Band: Kesem | Album:Post-Terra | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2021
From: Los Angeles, USA | Label: Sentient Recordings
For fans of: Astra, Gong, Hawkwind, early Pink Floyd
Kesem’s debut EP was my EP of the year for 2020. It was a mind-bending trip of 21 minutes that blended progressive rock and space rock with the rawness and energy of classic garage rock. The songs on that EP feature sudden shifts in tone, texture, and mood; and the ample deployment of trumpet made them stand out.
Their first full-length-release, Post-Terra, follows in the same path as their self-titled EP. It feels more polished with smoother edges than its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean the sound is watered down at all. There’s still plenty of astral odysseys and surprises packed into this album.
Much like Kesem, Post-Terra’s first seconds are some weird, spaced-out narration that bursts into urgent garage-rock-inspired prog. The overall cleaner sound of this release is immediately evident. The backbone of “No Future” is a punky, driving riff, but there are some odd, harsh chords tossed in for spicy contrast. Glimmering synth flourishes stand out against this relatively straightforward backdrop. Around the four-minute mark, oppressive, doom laden synths swell up, and the tempo slows to a crawl, with the final moments of this song drifting into drone territory.
“We Will Be Ready” features an elephant-like trumpet squall in its opening moments. The overall vibe of this track is rawer than the preceding one, and the punk influence is obvious. The second half veers off into spacier territory with blooping synths, rich atmospherics, and an unusual, lurching bassline.
Slowing things down a notch, “Let Go” begins with airy, jazzy piano that sounds like it could have come off a better version of The Division Bell. As this instrumental progresses, guitar joins in, but it remains piano-led. The starkness displayed here lends a melancholy more commonly found in doom metal subgenres.
“When the Stars Cave In” continues with the Floydian feel. Between the distinct organ tone and unpolished vocals, it reminds me of a lot of lesser-known early prog acts like Ainigma and P2O5, but this is an undeniably modern interpretation. The melody is strong and dramatic, and tension builds well throughout this track’s runtime.
One of the few hiccups on Post-Terra is the main riff of “Headfirst into the Void”. The verses are strong, but the main theme feels awkward. The melodica-like synth tone is unpleasant. The trumpet’s timbre is not great either, evoking some of the worst synth brass tones of the 1980s.
After the brief acoustic interlude “Starbirth” comes the slow-moving “The Tyrant”. There’s a lamenting feel to this pared-back arrangement, and the distinct bass tone almost ribbits. The second half has a more impactful, hard-rocking drive to it. Continuing in this vein, “Drifting Through Time” opens with tumbling guitar and drums. It’s a fluid, propulsive arrangement that effectively conveys the feeling of a temporal voyage.
Post-Terra closes on “The Light from Distant Moons”. Opening with Marshall Applewhite’s “The planet Earth is about to be recycled,” quote, this track meanders in its first minute-and-a-half before finally settling into a solid groove. Much like the light of distant moons, this track feels cold and distant. There’s a good sense of rising tension here, with the stakes gradually rising as the song goes on. An energetic instrumental passage follows the verses with brain-warping synth embellishments as the sense of urgency continues to build. This song does an excellent job feeling like a proper climax.
Kesem’s first full-length album feels like a natural progression from their self-titled EP. It’s full of powerful, pulsing riffs and sudden structural swerves. There is the occasional moment throughout that could have used a little tweaking, but this is overall quite a strong release.