ALBUM REVIEW: Knomad Spock – Winter of Discontent
Knomad Spock – a name derived from the restless spirit that has driven him through life, is an artist who hails jointly from Britain and Somalia. His debut record consists of poetry, rap and neofolk, which accumulate to make Winter of Discontent.
With influences ranging from Four Tet to Radiohead, the record sees the artist paint a canvas that expresses his dual heritage with a variety of different paints. Spock’s own viewing of himself as being an outsider is a theme that is engrained in the record – balancing this with producer Jamie Smith’s intricate additions, it is a combination that both enjoy.
Opener Papillon greets you with Spock’s delicately delivered spoken poetry of “life as wind is blowing gales, I find it hard to keep my stride.” The ambiguity of his lyricism is something that dares you to imagine and relate these lyrics to your own life, where you can find your own meanings and inner discoveries.
Gentle instrumentals are a currency that Spock and Smith spend well at times. Gift and Egypt add to this, as their timid strumming and fiddly guitar parts would not feel out of place on an early Bon Iver record.
The latter track has earned plaudits from the likes of BBC Radio 6’s Lauren Laverne, and you can see why with lyrics like “I told you I ain’t saying much, been run out by umpires who want you all by yourself” (extra points if you got the cricket reference).
In the same track, Spock and Smith’s emotive bass and sedative guitar plucks on your heartstrings, until it leads into a trumpet solo which almost sounds like someone whimpering and a subtle synth line. On paper, it should not work – but it does.
Spirit Level follows which creates an atmosphere like you are sat round a fire with a tribe from the Amazon, but the fire is quite weak as the “bu bu”’s and “bom booms” fail to set the track alight.
Know is a subtle song which features a lovely whispered ASMR style section, complimenting the sly instrumental which takes time to build, but when it does, it dies down again rather disappointingly, and the song feels a little empty.
Sensei Sean is an instrumental track that is quite forgettable. During the course of its 101 seconds, the track really adds nothing to the album and leaves you questioning what its purpose is? Lost Souls continues a dip in the album’s instrumental quality, with an acoustic guitar piece sounding like it could have been in any of the last six tracks taking centre stage – the track certainly fails to leave a positive impact.
Spock does live up to the branding of neo-folk he has received in the song Poles. A happy acoustic piece bursts the album back to life. It is a welcome break from the deep, moody instrumentals that were making you struggle to keep concentration. However, this happy guitar piece is too good to be true and is quickly taken away from us, as Spock resorts back to the gloomy instrumentals that he knows best.
Evidently, the guitar was just a bit too upbeat. It was as if someone is playing the guitar piece and then someone ran into the studio and shouted “woah, woah, woah! We don’t do that sort of stuff here – get out!” and then someone had started playing some depressing piece they made the other day on their laptop, and everyone was contempt again.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with some gloomy subtle instrumentals, but you need a bit of variety, and to be totally honest, Spock’s vocal ability is just not good enough yet to stand alone on a track, with small sounds revolving around his every word.
However, the album does finish on a bright note. BALLAD has a lovely, dreamy end – with glitchy synths, thumping drums and choir vocals coming together to create something different. Spock does choose to save the best until last though.
The Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn inspired Maps is Spock speaking his marvellous poetry out loud. It is honestly the first track you can really hear Spock’s vocals – and he sounds confident, it is just a shame this confidence is not echoed in the rest of the album.
Overall, Knomad Spock’s debut starts well and ends well, but what is in between often lacks substance and confidence. His soothing vocals are pleasant, but it is often difficult to tell what is being said due to the mix and Spock’s clarity – which is a real shame because Spock’s lyricism is astounding at times. Although there is a lot to like about this record, there is also a fair amount to dislike.
Standout Tracks: Gift, Egypt, Maps
For Fans Of: Will Varley, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear
Written by: Joe Loughran