Qoheleth: Black Kite Broadcasts (2018)

Somewhere in the West, in the days after, there’s a busted and broken shack in the middle of the desert.  In the middle of nowhere.  You can’t see it, but emanating out from the shack are radio waves, the last call of a dying and possibly insane man trying to communicate to a world he can no longer see or recognize in the only language he can speak: rock and roll.  Whether it reaches anyone is besides the point: between the fires and radiation the landscape for either music or understanding is barren.  But still the waves spread outward, because even talking to the emptiness is still talking.

Somewhere, in another West, in the days now, there’s a garage filled with amplifiers and cabinets.  Between the clipped fury of a guitar a signal emerges, much to the surprise of the man holding the guitar.  It’s in a language he understands, and it draws him closer to the mesh of the speaker even as his hands find the record button on a nearby tape deck.

Welcome to the Black Kite Broadcasts.  

It’s important to get out of the way that my connection to Qoheleth extends beyond my appreciation and admiration for the band and its unique hybrid of noise, punk, and good old fashion rock and roll.  The DIY esthetic embraced by vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Hunt brought us into each other’s circle to the point where we’re virtual bandmates and actual friends.  But what he, along with drummer Mike Strickler (doubling up himself on some guitar and vocals) and artist/DJ Caiden Withey have crafted on their second full length moves beyond any personal advocacy I could give a friend.  Black Kite Broadcasts is a stunning achievement that utilizes every aspect of its presence, from the music to the visuals to the actual packaging to present a killer rock album that doubles as a moving commentary on the state of our souls and humanity.

Taken simply as a followup to their 2017 debut God is the Warmest Place to Hide, the most noticeable change in Black Kite Broadcasts is how much the band have embraced melody.  There’s a newfound confidence to not bury everything in a wall of sound, and that’s immediately apparent in “T(h)rash Panda” which is still dirty and primal but accessible in a way the band never was before.  Hunt’s vocals are much higher in the mix, and you can feel him discovering what he voice can do on “Uterine,” finding a line between the spoken delivery of classic Iggy Pop and the swerving cadence of D Boon from the Minutemen.  The music supports him in a drunken lilt that feels on the edge of a musical brawl.

That brawl can still be felt in the cavernous yelp of “The Sublime Pungence of Drumph” by the suitably named Meat Disguise.  The descent towards destruction continues in the art warble of “Exquisitely Dressed, and Caked in Blood” which makes use of space to induce a queasiness that harkens back to God is the Warmest Place to Hide.  But if I have to cop to a favorite, it’s the ominously quiet “Hooray! They’re Dead” that builds itself upon layers of feedback and noise to buffer the soft singing (yes, actual singing) by Hunt. Lyrically it also hits the closest to home for me, as Hunt intones softly in between the squalls

We’ve become the worst of all we have,

This good news soured the healing salve

On the altar of the gods coerced

Our ancient truths long fell dead rehearsed

Striking in its ambition, vital in its execution and unique in its delivery (seriously, snag one of the radios if you can), Qoheleth’s latest album is a massive step forward in evolution and a testament to what you can accomplish yourself.  Whether Black Kite Broadcasts heralds an apocalypse set in stone or serves as a warning that the future is yet malleable, at least the music kicks some serious ass.


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