Kes at Laneway Festival 2009

Listen: Wise Eyes on Mistletone Soundcloud

Black Brown Green Grey White is the most recent album by Kes Band in their incarnation as a trio, featuring Kes (Karl Scullin), Lehmann B Smith and Julian Patterson. Recorded by Nao Anzai, Black Brown Green Grey White is a yin-yang dichotomy, juxtaposing contemplative, melodic beauty and inward-gazing ballads with jerky dischord, banshee yells and whirlwind anti-rock riffs.


  • “Karl Scullin is a genius. A dead set, one off. His main musical obsession, Kes Band, have produced four varied, weird, always wild records. And, as the Kes Trio, he’s pulled off his best yet. This is widescreen music… One of the local releases of the year.”
  • “One of the most exciting, progressive pop-rock acts going around in this big brown dust bowl” TWO THOUSAND
  • “A chameleon whose every transformation somehow feels as perfect and true as the last”CITYSEARCH
  • “There’s just no painting Karl Scullin into a corner. Under various incarnations of Kes, he’s done the solo acoustic thing, the full band thing, the instrumental thing, and now the harsh rock thing with Kes Trio’s new album. Punctuated by screams, Black Brown Green Grey White also offers beautiful singing, playing and production. It’s not schizophrenic so much as restless, jumping from one bold tangent to the next with freakish precision. Backed by Julian Patterson – Scullin’s bandmate in the reportedly defunct Mum Smokes – and Lehmann Smith, Kes Trio proves worlds apart from the five-piece heard on last year’s marvellous Kes Band II. There’s preening art-rock and unhinged madness sitting hand-in-hand. Self-aware without being awkwardly meta and adventurous without being pretentious, it’s utterly Kes.”MESS + NOISE
  • “Progressive rock with panpipe-type organs, moments of pure pop whimsy, and piercing screams. Multiple P-words of musical greatness, all packed into Kes Trio‘s heavy and light-footed long player Black Brown Grey Green WhiteTHREE THOUSAND
  • “Yet another sidestep in an uncannily accomplished career” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE
  • “A triumphant mash of kitsch and dissonance, where dreamy ’60s melodies drop off in a wail and every twang of guitar ends in a crackle. There’s something vaguely Lynchian about it – beautiful but creepy.” – BEAT
  • “Utterly wonderful… Addictive, even.” – THE BRAG INDIE ALBUM OF THE WEEK


“Wordlessly stunning. Although the spectre of the Dirty Three hangs over the album (Biddy Connor’s violin is more elegant than ferocious), there is so much beauty on display, so much space and atmosphere, so much complexity and grace, that it is truly a record in its own class” – THE SUNDAY AGE **** four stars

“A delicate gentle sonic feast… The themes of each composition are beautifully explored and expanded” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE

“This might just be the finest work Karl Scullin and crew have produced… Reserved and passionate, abrasive and sweet, epic and miniature, I’m running out of superlatives” – MESS +NOISE On Rotation

“A slow-burning collection of bush-bashing post-rock and ethereal wind-driven waltzes”– mX NEWSPAPER **** four stars

“Music so unique and wild, you get high listening to it.” – RHYTHMS MAGAZINE

“A labyrinth of surprises” – THE AGE

“A beautiful listen” – INPRESS

“Veers off into darker, deeper territory, with some remarkable results” – THE BRAG (Album of the Week)

“The aural manifestation of a dream, one that’s wonderfully different for everyone and on every listen” – TIME OFF (four & a half stars)

“Kes Band II defines Kes (and Kes Band) as one of the most intuitive voices in music, and solidifies the beauty that lies in a unique musical vision.” – BEAT (Album of the Week)

MP3: When All Your Silverfish Turn To Gold (from Kes Band II)

MP3: Gentle Elf (from Kes Band)

MP3: The Bruise (from The Grey Goose Wing)

Kes Band II is an all-instrumental album which reveals some resonant new exploratory dimensions of Melbourne’s much acclaimed Kes Band.Voiceless lyricism and a flair for the transcendental, richly beautiful string arrangements and delicate playing reverberate with almost visual joy and sorrow. Masterfully recorded and produced by engineer Simon Grounds with additional recording done by Neil Thomason at Head Gap Recording Studio.Kes Band II is at once an intriguing mood piece of strangely moving atmospheric music that sweeps through and around the listener; it is also a dense slice of rewarding cerebral music, full of fertile ideas which reveal and fulfill themselves over time.

