Posts Tagged ‘Dave Keegan’

Christopher Nosnibor

Steve Kendra has probably received as many words praising his work as anyone to have been covered here at Aural Aggravation, but the chances are, it’s gone unnoticed, since he’s rarely, if ever mentioned directly or by name. As the rhythm guitarist in York’s premier purveyors of psychedelic drone, Soma Crew, his contribution is something I’ve long admired. Like drummer Nick Clambake, Kendra’s brilliance lies in his humbleness, and his appreciation that the sum is always greater than the parts. A great rhythm section sticks to rhythm and keeps it together. Sounds simple, but it’s much harder in reality. It requires great concentration for a start. And it takes humility too not want to step into the spotlight in one way or another. But this is precisely why he’s the perfect player for Soma Crew, content to keep his head down, face obscured by the peak of his cap, and bludgeon away at two or three chords for six or seven minutes.

Just as he’s the quiet one of the band – not that they’re really big talkers most of the time – he’s quietly been working on his own material as Kendroid. It’s essentially a solo vehicle, but with input from as handful of people well known in York music circles, not least of all instrumental and production assistance from Dave Keegan, and to date he’s recorded and released two full-length albums, The Last Love Song on Earth (2019) and Poetry Love & Romance (2021) – so while these aren’t- hot-off-the-press new releases, it’s never too late to catch up. In fact, the whole promo build-up of a clutch of singles and videos in the run-up to an album’s release and then the explosion of reviews in the weeks and months around it, I get, but it does create a false sense of there being a certain window for new releases. The reality is that albums have a slow diffusion, and more often than not, people discover albums and artists months, years, even decades, after their emergence.

Kendra’s route to being a musician has been far from conventional: the man didn’t even pick up a guitar till he turned 40, and is by no means a muso. I have a lot of respect for that, and have found that oftentimes, technical education is a limiter to creativity. Steve can’t read tab and doesn’t know music theory – and consequently, isn’t hampered by conventions.

The chronology of the material is chewy: most of the songs on the second album were written before those on the first, and the second album is more of a lockdown exercise to document/ purge the journey that preceded The Last Love Song.

The Last Love Song on Earth presents a pretty eclectic set, spanning low-key blues and reminiscent of Mark Wynn before he went punky/shouty and went off to support Sleaford Mods (Married to the Rain’), to Soma Crew-esque space rock workouts that toss in dashes of Stereolab and Pulp (‘Mexican Heart’), and songs that incorporate elements of both, along with an experimental twist, with the swampy ‘Incel’ and brooding grind of ‘Deam Lover’ that has hints of Suicide in the mix contributing to the diversity that draws in The Doors to Mark Lanegan.

Poetry Love & Romance is quite a different animal, and while recorded in lockdown, it’s not – unusually – a lockdown album, packed with the anxieties of forced captivity or separation. But it is, in another way, a definitive lockdown album, in that its recording is one whereby the sound and production is determined by limitations, being largely acoustic – although Dave Keegan again features in a musical capacity, as well as engineering, mixing, and mastering.

We’re straight in with an easy country swing, with acoustic guitar and simple drum machine for the title track, and it sets the style for the album as a whole, which is mellow, sparse laid back, and pretty country. These are songs that paint pictures, sketches of scenes, some faded and tinged with the distance of time and reflection, and it’s quite touching at times.

Poetry Love & Romance does feel like something of a stopgap, but who wasn’t waiting for life to restart in some way the last couple odd years?

It’ll be interesting to see what Steve does next, but what he’s done thus far is interesting, and a clear step away from his guitaring day-job, and a such, it’s a bold move that’s yielded some great results.