Friday Full-Length: Kylesa, Exhausting Fire

 

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That resulted in some righteously heavy moments, as with the opener “Crusher,” or the riff-forward side A closer “Shaping the Southern Sky,” or the oboe-inclusive “Blood Moon” on side B, but also a more brazenly and more confidently melodic take than they’d ever shown before. Granted, their reemergence from having two drummers was inherently going to realign the dynamic of the group as a whole, making room for that melody to flourish, but one of the overarching narratives of Kylesa‘s discography is the ratio of shared vocals between Cope and Pleasants becoming a defining element of the band. More even than on Ultraviolet, there’s a sense of individual authorship in the songs — he brought this part, she brought this one, etc. — but both parties are still evolving in this material. Cope takes on an almost gothic New Wave aspect with “Moving Day,” backing himself on keys, while Pleasants offers an ahead-of-its-time heavy post-rock with side B leadoff “Falling,” underscored by the weighted punctuation of McGinley‘s drumming.

Songs like “Inward Debate” and “Lost and Confused” find one or the other in the forward position, or effectively switching or working in a thoughtfully constructed arrangement, and by the time they get to the penultimate kylesa exhausting fire“Growing Roots,” they manage to pull together a sound like heavy Weezer — which I have to imagine that, if they saw this, they’d take as the compliment it’s intended to be, since “Growing Roots” sounds like heavy Weezer is what they were going for. With Cope at the helm as ever at The Jam Room in Columbia, South Carolina, Kylesa‘s exploration never really ended — until of course it did — and even while there were signature elements of their style in their deceptively angular riffing resulting in the mounting rhythmic tension of their verses headed toward a chorus release, or even the touches of psychedelia worked into “Shaping the Southern Sky” or the arrival of the last shove in album finale “Out of My Mind,” those came accompanied by evident growth that was no less an essential component of the band’s work.

The melodic burst at the end of “Lost and Confused.” The conveyed monotony of “Night Drive.” The boldness of the verses in “Crusher” and the simple fact that that song leads off while being so dynamic rather than just an up-front rocker. There’s so much on Exhausting Fire to argue for Kylesa as an undervalued, taken-for-granted band. It’s not their heaviest album or their most rawly aggressive — maybe that would be their 2002 self-titled, with Cope fresh off his time in Damad; recall their split with Meatjack if you dare — but Exhausting Fire is also more than a band burning themselves out or already being burnt. It’s them turning exhaustion into expression, and it still resonates effectively.

I didn’t review Exhausting Fire when it came out. I don’t remember why. I’d spent a decade at that point listening to them and considered myself a fan, but I was a little scared off by the title, and it goes back to what I was saying before about the band knowing the end was coming. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear that from a group whose work I’d enjoyed so much. Like how Abbey Road is bittersweet because you know they knew it was over, one last blowout. That’s kind of the vibe that hindsight puts to work across Exhausting Fire, but even in that, their work as songwriters and the chemistry between Pleasants and Cope continued to move forward from where it was a couple years before. It wasn’t until earlier this week that I actually gave Exhausting Fire a fair shot. Now I want the CD. Go figure.

Both Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants have remained active since Kylesa called it a day. Cope produces a swath of acts at The Jam Room and features in the band Oakskin, who have a few singles up on Bandcamp and took part in last year’s Mutants of the Monster virtual festival, while Pleasants has pursued more New Wave and post-punk-inspired atmospheric songcraft with The Discussion, who reissued the 2017 EP Movement Towards a New Beginning (originally just called the European Tour EP) and offered the new single Deathtripper B/W A Forest in 2020. There’s been no word of a reunion and I wouldn’t expect any anytime soon — so it’ll probably happen five minutes after this is posted; that’s how it usually goes when I say something like that — but Kylesa merch continues to be available and their albums still sound vibrant these years after the fact, like they were made to do.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Okay. Everything is awful. Mostly me. I’m the worst. Let the record show.

Oh man, I miss the record show.

Anyway. It was just one of those weeks. Muddling, middling, head down, just-get-through-the-day-to-another-one-for-fucking-what kind of week. I mentioned last week the telehealth appointment about meds. Holy fucking shit that was weird. And awkward, and uncomfortable. Dude was asking me questions like I’m supposed to sit there and do Depression Theater for him and talk about how I don’t want to get out of bed or how daily tasks are hard for me and I just said fuck it. “I’m sorry, this is making me really uncomfortable and I’m going to end the call. Thanks for your time.”

Nothing resolved, but at least pulling myself out of that situation felt good. I was weirded out the rest of the day though. Is this really how people do medicine? I’m a fucking stranger tell me about the time you spend curled up on the floor? Shit. I said to him, “I’ve been in treatment long enough to know when things aren’t right.” Fine. So dance for me, you pill-seeking monkey.

I recorded some vocals last Sunday. Sang clean a bit, which is hard for me because I know I’m not good at it and that’s like the omega of self-fulfilling prophecies. A vocal coach once quickly cut to the core of me and said, “Someone in your life once told you you couldn’t sing,” and that’s true. Anyway, I got through it and then went back on Wednesday and added a bunch more screams to the track, because that I can do and of course that’s what the person whose project it is was into. Can’t blame him. Anyway, it came out fine and I think the song will be out in a couple weeks. It’s a Joni Mitchell cover, but I rewrote most of the lyrics so they didn’t feel misogynist coming out of my mouth.

The Patient Mrs.’ semester begins next week. She’s back on campus not quite full-time, I think. I don’t know. Shit changes daily. She’s worried about getting tenure, trying to get writing done while teaching. The Pecan has been in virtual preschool the last couple weeks because the fucking plague is a thing and he maybe goes back next week too to in-person instruction. We don’t even know yet and it’s Friday. He was just finally sitting in the chair long enough to sing the days of the week (which is to the tune of the old Addams Family theme song, hilariously enough) and months of the year (to the tune of something else I can’t put my finger on just now; if The Patient Mrs. reads this as she sometimes does, she’ll probably tell me and I’ll slap my forehead, which is how I do).

I’m sure there’s more, but between that and the general overhang of dread resulting from impending fascist insurrection, is any more really necessary? Look out for a video interview with Lupus from Kadavar on Monday. I talked to him yesterday. Had never interviewed him before and probably should’ve by now, but he was nice.

Great and safe weekend. Don’t forget to hydrate and wear your mask and social distance and all that stuff.

FRM.

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2 Responses to “Friday Full-Length: Kylesa, Exhausting Fire

  1. Matt S says:

    Thanks for sharing – this is definitely the toughest January I can recall. I think the promise of the holidays was keeping me feeling at least someone positive late last year, but now that is gone Seasonal depression is hitting hard. My wife has been feeling really low (she’s long dealt with depression), she says she just doesn’t have anything to look forward to. I’m definitely the optimist in our relationship, but its hard for me not to agree with her…

    I can totally relate on the video counseling. I just started it late last year because I have been getting more concerned about my work related anxiety and an inability to focus on stuff around the house or things my wife tells me. The psychiatrist is really nice, but all hes done is throw several different prescriptions at me to see what sticks (its been Wellbutrin lately, which has been the best of the bunch). But I feel you on it being awkward as hell. He asks me how I’m doing and all I can do is say “Oh fiiiiine” because I can’t really articulate how I feel.

    Hang in there JJ, one day at a time. Just keep paddling.

  2. Max says:

    Gosh, I feel you man! Stay strong, change is gonna come.

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