Kes Band II Launch review from Inpress:


Fasterlouder photo gallery of Kes Band II launch @ the Arts Centre, Melbourne

Within the refined walls of the Melbourne Arts Centre Fairfax Studio, KES Band launched their album, and were supported by Anthony Pateras & Robbie Avenaim, and Free Choice.

Kes Band II Launch review from Beat:

There’s a preciousness and a fragility to Kes Band II (Mistletone) which is understated yet still reconciled. Tonight, part of that dichotomy between the replication of and the unrepeatableness of art were explored, and vented successfully. What am I talking about? Kes Band II, the album, is possibly the only artefact that will survive Kes Band II, and for this alone we are all lucky, the reason being that as a collection of songs or pieces of music, Kes Band II; the collection of musicians as ‘corralled’ by Karl E Scullin, may never group together again to expel these mind-bending tunes. So tonight was a rarity, a one-off, an event. And it was an event. Missing Jarrod Zlatic’s Free Choice duo, I sort of ‘walk in on’ Anthony Pateras and Robbie Avenaim, who are at the tail-end of their set; the ‘dug-out’ room in The Arts Centre almost full and seemingly transfixed by the jocular touch of Pateras on piano grand and Avenaim on trap-set, sporting a frenetic touch and not less than 4 kick-drums, seeming set off by that man through some home-made contraption of wiring and steel arms. The result is schweppervesence; Pateras on the piano is a mad-man; from the side of the stage he is either playing the piano keys or pounding them mercilessly into their timber bed. Musically it’s rhythmic and dynamic and spontaneous. When the duo finish, both pause momentarily. The crowd wonders, ‘will they dive back into it?’, and the answer is no, when both rise and gesture to one another before they depart the room. Generous and warm applause begins.Due to the uniqueness of the Kes Band II’s performance of Kes Band II, and the fact that the space amplifies each and every small sound and detail, the audience is patient and appreciative of the chance to refrain from applause and murmur, nestling into their while Kes Band II step carefully through the tracks from their recently released namesake album.Additional players associated with Kes are on hand to add sound and timbre to these pieces, and their fingerprints on the performance are important to mention. Julian Patterson looms intuitively on drums and bell, Laura Jean slinks around running from bass to guitar to piano and sundry percussion, and there’s Oliver Mann on piano, percussion, harmonic, and even bull-roarer. He and clarinet player Tarquin(from Bum Creek) provide a moment of wonder as they swing bull-roarer’s over their shoulders to create that most minimalist of sounds, a sound that one can not mistake for anything else except a windstorm. And this is indicative of the event; Kes Band II did not overlook any of the nuances of their record; inviting opportunity and chance to present something which was a perfect representation of the album in its intent and its aesthetic. At another point, 6 of the 8 players including ‘string section’ Biddy Connor and Nick Venerables, appear with small hand chimes which when shaken deliver a subtle resonant bell. When triggered, that resonance disperses a tiny drone for just a few seconds. When played in tandem, these instruments emitted a little patchwork: ‘suns of sound’, if you will, that created a segue from the wonderful twelve minutes of opener Doors Open Doors Close and into the next piece. Golden. All of this playing is glued together by Karl Scullin; subdued in tan but glowing a little more than a little from the revelry of this Kes Band performance.Pretty much the entire album is performed, the tracks closely resembling their original album form, but the spontaneity of Kes Band II and their incredible musical capacity and tempered performance leads to an indelible dusty soulfulness and spindly tenderness. The venue itself is responsible for exquisite intimacy of sound. The combination led to at least one tingling spine.Steve Phillips.


Photo by Lauren Bamford



Kes Band studio portraits by Lauren Bamford

The Age A2 review:


Mess + Noise review:

The all-instrumental ‘Kes Band II’ proves that you don’t need to speak or sing to produce the sublime, writes LAWSON FLETCHER.

