Matt Kivel - Fires on the Plain (2xLP)
***LIMITED EDITION - 500 UNITS***
FIRST 50 ORDERS INCLUDE 'HEAVEN, SONGS OF MATT KIVEL' CASSETTE FREE
“Fires on the Plain” is the second album that Matt Kivel will release in 2016. It is an 82 minute record featuring performances by Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Sophia Knapp, and about 20 other people who you may not know as well.
Matt Kivel has been doing this for a while. “This” being writing and recording albums. Some people have heard of him, but not many. The music he makes has always been sort of difficult to define— grounded in folk and rock ‘n’ roll, but always just a little bit more dissonant, or a little more subtle, or a little more confrontational. His shows have included nights of pristine performance and, equally, nights of audience-baiting, drunken violence, and anxiety-induced panic.
If there is a Matt Kivel “sound,” it rests somewhere between his falsetto and his delayed Gibson acoustic guitar. It’s calm and spacious and the lyrics are brutal, blunt, and vividly-rendered. In his native Echo Park, he is a hero to many of the younger musicians on the scene. They invite him to play at their shows in houses, art spaces, and the rapidly-shuttering DIY venues where he first made his name— and he always obliges. He is generous with his time, of which he has precious little. His music has never paid the bills, so he works 40 hours a week as a speechwriter for the space industry and bartends at his local beer store. In addition, he boxes at Manny Pacquiao’s gym, edits his wife’s poetry, and with every other waking minute, writes songs. His songs are songs of experience. Songs of a life, lived.
So why don’t many people outside of his small neighborhood really know about his music? Musicians love him. He’s done many a show with artists like Steve Gunn, The Clientele, Angel Olsen, and Martin Courtney (Real Estate). He’s released albums with indie powerhouse labels like Woodsist and Olde English Spelling Bee. He’s been covered by R. Stevie Moore, Alasdair Roberts, and Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good to Me). He’s received outstanding reviews, including an 8.0 review of his debut album “Double Exposure” by Pitchfork. And his new record, “Fires on the Plain” features performances by Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Robin Pecknold, two of the most outstanding artists/songwriters of their respective generations.
So what gives? Why isn’t this Kivel guy more widely-known? Well, sometimes these questions don’t have easy answers, but in the world of music, there are many analogues to Mr. Kivel, and while they often received little attention during their careers, their legacies have far outstripped those of their peers. I’m thinking of artists like Gene Clark, Nick Drake, Robert Wyatt, Vashti Bunyan, and Judee SIll. They made classic records and it took the world a while to catch up to what they were doing. That’s what’s going on with Matt right now.
“Fires on the Plain” is his best record. It’s a stone-cold classic of an album that is expansive and rich with detail. Horns blend with raindrops. Vocal howls give way to field recordings of rivers and backyards. The songs are sweet, dark, and always, brave. Matt will shower you mercilessly with distortion, soothe you with a quiet folk hymn, and launch into a motorik drum beat all within 5 minutes of music. It sounds wild, but it works beautifully. You will find that this music grows, evolves, and transfigures itself every time you return to it. It is a living, breathing thing, and I really hope that you take some time to enjoy it. These types of records aren't born every day.