An ingenious and accessible second album from the art-pop trio.
Mike Haydock 2012-07-12
For their second album, British trio Kotki Dwa approached the National Trust and asked for help. “Dear National Trust,” they said, probably while wearing their Sunday best, “please let us swan around your marvellous country houses, pick our favourite rooms and record in them. You can then stock our new record in your shops, alongside the boxes of biscuits and postcards of dogs.”
Let’s be honest: that doesn’t sound like a very cool thing to do. But then you listen to Staycations and you watch the “making of” videos on Vimeo, and the whole thing starts to make sense.
The band rigged up their equipment in beautiful rooms packed with stories – rooms that inspired them through both acoustics and histories. You can see singer Alex Ostrowski laying down a vocal while sat in a bay window at Fenton House in Hampstead, gazing at the view; and his brother, Tristan, playing bass in an echoing wine cellar at Upton House in Oxfordshire. It certainly beats being holed up in a windowless and overpriced studio.
But all this would be pointless if the music wasn’t good. Fortunately, it is: Staycations is an accessible pop album that also has enough complexity to please the cerebral types. The pop draws you in at the start – She Likes It and Guests are warm and upbeat, bringing to mind comparisons with Metronomy and Bombay Bicycle Club.
But it is when Kotki Dwa allow more space and reflection into their work that Staycations becomes really intriguing. Birds twitter on the gentle, wobbly interlude of Two Black Flies, and again on Don’t Be, which also blends in some found sounds – and suddenly we’re transported. Alex’s voice takes flight, striving for the heights of Jeff Buckley or Patrick Watson’s angelic delivery. Elsewhere, the flowing piano outro on Bad Timing is a stunning surprise.
What this album lacks in tonal cohesion – you can’t record in so many different locations and expect the songs to link together perfectly – it makes up for in ingenuity. The National Trust may have wondered what they were getting themselves involved with, but they’ll be delighted with the result.