Exposé Online banner

Bent Knee — Say So
(Cuneiform Rune 417, 2016, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2016-08-01

Say So Cover art

I snapped up copies of the band’s self-titled debut and its follow-up, Shiny Eyed Babies, when they were available, and as adventurous as those two privately released albums are (and I recommend them highly) they only partially prepare the listener for what’s going down here on Say So, Bent Knee’s third release and their first for Cuneiform. This is a band that knows no boundaries, covering everything from pop to jazz to progressive rock to avant-garde, sometimes all within the same song. The six-member unit is fronted by lead singer and keyboardist Courtney Swain, who seems right at home in any setting, giving her all on any of the numbers here, her powerful multi-octave voice pushing the limits of what progressive music can be. Guitarist Ben Levin delivers a monstrous pack of power without stealing the spotlight, while bassist Jessica Kion and drummer Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth tie the pieces together seamlessly, with Chris Baum (violin) and Vince Welch (synths, sound design and production) providing the contour and texture to tie these massive group compositions and arrangements together. Add to that about a dozen more guest players adding everything from saxes, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, cello, violin, viola, shakuhachi, flute, and more. There are really no handy comparisons for Bent Knee’s music; what they do is pretty much unique, transparently blending ideas and elements drawn from a number of diverse sources, from things that might seem relatively calm and accessible to those that reach far out to the extreme extreme, though they are never jagged or abrasive. Somehow they make it all work. Tracks like “Nakami” and “Black Tar Water” are instantly likeable, while others like the nine minute epic, “Eve,” the moody closer “Good Girl,” and the intensely personal “Hands Up” take a few listens to figure out, and like any seriously good art-rock, the listener will be rewarded with repeat listens as the complexity of the music unfolds.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Bent Knee, Ben Levin

Latest news

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Seven That Spells - Cosmoerotic Dialogue with Lucifer – Is it a dialogue or one-way harangue? That's what you might ask emerging from this full-bore psychedelic freak-out of ferocious proto-metal fighting to stay alive (or conscious) against some...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues