Vibrations in the Key of Life

Kye Alfred Hillig

Real Snow, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

So, I got this new album emailed to me as a download from the artist and his label or promo people. For me, this is my first exposure to Mr. Hillig. From what I read about him in the bio that came with the download, I gather that this new album, Real Snow, has been done in a kind of an “alt.-folk” vein. That may not be exactly what they described it as, themselves, but as I listen to it, that’s the vibe I’m picking up.

Actually, as I get further and further into Real Snow, I find myself wondering who the hell thought this was “folk” or had anything to do with “folk”. Remember back in the early 90s, when bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana came out of the woods and blew everyone’s mind -especially ones who listen, faithfully to FM commercial radio, which changed everything – after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became a big hit and soon turned into a “teen-angst anthem” (something that Kurt Cobain hated!) This new “grunge” subgenre did one heroic thing just by being pushed onto the radio: it got rid of the phony, talentless garbage “hair bands” – dudes with long hair that they teased with lots of hair spray and they wore more makeup than my girlfriend does! Anyway, the point is that, even before Nirvana and cohorts like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden (which was a better band than both Nirvana & P.J. put together – just to digress a minute – the very 1st time I heard Soundgarden was probably about 6 months to a year before most people even heard of them, this was before they were radio darlings-I was at a party, well, it was more of a medium-sized “get together” and it was a house in which lived a friend of a friend, anyway, we were drinking beers, etc. and the guy who lived there had all this great music there and we were listening to stuff, talking, etc and all of a sudden he says – “hey, check THIS shit out…” and proceeded to put on Louder Than Love – I think that was Soundgarden’s second. Anyway, it was still when they had Yamamoto on bass, before Ben Sheppard (who I like too), well, he had the vinyl edition and put it in and, never having even heard of Soundgarden before, I was blown away! I thought, “these guys kick ass and I want to get me some of this!” – Pretty soon, after Badmotorfinger came out, Soundgarden started getting more and more into the spotlight – they had a string of “hits” on that one – my favorites are “Jesus Christ Pose” and “Rusty Cage”. Then you know what they did? They cut their friggin’ hair! Well, Superunknown was definitely no Ultramega OK but I really, really love Ben Shepard’s “Head Down” – described somewhere as “Beatle-esque” but that wasn’t a good enough description – no, it was really psychedelic but a dark, leather-clad psychedelia. “Fourth of July” and “Like Suicide” are also good tunes.) – sorry to go off on a tangent there. Anyway, grunge propped the door wide open for all sorts of sub-genres of Alternative, which, back in 1992-96 or so was a real good thing to be known as – less than five years later, the term “alternative” was nothing more than a corporate marketing device which led to the signing (to major labels-a bad sign right there) of myriad bands of dubious quality.

Let’s get back to where I was before I totally get lost in thought. I guess nowadays you can’t just label a band “alternative” and expect that to be enough of a description – I mean, that term has been so overused and used in terrible ways – to make shareholders in corporations that own record labels money. It’s use as a descriptive term, which used to mean “different from the crap you hear 10 times a day on bland, nauseating top 40 stations”. I don’t even think that “alternative” is used anymore. So, bands, labels, etc have to get creative and come up with new ways of framing their sound.

OK, now I’ve been washed over with this album (Real Snow) and, no, it’s not “folk” – it’s that kind of stuff that, in, oh, 94 or so, was coming out by various “adult contemporary” style “alternative” – say, like those Crash Test Dummies or Subdudes – or maybe Hothouse Flowers – they had different vibes from typical pop crap, to be sure and instead of drifting into post-industrial (NIN, Ministry, KMFDM, RevCo, etc), they would come from a more “mature” (whatever that means) vein- i.e., while you were in your late teens, listening to Pigface, your older brother or your dad might’ve been listening to this stuff, which shouldn’t take away anything from it. Only an observation, not a judgment.

Like, if dubstep gave you a headache or emo made you feel nauseated (as it can with any age group) from the insincerity, then you’d be in heaven with Kye and the likes of him.

Before I forget – a couple songs worth mentioning, ones that epitomize the whole, include “Bells of Doom” – a song with a electric percussion rattle and some flaming organ vibes. “The Night Obscene” tells the tale of one man’s experience with the after dark world and “When You Were a Waitress” is a pretty ballad, that works well as a post-modern love song. It’s not one of those corny ones from the 1970s, (anyone remember Ambrosia or Player or England Dan & John Ford Coley??). One more song worth mentioning is the danceable “Ice Age XVII”.

Anyway, when you feel like you’re coming down and want something mellow to alleviate your aching head or to just help you unwind, Real Snow is a good balm for that. Check out for more information and to download the album (a limited time offer).  -KM.

Kye Alfred Hillig cover


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