The electro-folk quartet Kuinka is coming to Tacoma’s Alma Mater (1322 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma) Sept. 15 as part of their fall tour of the western states. The tour is in support of a four-song record album entitled “Stay Up Late.”
The songs on “Stay Up Late” are scrumptious, featuring haunting vocal harmonies evocative of a collage-like flow of imagery and sonically flavored with a fascinating array on instrumentation and electronic synthesizer effects.
The opening song, “Curious Hands,” features Miranda Zickler’s expressive voice. She can make the lyrics flow like cream from a frosty metal pitcher or she can change gears and give a delightfully gravelly delivery. The song is about the hopeless task of trying to grasp being alive while life flows swiftly by. Toward the end, the song transforms into a round (a kind of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” layering of voices) punctuated by some klezmer musical accents.
The next two songs have a country bumpkin quality. “Spaces” is driven by rapidly plucked strings. The “milkman” in the refrain gives the whole affair a nostalgic feel, setting it in a time when those now-extinct men in white uniforms drove their iconic dairy trucks from house to house leaving bottles of milk on the doorstep every morning.
“Mistakenly Brave” is a swift and brash bout of boasting by a narrator who is manically energetic, like some sort of folkloric figure. It could be a song of self-description by someone like Pecos Bill or Calamity Jane. The music features some jaunty, sometimes off-kilter, saxophone playing.
“Warsaw,” a title not at all evocative of the American rural landscape, conjures up an antique air from the start with the narrator’s mention of dressing in “some shoes and a hat and a cane.” In the song, the exotic, East European city of Warsaw, Poland is a place bound up with memories of a lost love affair, the after effects of which function as a life-giving essence that the narrator carries in an internal treasure box. During sections of the song, the lyrical content fades into a transparency, leaving little but the instrumental music for the senses to apprehend. You can only catch fleeting snatches of what is being vocalized. The members of Kuinka are masterful at this type of musical layering and playing hide and seek with imagery and the variety of musical voices at their disposal. They create layer upon layer of crystalline sound.
The members of Kuinka practice fine-tuned artistry in their crafting of multifaceted and uniquely structured songs. Each member is also brilliant on playing more than one instrument. Nathan Hamer plays ukulele and mandolin and is a great vocalist. His brother, Zach Hamer plays lead guitar, percussion, harmonica and is also a blessed with agile vocal chords.
In addition to a lush and versatile voice, Miranda Zickler plays synthesizer, banjo, percussion and rhythm guitar. Jillian Walker, meanwhile, supports everything with her cello playing the bass end of the spectrum. All the while she lends her sultry vocal harmonies to the mix.
John Benefiel is a frequent contributor to the band, playing saxophone and clarinet.
At their Sept. 15 appearance at Alma Mater, Kuinka will be joined by Sisters, a Seattle-based duo consisting of Emily Westman and Andrew Vait.
For more on Kuinka, visit www.kuinkatheband.com or www.facebook.com/kuinkatheband. Hear “Stay Up Late” at consequenceofsound.net/2017/05/kuinka-debut-vibrant-new-ep-stay-up-late-stream.