It almost seems bland on paper: an instrumental follow-up album simply called Kes Band II. Don’t let the modesty fool you though, this might just be the finest work Karl Scullin and crew have produced, with intuitively weaved-together songs as delicate as spider’s silk, yet so texturally dense and compositionally complex you’ll find yourself taken in by them over and over.Take 10-minute opener ‘Doors Open Doors Close’, for example, a sweeping emotional suite so intimate and detailed that it sets your heart soaring. Commencing with a pretty, lyrical string and guitar duet, gentle incursions of musical buzz and errant cymbals subtly motion to the chugging drone storm that swallows its midsection. The duet is later reprised in the coda, but this time as a more melancholic waltz. Such rise and fall, instrumental juxtaposition and just brilliantly refined musicianship defines what’s to come.Forgoing the often unbridled exuberance of Kes Band’s freak-outs, these musicians have channelled their energy into less assuming, but no less affecting compositional refinement. These are swirling, intricate arrangements that are by turns pensive and playful, gentle and lush; an utterly beautiful journey.I say journey quite deliberately, because the album suggests a unifying, if unspoken narrative as much as it explores a series of moods. The meticulously sequenced tracks are like little scenes of a play about a boy lost in the outback – feelings of loss, regret, hope and ultimately redemption – and the cast of characters are the instruments, who move about one another with actorly grace, in a display of finely staged and effortless precision.

“Singling out highlights here, judging who plays the best, really isn’t what this album asks of you – it’s like trying to pick out the best colour on a Monet painting.”

Kes Band II never once feels like an indulgence, or worse, the product of a jam. Even if songs like ‘Trees Fall’ invite jazzy experimentation within the crevices of a repeated guitar peel, every moment of improvisation is integrated into the broader tapestry. Similarly, it’s a struggle to name a standout contributor. Every musician shines – from the yearning evocative viola of Biddy Connor to Julian Patterson’s perfectly applied drumming, whether delicately measured or brightly disjointed.Or how about that special moment, the one that every great album is in possession of, like the inspired switch from pining dustbowl pitches to a wind-up blues slide in the coda to ‘Outs’, metamorphosing a country dirge into a brilliant classic rock stomp? Or the tongue-in-cheek tussle between a smiling violin and the mashed low-end of a piano on the playful ‘The Leyden Experiment’? Singling out highlights here, judging who plays the best, really isn’t what this album asks of you – it’s like trying to pick out the best colour on a Monet painting.Maybe that’s a good metaphor for Kes Band II, because it really is a fucking work of art. With a mostly softened palette, the band daub and mix tone and textures within and between tracks, often reprising particular motifs later so a kind of circular pattern forms across the album. They progressively flesh out moods and ideas until they arrive at a transcendent, richly beautiful canvas whose whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts.But if all this seems a bit formal, a bit writerly, then it’s only because as a critic, my analytical lens will always fail to capture what makes this album truly good. Because not once does Kes Band II seem only a compositional achievement, it’s driven by an overarching purpose: to be beautiful, to be inviting. I hesitate to invoke The Dirty Three – even if it flickers with the more haunting, softer moments of their post-rock, it’s never quite as exhausting to listen to.Reserved and passionate, abrasive and sweet, epic and miniature, I’m running out of superlatives. It all falls away in the end, though; you don’t need to speak – or sing – to create the sublime.Sunday Age review:


Time Off review (four and a half stars):

