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Album Review: The Great Unseen by Kate + Max

8 Oct

Image courtesy of Sophie Richards Photography

The story goes like this: a hillbilly met a puppeteer. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which was Kate and which was Max.

I’m not sure what happened after, but the result of that meeting has sprung some sweet and charming melodies I can’t help swaying to. This folk-pop album doesn’t pack much punch, but I get the feeling that that wasn’t what Kate & Max were going for anyway.

The Great Unseen is the Brisbane duo’s debut E.P., six tracks of an easygoing adventure that reminds me of warm summer days and flyaway hair. That is to say, not everything in the album is a trip down happy lane. Max’s dulcet tones lend a heavier anchor to tracks like Lost Sea and Closed Eyes, purring “I’ve got closed eyes, so blind to what you want” to match Kate’s soulful and mature voice.

There’s an elegance in their songs that transcends the lyrics and simplicity reverbs in the whole record; down to the inquisitive guitar plucking and lyrics beautifully sang. The pair strikes a comfortable balance with their clear vocals and bright and expectant melodies.

Kate & Max remind me of a mellowed-out Florence Walsh (of Florence + The Machine) with a heavy dose of Bon Iver, sans their respective dramatic flair, replacing it with a bright-eyed and fresh new pair of eyes set on experiencing the world.

The title track of the E.P is youthful and spry, fusing well with its promise to escape into the great unseen. The lyrics aren’t much to write home about but I’ve found yourself murmuring “I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know nothing” without meaning to and damn if it isn’t catchy.

The clear winner and takeaway of the record, however, is To Anyone Else. It punches a dolorous and melancholy chord, with Kate’s saccharine voice taking a back seat for a deeper and stronger cadence that brings out the emotion of the song. Laced with both an acoustic and electric guitar, this track doesn’t exactly make me want to hum along to it but it did leave me grasping at straws to find out what the heck made me so emo (for a lack of a better word) all of a sudden.

An array of local Brisbane musicians assisted the duo in the production of their E.P, citing friends from Millions and Moonfleet for background guitar and keyboard, with mastering done by Nick Peterson (Bon Iver).

The songs are distinctive in their own right but flow well throughout the album, which is no mean feat for a debut E.P. and for a band that’s been together for less than a year. The tracks don’t appear disjointed and jarring, and they give a pleasant and sweet trippy feeling, as if I’m lightheaded from too much helium and frankly, I can’t be happier with it.