NO 47 – Carla Gillis , NOW Magazine
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Reasons to Live for July 22: Liars’ creepy electronic detour and more
• Kestrels, A Ghost History (Sonic Unyon). Halifax, Halifax, Halifax. Shoegaze, shoegaze, shoegaze. Starting to feel stuck on “repeat” here, but these awesome records keep trickling in so here we are again.
Reasons to Live has been a fan of noisy Nova Scotians Kestrels for a while now — indeed, the last time I caught them live in Toronto, I bought up all the merch I could carry and then got so drunk that I lost every bit of it somewhere between Parkdale and my place while blindly staggering home — and A Ghost History activates the usual noise-rock pleasure centres as easily as everything the trio has issued before.
Yes, if you were a My Bloody Valentine fan from the Maritimes who found religion when folks like Eric’s Trip, Sloan and Thrush Hermit saw fit to channel Loveless on a shoestring back in the day, you’re probably predisposed to like this scruffy stuff as much as I do. But the rest of you needn’t fight it: the mid-song eruption of white noise on “There All the Time Without You” is a reverent and authentic approximation of the thrills Daydream Nation once delivered, while the taut tunefulness of “Decoder” proves Kestrels aren’t covering up a lack of bona fide pop chops with all that extraneous racket.– Ben Rayner, Toronto Star
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From silence to deliverance
“We’ve kind of accepted at this point that it just takes us a long time to make records, for whatever reason.”
Chad Peck’s comment and the ensuing laugh reveal his comfort with his band’s formula for making records.
Kestrels is the name of that band, and they land in St. John’s this weekend for a pair of gigs to showcase tunes from their latest effort, “A Ghost History.”
Since the indie-pop trio assembled to play a charity show in Halifax five years ago, they’ve released a few seven-inch vinyl records and a full-length recording.
They’ve also undergone some lineup changes to arrive at their present form.
In late 2010 things began to slowly come together for Peck and his bandmates, brother Devin Peck (bass) and friend Paul Brown (drums), in a way they hadn’t with previous incarnations.
With the intent to lay down some tracks for a side project, Chad — the band’s guitarist, songwriter and lead singer — and crew spontaneously “started morphing these songs that were intended to be low-fi, scrappy recordings into something that was album-worthy and something that would be good to play live,” he recalls.
The new music involved a more complex layering of sounds than previous efforts, he says, and was partly inspired by The Beach Boys’ “Smile Sessions” and My Bloody Valentine.
It incorporated “these subtle things that maybe you don’t get on first listen, which I think makes records stand up in the long run, at least from my personal (perspective),” Peck explains.
Months of musical exploration and recording sessions left the band with a handful of instrumental numbers, but few accompanying lyrics.
Peck hit a rough patch of road in his life too, he says, and couldn’t confront the creative block that stood in his way.
As it happened, his friend Tim Wheeler — frontman for popular alternative-rock band Ash — was looking for someone to sublet his Manhattan apartment while he toured last summer, so Peck found himself in the Big Apple for a few months.
“And I guess it was there that I figured out lyrically what the record was going to be about,” he says. “I think that period was really important for the band because we were pretty tied up in what was going on, so to step away and stop completely for two months — it sort of gave us the space to finish off the record the way we needed to.
“I wanted the lyrics to represent where I was at the time,” he continues. “And being close to the picture and staring at one detail — I kind of moved back and could see the whole picture.”
Peck ironically found solace in a city that never sleeps, he says, and spent countless evenings at a late-night bookstore around the corner from Wheeler’s apartment.
“I’d go there and just sort of hang out and (think) about the things I was sort of struggling with.”
Among the books he befriended was Jean Baudrillard’s “The Vital Illusion,” in which he confronted a question regarding the interplay of memory, belief and history: “Is a ghost history, a spectral history, still a history?”
“If you (listen to) the lyrics on the record, there’s a ton of references to the past or history ... he (question) of, ‘Is the fabricated history still a history?’” he asks.
“So if I remember this thing the wrong way but I start to believe (it), does that make it just as relevant as if I had actually experienced it? As much as it’s a philosophical question, it really is a personal question to me. I felt like I had to do it — just talk about what mattered.”
As sonically compelling as it is lyrically, “A Ghost History” might well be the album that propels Kestrels into the East Coast indie spotlight.
Though they were autonomous in its creation, the band now has the hand of popular Hamilton-based indie label Sonic Unyon Records (Thrush Hermit, The Pixies, Eric’s Trip) to help them get “A Ghost History” out to the world.
As for the time it took to bring the album to fruition, “it’s kind of weird in indie rock to make records that show a lot of effort,” says Peck. “A lot of things end up being scrappy or spontaneous, and there’s some of that on our record as well, but most of it is very, very deliberate, which just suits my personality I guess,” he laughs.
Kestrels will be joined by Coach Longlegs, Kick Gut and Little Things at The Rose and Thistle Friday and East of Empire, Thee Internet and Colonel Craze and The Hunch at The Ship on Saturday. Peck will also play a solo set at Post Espresso on Water Street Saturday afternoon.
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