If asked to name one severely underrated album released last year, I would name Double Exposure, Matt Kivel’s brilliant solo debut, without hesitating. There is something deeply calming about Double Exposure’s starkness that leaves me completely defenseless. And three months into this year, it remains amongst my most frequently played albums of 2013.
On April 15, a small New York label called Apollonian Sound (affiliated with Captured Tracks) is releasing a split 12” with previously unreleased Matt Kivel material on one side and three songs from Tim Woulfe, the man behind the imprint, on the B side. The stand-out piece is “Everything Eternal”, the forth and closing track on Kivel’s side. The song was intended for Double Exposure up until the very end, but was cut at the near-final changes since Kivel felt it didn’t quite fit the mood. I can see how the galloping percussion and more explicit melody might’ve disrupted the albums understated virtues. Yet, it uncovers the same warm presence and beautiful use of the singer’s fragile falsetto as the best moments on the record. The just shy of two minutes short “Wave” is another beauty in its simplicity, and is perhaps the track on here that most resembles his work on Double Exposure. As with most of his tracks, there is an elusiveness to “Wave” that almost threatens to dissolve before your eyes. Kivel is a master at finger picking his acoustic guitar, creating a sort of cordial, almost peaceful mood that washes over you in slight, delicate portions.
Originally, Matt Kivel intended to name his album Palomar, waged by a corresponding title track as the centerpiece. But as his understanding of the album changed, the name changed accordingly. “Palomar”, the would-be title track, was left off the album, but has now resurfaced on here. It works perhaps as Kivel’s most discrete creations to date; a serene lullaby that prompt a Nick Drake comparison as much as anything.
One of the charms of Double Exposure was its close-knit heed. In comparison, this 12” stands more as scattered invite into the carnal beauty of Kivel’s word. It works well as a companion piece, as well as a taste of Kivel’s range. But the biggest revelation on this split 12” is “Naked Waves”, the opening tack on the B side. Tim Woulfe is not an artist I’ve had the pleasure acquainting before, but at least two out of the three tracks on his side are well worth a listen. Compared to Kivel, his approach to songwriting is substantially more direct, and the instrumentation could be deemed as more full-bodied and ‘traditional’. Overall, this is a wonderful release, not necessarily cohesive or well put together, but taken separately, almost every track on either side can hold its own.