Kite Operations: Dandelion Day (KOA Records, 2005)

by Jason

Kite OperationsKite Operation‘s is a New York based indie-rock band, and their first full-length album, Dandelion Day settles quite well into the New York scene. The band displays a lot of potential. The songwriting and vocals of Joseph Kim, David Yang’s guitar work, Jie Whoon Kang’s bass lines (on both electric and upright bass), and Sung Shin’s drumming all contribute towards a strong set of songs. It is a well-varied album that touts strong melodies and intricate instrumentation, while not refraining from moments of blaring guitar rock.

“A Wonder” opens with wind chime harmonics laying out a gentle polyphony. Heavy guitars emerge, right before the melody breaks out, with gorgeous mandolin-like guitars floating above the driving rhythm section. The song explores how delicate this life is, with the hook, “it’s a wonder we work at all”. The aggressive-tinged drums and the blur of the guitar blend very well, and hint at strong shoegazer influences, while the song retains its indie-rock feel.
“Tracing Paths” is possibly my favorite track of the album. The song is carried by light and intricate guitar work, reminiscent of LN or Kunek The instrumentation and the lyrics both are beautiful. Joseph Kim sings of our human relationships as crossing paths “like cursive”; “throw them together and witness the splatter.” Kim and David Yang literally splatter shrieking feedback in-between verses, reinforcing the subject matter, but not overpowering the mood. Kim closes with the ambiguous line “I take my food from the fed, clothes from the dressed, love from the loved” which prods at the way we attain our necessities (if I’m not gleaming too much from it). As the chorus comes around, the melody leaps up to striking heights. The attention to detail here is superb. The result is a sensitive, complex song.

“Head of Steam” is a blaring tune that reminds me a bit of TheBrotherKite. The melody and bass line are very well crafted, while the intensity of the guitars and drums counterpoint the soft falsetto quite well. The song falters only at the end, with one chord drilled for about thirty-six bars with little variance, and I’m not exaggerating; I counted out thirty-six bars.

“Senses Are Next” is an ideal check-point song, settling in nicely in the middle of the album. It opens with an interesting, if somewhat confusing three-part harmony on the line “new day rising”. A throbbing bass note and heavy drum part enter, as delay-heavy guitars trickle in. Kim‘s singing swings from soft to near screaming, as the music follows his lead. the song comes to a lapse, and reenters with a complex chord flow and cautious vocal delivery, offering cryptic lines about the “vastness”, “beautiful and boring as the dust.” As the bass and drums return the song to full-swing, the opening harmony returns, and in the context of the full arrangement, it makes sense to the ear.

“Washing Out”, Hard Way”, and “Traffic Lights” are all solid songs, ranging from driving indie-rock to a lighter Brit-pop sound. “Surprise” pulls the album towards its close with beautiful arrangement and touch. The understated guitars and drums roll along under superb vocals. The sound is akin to softer Death Cab or Clientele. About a third of the way through, the song dissolves into pizzicato guitar chords that give way to the steady drive and falsetto chorus. This swells further into a wall of blur accompanied by a heavy tom pattern. The song closes in a soft restatement of the chorus: “surprise… Surprise, my darling.”

“Play Undo” is a throbbing, energetic “closer” (the CD contains two bonus tracks, one of which is an acoustic version of “A Wonder”. The other is left unnamed.) The song enters with a two-chord progression and proceeds to a driving chorus and refrain. The refrains sport the most “classic rock” moments on the album, delving into searing and technically rich guitar riffs over the practically swinging Zeppelinesque drums and bass. The song closes with a wash of feedback and sustain.

At times, some of the melodies and arrangement sounded a bit stilted to me. Kite Operations, with their first full-length effort, are still developing their craft, and certainly have room to grow. On a personal note, I am a heavy snare drum lover, and the drums on Dandelion Day where a tad on the light side, to me. But that’s just my personal bias getting in the way. This in no way took away from the strength of the guitar work and songwriting. Every song on the album has a strong melody, arrangement and intriguing lyrics. The band certainly achieves plenty of indie-rock excellence, while successfully employing several different pop and rock styles, displaying their range. I would recommend this to fans of Interpol, Blonde Redhead, and early Death Cab for Cutie. Dandelion Day is a skillful blend of intricate guitar/noise pop and tasteful, at times aggressive indie rock.

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