Sentinel’s latest offering, Kites Without Strings, follows their 2007 EP, Sequels and Hunches. The album’s dream-pop sound exists enigmatically with a defiance for normal principles: it’s ambient and gentle, but energetic and without silence. Inspired by the band’s exposure to the cultural and natural beauty found in the Bay Area, this mix successfully describes its four members’ experience in living one thing and its opposite.
The eight-track album opens with “Ohlone,” leading in with a catchy pulse of rhythmic drums and synth that builds into a driving chorus drenched in polyphonic vocals. The track starts off the album well, providing an upbeat indicator for the following songs. Midway through, “Spades” serves as a percussive awakening from the dreamlike wistfulness of the album’s initial half. Drums drive and keys stand out via repeating riffs adding a refreshing zest, while ambient vocals fill where synthetic sounds sat on previous tracks. It feels organic and vibrant, like sunlight breaking dawn.
The album concludes with “Heroine,” a sultry song crawling in Phrygian. The imagery created from Sentinel’s lyrics model the band’s exotic, modal sound, which is especially meaningful as it represents guitarist Dennis Bestafka’s experience as a soldier in Iraq: “There is a tribe on lonely land / Shadows cast the shapes on evening sand.” It’s a profound escapist end to a profound escapist album.
Filled with sumptuous synth, ultra-reverberated vocals and saturated guitars, Kites Without Strings erupts like one long, happy wall of sound. Most of the songs on the album employ a similar upbeat pop vibe, creating a cohesive quality that might make differentiating them difficult. Thankfully, there isn’t a single bad track here, so this little bit of homogeneity proves itself more than welcome. (Self-released)
-Keane Li (more…)