Western Massachusetts isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of alternative music, but the sleepy area boasts a surprising musical lineage as the birthplace of indie rock icons like Dinosaur Jr, to more recent headliners like Speedy Ortiz and Potty Mouth. Easthampton’s Kindling are part of this insular environment that seems to breed a special kind of ambitious individualism: a drive to make bold music that is at once massively appealing and uncompromisingly distinct. Now, with their sophomore full length, Hush, Kindling are poised to continue this tradition and make a particularly loud impression of their own.
Started as the recording project of Stephen Pierce and Gretchen Williams in 2014, Kindling evolved into a full-fledged band through a full-length and a prolific series of EPs that would hone their dreamy lo-fi beginnings into a muscular wall of sound. While much of Kindling’s work could be given the shoegaze tag, the band always hinted at something broader and more immediate amongst the fuzz. Now with Hush the band has achieved a unique blend of crushing guitars and undeniable melodies that is sure to appeal to not just shoegaze fans, but to anyone who has a taste for towering alternative rock.
To record Hush, the band teamed with engineer and longtime collaborator, Justin Pizzoferrato (The Pixies, Speedy Ortiz, The Hold Steady, Dinosaur Jr.) to track the album, and Josh Bonati (Slowdive, Wild Nothing, Sufjan Stevens) for mastering, and the two perfectly captured Kindling’s impressive dynamic range. For a band whose sound is so firmly rooted in loud guitars, Kindling are experts at knowing when to pull back the volume, allowing for truly powerful dynamics in their music. Hush also finds Kindling experimenting with unexpected instrumentation, like subtle sitar layers and the Corgan-esque grandeur of mellotron (borrowed from J. Mascis and recorded at his home studio). Pierce and Williams use shades of hope and compassion to paint a striking picture of the grieving process, with their vocal interplay always providing an abundance of genuine hooks.
Hush offers plenty of guitar rock touchstones: pieces of Kindling’s Western MA musical roots, their surface ‘90s influences, and even much harder to spot references in their enormous sound. But in the end it’s Kindling’s attention to true song-craft above all else that sets them apart, and whether set to a squall of distortion or a wave of atmospherics, Hush has this in spades.