Fans of minimalistic rock music rejoice! The transatlantic duo The Kills, consisting of Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, have returned with their fifth album: “Ash & Ice”. The album sees the cool style icons reinvent themselves once again, in their endeavor to create something completely new.
The story of The Kills starts more than fifteen years ago, when Alison Mosshart toured the UK with her Floridian punk band Discount.
In the flat upstairs where she stayed back then, the American musician met the British rocker Jamie Hince of Scarfo, and urged him to make music with her. Their respective bands dissolved not so long after that, enabling their collaboration – organised via tapes sent across the Atlantic – to come to life.
Jamie used a drum machine and the ideas of the exchanged tapes and crafted them into minimalistic lo-fi songs. They ended up on their debut EP “Black Rooster”. Shunning the approach of major labels, the EP was released by indie label Domino Records. In accordance with their low-key sound, it featured DIY aesthetics as they used a photo booth picture for their cover.
It was soon followed by their debut album “Keep On Your Mean Side” in 2003, and by an international tour. Back in the studio for their second album, they set themselves the task of reducing their style even further.
Fast forward ten years: The Kills have stayed true to their ambition not to repeat themselves with every record.
The process of creating album number five has been a daunting task.
They have known each other for such a long time. Naturally, they have their routines. Also, there are certain limits that come from the fact that it is still only the two of them and their drum machine, churning out a hybrid of blues and garage rock that remains recognisable as uniquely from The Kills.
With the years, however, the experiments with external influences on their albums have become more varied. Having a look at the credits on their albums, you see a steady increase of personnel and ingredients: Additional production on 2008’s “Midnight Boom” and additional backing vocals by a gospel choir on two tracks of 2011’s “Blood
“Ash & Ice” sees several samples included on top of additional instruments, such as piano and drums. And it appears to have some added glam as well: The cover shows a simple yet elegant gold embossment of a smoking volcano and a glass of Martini on a black textile surface, as if on a linenbound book.
Also, on the first video, “Doing It To Death” the duo appears ruggedly elegant as part of a funeral scene complete with dapper pall bearers and Alison and Jamie basking on the bonnet of a vintage car:
The video shows clearly why so many style magazines were from the start in awe over the pair of them, offering up the total package of sound and vision that is without a doubt in demand in the business of pop music. Jamie Hince’s marriage to supermodel Kate Moss (2011 to 2015) was certainly not necessary to link them to the world of fashion.
Yet Alison doesn’t see herself as much of an innovator when it comes to clothes, since she always wears boots, jeans and a leather jacket. But in fact, in 2013, she designed a leather jacket for the French label Surface to Air.
In the same year, Jamie ran an exhibition with photographs he has taken over the years. He started collecting them on their first international tour, when both still didn’t know how successful their little project would be.
Alison also uses art to communicate her ideas to the world: The daughter of an art teacher, she produces an immense number of paintings.
All these ingredients make up the creative little universe of the duo. They allow the viewer a glimpse into this in their second video of the album:
So what else was different in the making of their fifth album? Along the lines of their DIY approach, the duo converted an L.A. house into a music studio. This project was riddled with the confines of a regular building: they had to deal with sounds from outside as well as sounds from the very material it was built from.
The crafty duo was not easily deterred, however. Other parts were also recorded in London and New York, which made it necessary to travel a lot. True to her American heritage, Alison loves being on long car rides, and thus loves to being on tour.