This Winter Machine – Kites (2021)
After the release of the first album by British This Winter Machine, I was very impressed by the band around singer Al Winter. The Man Who Never Was didn't sound like a debut album, but more like the product of a seasoned band with a lot of experience. What was striking was of course Winter's wonderful voice that really touches me and that is not always obvious in this genre. Successor Tower of Clocks showed a different sound and that is not surprising when you consider that a completely different band is formed. Moreover, there is definetely something to criticize, the production. As a result of which Winter's voice loses a lot of warmth and sometimes even sounds shrill. Too bad about the beautiful songs that are definitely on it. Okay, then to Kites. Again a completely different band can be heard that also makes use of two guests on the keys, of which mastermind Pat Ganger Sanders of Drifting Sun stands out because that is a real improvement compared to previous albums. He opens the album with the short instrumental Le Jour D'Avant. Then comes the song The Storm, which consists of two parts and, in my opinion, is the highlight of the album. In this track Mark Abrahams of Wishbone Ash plays a wonderfully lingering solo and that is immediately a point that bothers me. The two guitarists now playing in the band, Simon D'Vali and Dom Bennison, are good but never reach the level of said solo anywhere on the album. But it is definitely an improvement compared to the predecessor and that can be heard in all songs. Another clear improvement is the way in which Al's voice can be asserted. The warmth and feeling of before are back and this man really sings very well and can convey emotions in a way that not every vocalist is given. Overall, the level of the songs is a bit higher than on Tower Of Clocks, but in my humble opinion there are also a few lesser tracks on the album. Every time I listen to Kites I get very happy from the beginning and as the album progresses this decreases slightly and my attention wanes. How beautiful Sometimes is and how sensitively sung, the songs before and after don’t touch me that much. Several songs are quite poppy and lack some musical depth, but that's a choice they make. The title track Kites that acts as a closing track is not the finale I had hoped for. What's is it that makes me feel like this? In my opinion the melody is just not catchy enough and then the production also feels a bit heavy. Don't get me wrong, it is all still beautiful but I just expect a lot from this band and I am left with the feeling that I am listening to a great album but that there could be so much more in it. Guest singer Peter Jones does what he always does and shines with his fine voice. There certainly is a place in my annual list for Kites and that obviously is a big compliment. I know that the band is already preparing a successor and I am convinced that it can and will be even better. For me they should really opt for longer and varied compositions and give the musicians even more space. The voice is already very good and the search for a suitable keyboard player continues. Obviously this isn't up to me and I'm just waiting to see what choices this fine band will make and please Al, do keep these musicians together.