Bent Knee are an acquired taste – of this you should be certain. Their sonic landscaping is at times jarring and difficult to accept, dissonant tones crashing over you between delicately crooned melodies from lead singer Courtney Swain… yet, regardless of this, there is something in their songs that completely enchants.
It could be the musicianship. As a group Bent Knee are tight as a snare, their timings of notation blending incoherently together before blossoming outwards into recognisable strokes of melody. ‘Being Human’ is a prime example, its stylish beauty superlative in its technical verve, leaving spellbound ears awash with ringing luminance.
Then again, it could be their risk-taking. ‘Good Girl’ is a song that kicks off with dystopian guitar tones, tiding the listener over prior to the evolution of the track, additional players joining in with the musical fray one after the other. It then, however, deconstructs itself to become small and hopeful; a lament of broken dreams, before blasting back into life. As a listener I felt this song almost lost me. I’m a busy man; lots to do. Why would I hang around and give them time to develop this grey tapestry of noise? Well… honestly, I don’t know why, but I did hang around, hooked by the promise of a glorious creative eruption- and then it arrives, the grey becoming colour becoming neon blaze, ‘Good Girl’ wonderfully playing itself out while toying with its audience. Musically speaking, Bent Knee shows us their balls of steel with this track.
But- right, okay, it could be their distinctive style. Taking into account the aforementioned pieces, I turn my attention to ‘Black Tar Water’ and scratch my head. This is a band that embraces the small with the operatically large. They cue reminiscences of the tumultuously epic Devin Townsend, yet their fractious songwriting and near-folky arrangements ebb CocoRosie and even Regina Spektor (though a fairly moody version that, one day, decided to take lots of valium and hasn’t stopped since). Even their music videos – particularly the one for ‘Black Tar Water’ – are stark in their originality, an appropriate reminder of how risky this group really are. The song itself is perhaps more easily described as “commercial” than their other releases, but even then it leaves you feeling displaced in a way that only a Bent Knee song could.
At this point I have to say: Bent Knee elude my proper description. I don’t know why I think they’re as good as I believe they are. They’ve just got me, man. They’ve just got me. But yeah, they released a song this year called ‘Hands Up’ and it is rather brilliant; the lyrics and the musical tone transport you to a strange future of sentient Wi-Fi, having now become one with humanity, and it is delightfully disturbing. It’s also probably their happiest tune, which makes me chuckle. If you want somewhere relatively easy to start on – a song showcasing all the previously noted elements of their generally baffling yet amazing style – check this tune out.
I don’t want to rate this band out of 10 or give a jolly recoCHRISdation (ugh… no, no that really doesn’t work, does it? I’ll have to think of a better signature “thing” for my articles. Hm. How about not having a “thing”…? Yeah, cool, that’s easy). This band is an experience that you have to have, and no amount of some reviewer writing how “good” or “bad” they are will give you a whole and proper impression of their talent. For me, my imploring you to go and have a listen, to experience them first hand, is the best course of action I can take. So, please: take a few minutes and give Bent Knee a try – you’ll know very quickly whether or not they’re for you. Now excuse me, I’m off to iTunes to buy some of their singles (and yes, I’m pro-Apple. They got me young. Bite me. (See what I did there…?)).
BENT KNEE are:
Ben Levin – guitar & vocals
Chris Baum – violin & vocals
Courtney Swain – lead vocals & keyboards
Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth – drums
Jessica Kion – bass & vocals
Vince Welch – production & sound design