Both Kinit Her and Wreathes are projects of the Wisconsin duo of Nathanial Ritter and Troy Schafer, and while there is clearly overlap in the two, there are also some distinctly different elements. The former is more deeply rooted in folk traditions, which an emphasis on medieval moods and esoteric concepts (but none of questionable politics), while the latter is almost a post-punk, electronic take on those stylistic flourishes. Both of these new releases are excellent, and present the duo taking both projects in increasingly varied and complex directions.
For The Blooming World, what stands out the most is the complexity and richness of the instrumental arrangements, especially for a form of music that is so often focused on simply acoustic guitar and vocals. This added depth is immediately apparent on the opening "Open Shadow" (which also features additional vocals from Worm Ouroborous/Barren Harvest's Jessica Way and Dani Schafer). Instrumentally, the duo work with layered strings and percussive elements primarily, but as a whole the piece is very dynamic with the subtle touches of electronics here and there.
This is also especially evident on the lengthy album closer "Key Granting Key," which includes contributions from Burial Hex's Clay Ruby. Multi-tracked vocals and cyclic guitar make for a loop-centric repetitive foundation, but Ritter, Schafer, and Ruby slowly add more things to the mix, like piano, bells, and some noisy electronics to come together in an intensely complex, diverse array of instrumentation that can be most easily appreciated in the instrumental closing minutes. "The Blooming World" is another example of rich, dramatic arrangements with the blend of male and female voices, the former at times guttural, and impressive variation.
Both "Learning Conveyed in Daylight" and "Oppositions" stay more stripped down and focused on the acoustic guitar and vocal elements of the duo’s sound, but the former’s shifting tempos and the latter’s big, booming percussion keep either from stagnating or becoming too cliché. On most of these songs, both Schafer and Ritter deliver the vocals as a duet, and their exaggerated, dramatic delivery may be a bit of an acquired taste. For much of the album, the two use this to conjure an appropriately formal medieval-esque mood, but at times it does seem to become almost a bit too po-faced and melodramatic.
As Wreathes on the EP The Gold Array, the two use a similar vocal style throughout the three songs, which is perhaps where the closest similarities to their work as Kinit Her lie. As a whole, however, there is more of a contemporary edge to instrumentation and performance. At first, "The Gold Array" chimes, piano and vocals sound very similar to the folky tendencies Kinit Her, but the overall mix and prominent drumming add an effective pseudo-death rock tinged sheen to the otherwise ancient sound.
On "It's Only Air," a strong bass guitar driven melody and an extremely well captured drum sound powerfully the piece, while on "We Defy," the rapid acoustic guitar is modernized via the electronic passages and big, booming drums. Once again this retains the traditionalist folk elements to the duo’s sound but with a modernized edge.
Both Troy Schafer and Nathaniel Ritter work separately in a multitude of other projects (and sometimes together as well), but I have always seen Kinit Her as their core project. I think it is this prolific nature that has been a great influence on these two bands, as it has continued to diversify the overall sound and mood without losing the original identity. Wreathes then stands apart as a true side project, but one that recontextualizes their staple sound into a more modernized element, resulting in a project that is an exceptional compliant to the duo’s primary outlet.
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