Kes is like one of those special dreams you don’t often have where everything is awesome and where even days later you’re still wishing you could go back to that place – so far and foreign from your real world but filled with a mysterious air of distilled emotions.Well, Kes Band II really truly is the aural manifestation of a dream, one that’s wonderfully different for everyone and on every listen. A leap of sorts for the man behind the acronym, Karl Scullin has from his early recordings often been defined by the unique and haunting voice that swims from his head. With this, his fourth Kes album, he (and his bandmates Laura Jean, Julian Patterson, Biddy Conner and Lehmann Smith) have left behind the road signs of lyrics and consigned to us ten instrumental pieces of pure abstract beauty.Built upon the equally unique and vivid pictures Sculin paints with his guitar, these songs transform themselves as though they were one 40-minute story – ‘Treesfall’ and ‘Patterson’s Curse’ are reminiscent of the lost, transcendent journeys that define The Dirty Three. ‘Doors Open Doors Close’ and the shorter ‘Jessica Braz’ are filled with the shape-shifting guitar of Sculin that sings like a siren’s voice off in the distance, while the effortless gallop of ‘Outs’ and lurch of ‘The Leyden Experiment’ cast long shadows of unease across a dusky landscape.Kes Band II is filled with all the beauty of previous albums, even though it is unlike anything Kes has done before. It’s a wondrous album that constantly flicks lit matches into the kindling of your imagination and while it’s not telling you what to think or what to feel it will give you an exquisite world to escape to and play within.Alex Gillies

The Brag review (Album of the Week):
Its slap-dash cover art may bear a lazy title, but the new Kes Band album successfully builds a few layers onto the quintet’s established sound as it delves into the complexities of its voiceless compositions. Kes Band II features the same line-up as the previous album: Karl Scullin, Laura Jean, Biddy Connor, Lehmann and Julian Patterson. One of the most distinctive things about the band is Karl’s vocal, and his kooky coo adds a light touch to proceedings. Without it, the band veers off into darker, deeper territory, with some remarkable results.Perhaps the most eye-opening track is 10-minute opener, Doors Open Doors Closed, which is defined by its menacing drone of a midsection. Songs such as Trees Fall and Outs recall the dark mood and epic structure of Dirty Three, while The Leyden Experiment initially soothes before dragging us down into a black hole of discord. There’s another variation on One Seventeen and it’s as maudlin as ever.
While there’s nothing as accessible as Gentle Elf or View You, the collection is interspersed with lighter, two-minute tracks that prevent the album from being too heavy an experience. These form some of the album highlights, namely the simple piano melody of B.P Grimaud and the viola-driven Amelia Airheart. Still, it’s hard to single out individual tracks on an album like this, which is best taken as a ten-track run.Kes Band II is more than just an instrumental companion piece to its predecessor. Kes Band offered Karl a framework to capture his open-eyed musings, whereas the latest album puts each band member front and centre, and then plunges them headlong into the unknown. Perhaps Kes Band III will be an amalgam of these two styles. Or, more likely, they will throw out the rule-book and surprise us all yet again.

Beat review (Album of the Week):

The shadowy sway of this record is its heart, that and its subtle languidity. These elements feel and sound sentimental, sentimentality not being a sense we’ve found too often on Kes records past, at least not in such any pronounced fashion.Ten instrumentals, Kes Band II is claustrophobic from the outset in the form of opener Doors Open Doors Close, yet it is also indelibly personable (The Leyden Experiment), always intricately executed (B.P Grimaud, Patterson’s Curse) and even sweeping at times. There’s a visual aspect to the pieces here that imply a certain reference to colonialism, but far from being distinctly remote the vibe is more homely and narrative. This forms the aesthetic connection, one which I was not expecting, to seminal Melbourne outfit Hungry Ghosts, particularly through Doors Open Doors Close which evolves gracefully and beautifully into something utterly textural and ambient.B.P Grimaud tinkers sweetly like a minuet written in the 19th century, and Trees Fall oozes Free-jazz tones and shapes; drummer Julian Patterson channeling Jim White’s shuffling beats, and somehow it is this track which congeals the intentions of Karl Scullin’s vocal-less approach on Kes Band II.Here even the playful is sublime. Musical intensity resonates throughout but seldom overwhelms; Scullin and Kes Band taking the listener into dark corners, to view through windows the daylight as it creeps towards the horizon-line, and to lie underneath the stars. Outs continues with the same evocative, sparse arrangement and expands upon it through dewy guitar notes. The ‘recurring’ motif One Seventeen is incredible; mesmeric, creepy, and cavernous. Things shake, burn, glow, and ring out, whistling drones haunting the corners and permeate into the atmosphere.Kes Band II defines Kes (and Kes Band) as one of the most intuitive voices in music, and solidifies the beauty that lies in a unique musical vision.Steve Phillips

Inpress review:


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