Keith: Red Thread
Red Thread is the much-anticipated debut album from Keith, the Manchester-based groove merchants behind May 2005’s Hold That Gun EP. A year down the line, Red Thread is a marker of how far the band has come. ‘I think Red Thread’s a brilliant collection of tunes,’ says drummer Johnny. ‘Kind of a Greatest Hits of where we’re up to at this point. There’s a real balance on there – some fat, grooving tunes, song-based stuff, subtle atmospheric tunes, some more epic stuff too.’
Already established as an unmissable live act on home turf, the past 12 months have seen Keith up their game, eliciting a rapturous response at France’s breakthrough Les Inrockuptibles festival last November and backing Sebastien Tellier (whose masterpiece La Ritournelle has been covered by the band) at the Bush Hall a month earlier. Thanks also to their strong crossover appeal with the dance crowd, the Hold That Gun EP was ripped apart and remixed by Simian Mobile Disco and Herbert, winning Touch Magazine’s Leftfield Single Of The Month accolade in the process.
Red Thread actually began life as an EP. Finding that they couldn’t agree which tracks to put out next, the band came to the conclusion that the world was ready for the first Keith long player, and set about recording it during a frenetic burst of activity in January 2006. The band logged 12-hour days in the studio, emerging three weeks later with eight newly recorded tracks. Those, plus re-recorded tracks from the limited Hold That Gun EP, comprise the album.
The title came from a comment made by an A&R man during the band’s early days. ‘He said our sound formed a red thread though all the different styles of music,’ says Oli. ‘There’s the dance influence, the folk influence, the indie influence, and we’re the neat red thread wrapping around it all.’
Sure enough, there’s a world of different sounds on Red Thread, whether it’s Smiths-influenced pop with echoes of African hi-life on current single Back There, meandering atmospheric balladry (Gunshot Revelry), shoe-gazing indie (Down Below), twisted disco (Mona Lisa’s Child) or Eno-esque avant garde textures on The Miller, an organic jam which started from riffs on an Aztec tongue drum. This spirit of eclecticism comes from four strong personalities – and four different musical backgrounds – that makes up the band’s creative hub. Their frequent DJ sets are nothing if not eclectic, including everything from funk to indie, soul and psychedelia. Happily, they’ve been able to create a way of working that embraces each member’s input equally – good old fashioned democracy. ‘As a band there are so many different influences, different angles, that we’re always going to hit tense points,’ says Johnny. ‘We have to take a group decision on everything and trust that we’re right.’
Fact is, whatever Keith turn their hands to sounds astonishing. The four met on a music production course in Warrington, and their musicianship and experimentalism shine through in every track. ‘We’ve been playing together for about four years now, so there’s a strong understanding between us,’ says Johnny. ‘One thing I will say though, is that having four great musicians in the band can sometimes be a problem, cos you have ideas that are a little over the top. Sometimes we have to tone ideas down – we don’t want to become a prog band yet!’