Udaberri has just opened its doors at 4pm on a chilly winter’s afternoon and a very unassuming, very candid Danny Harley — aka The Kite String Tangle — sits across from me on the mezzanine.
He’s had a ‘little bit of a big one’ in Perth the night before, but he soldiers on and orders a pint nonetheless. I can see already that we’re going to get along just fine.
It’s well before the after-work rush, so the bar is still quiet; the dull roar of the music drones on in the background as the man behind the music chats excitedly about the release of his long-awaited debut studio album.
The self-titled record has been in the works for a number of years, and the Brisbane native is visibly proud of his work.
“Unofficially, the oldest track on the record is probably about five years old – it was a B-side to an EP I put out years ago,” he says, “But we made the conscious decision to stop and take some time out from touring just to write the album; a ‘go away to come back’ type thing, about two, two-and-a-half years ago.
Recorded and mixed partly in Harley’s bedroom and partly in a Sydney studio over a period over around nine months, the album follows similar themes to TKST’s previous work, but with the notable addition of somewhat of a big band sound in a couple of the tracks.
“The ethos of this whole process was to do the stuff I’d never been able to do,” he says, “A big part of that was being able to record strings and horns and use a big mix engineer.”
“It’s something I’ve always gravitated towards… playing live I really wanted more energy in my set, so a lot of the writing choices I made were definitely informed by that.”
The strings and horns add an entirely new element to Harley’s music – not impacting too much on the musical arrangement as a whole, but complementing each individual song and enhancing the album’s personality.
Reminiscent to an extent of Jungle’s 2014 breakout debut self-titled album, the record rises and falls at the perfect moments – something Harley says he really worked on in conjunction with producer Eric Dubowsky.
“[Eric] seemed like a fairly obvious pick; he’s experienced and he’s been doing some killer records with Hayden James and Flight Facilities, even Chet Faker and Flume.”
“We get along really well and it was a pretty obvious choice – he’s such a pro.”
Harley released three singles from the album, including one less than a week before the album drop; ‘The Prize’ is akin to a hypothetical lovechild of Flume and Paces, if they somehow got Ariana Grande in on the action.
The track features English songstress Bridgette Amofah, Rudimental’s touring vocalist, and Harley is not afraid to admit that her stirring vocals rather steal the show.
“I’m not even sure how it happened, but she was in Brisbane … and I invited her to the studio to do some stuff,” he says.
“We just hopped in and she smashed it; we did about three takes – she’s just a pro!”
One thing that stands out the most about the record is its versatility; it might be the soundtrack to a night out, but it doubles effectively as a downtempo, more introspective and thought-provoking shower album.
“I was actually trying to write a really positive album and I think there’s a lot of positive stuff in there, but I think I just gravitate towards that kind of content in my lyrics.”
Harley’s sincere, storytelling lyricism turns everyday situations into raw, emotive pieces of music.
“I guess I started with some rough, really vague guidelines; I wanted to do something that was really honest and something that I was happy with,” he says, “But that kept changing – what is honesty and what is happiness – and it’s basically the soundtrack to my existential crisis.”
All-in-all, the album sounds and feels not like a debut, but like the work of a well-established artist with a few records under his belt.
The maturity shown in the arrangement, the production and the complex yet simple-sounding beauty of ‘The Kite String Tangle’ belies the fact that this is Harley’s first crack at an LP.
Nothing is overused or abused; the music is intricate without being overwhelming, and it is layered to near-perfection.
Harley is set to announce his national album tour soon, with an Adelaide date somewhere around October this year – at one of Adelaide’s hottest gig venues.
The album is available NOW – grab a copy and get grooving!
Image: TKST FB