Song of the Day: Kithkin – Altered Beast

photo by Alex Crick

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Every Friday, we feature a song from a local artist. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Altered Beast” by Kithkin from the forthcoming 2014 album Rituals, Trances & Ecstasies For Humans in Face of The Collapse on Pesanta Urfolk.

Kithkin – Altered Beast (MP3)

If there’s a band more explosively singular in the Pacific Northwest than Kithkin, then the Cascadian “treepunk” quartet are just doing a better job of spreading their gospel of percussive, visceral rock. Since the band’s February 2011 formation at Seattle University, Kelton Sears, Ian McCutcheon, Alex Barr, and Bob Martin have crafted a sprawling mythology to accompany their musical exploits. Named for a hobbit-like creature in the trading card game Magic: The Gathering and thematically inspired by Daniel Quinn’s philosophical novel Ishmael, their music and shows (“rituals”) are accompanied with a strong visual component, including facepaint, weathered Cascadian flags, and copious amounts of drumming. The group of self-proclaimed “fantasy nerds” have admitted that the band’s swords-and-sorcery act isn’t meant to be taken completely seriously, but their commitment to bringing their majestic universe to life is what helps their music soar beyond being pigeonholed as hokey or silly. “Altered Beast”, the first single from the band’s upcoming debut LP, the perfectly-titled Rituals, Trances & Ecstasies For Humans in Face of The Collapse, shows the band playing with more nuance than they did on their previous Song of the Day “Fallen Giants” had, but no less passion. Under a lurking rhythm of drumstick clacks and lumbering bass, the band stab through the tension with their voices. Alternating between shouted cries of “I’m an animal” and “We are human” in the chorus, the band rely on their anthemic instincts to convey the same personal dichotomy that Kanye West, Josh Homme, and Jack White have all explored in far less fantastical terms. “Altered Beast” is a huge leap forward for Kithkin, primarily because more than anything else in their catalog to date, it captures the tension of inner desires and shouts it zealously from the Cascadian mountaintops.

Kithkin are in the middle of a West Coast tour behind Rituals, Trances & Ecstasies, and while they’ve already played their Seattle date, keep an eye on their website and Facebook for more tour and music updates. In case you missed it, listen to their most recent in-studio performance here. We’ll have video of their session posted on the KEXP Blog soon, but for now, watch the official video for “Altered Beast” below.

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